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Suspense as Ibadan royal crisis goes to appeal court


Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.<br />Photo: Twitter/AAAjimobi

For the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji and some indigenes of the ancient town that opposed the review of the 1957 Olubadan chieftaincy declaration, the High Court judgment nullifying the review was the relief they had been waiting for.The judgment also declared as illegal the crowning of the 21 new monarchs installed by Governor Abiola Ajimobi in August last year.

Since January 19, this year, when Justice Olajumoke Aiki delivered judgment on a suit filed by the former state governor and the Osi Olubadan, Chief Rashidi Ladoja, traditional activities have picked up at the palace, with the faces of the Olubadan supporters radiating smiles at every occasion.Though with the appeal filed by the governor and issues raised, some prominent indigenes of the town believe that the royal battle is still far from being over and so, it is too early for celebration.

Justice Aiki held that the wearing of beaded crowns is beyond the purview of Sections 10,12 and 25 of the Oyo State Chiefs Law. He, however, said Section 25 of the law could not be treated in isolation to the provisions of parts two and three of the Chiefs Laws.The court also said provisions of parts two and three of the Chiefs Laws, particularly Sections 10, 12 and 25 did not give power to the governor to review the Olubadan chieftaincy declaration, therefore, restraining the government from accepting and implementing the reports of the judicial commission of enquiry.

Ladoja, who refused to accept the beaded crown, had approached the court to challenge the composition of the Justice Akinrunde Boade panel that reviewed the declaration, which he said was outside the state government’s purview.Ladoja had prayed the court, in suit number: M/317/2017, to restrain the commission from sitting, accepting any memorandum or in any way taking any step in furtherance of its assignment, pending determination of motion on notice in respect of the subject. He also asked the court to set aside the commission’s report and prayed the court to nullify the panel’s proceedings and its reports.

The governor, according to the court, exercised his power beyond the constitution and provisions of the Chiefs Laws made by the House of Assembly, adding that a judicial commission of enquiry could not amend or further amend, review or further review the chieftaincy declaration.Not satisfied with the judgment, Governor Ajimobi appealed it, arguing that Justice Aiki misinterpreted sections 10, 12 and 25 of the Oyo State Chiefs Laws, when in purporting to interpret these sections, he introduced extraneous provisions, which are not contained in the law, thereby excluding the general scheme and the general provisions of the law.

In his 11 ground-appeal at the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, Ibadan Judicial Division by his counsels led by Yusuf Ali SAN, Governor Ajimobi sought an order setting aside the ruling and judgment.The governor noted that in interpreting a law, the court cannot interpret the section in isolation of each other, but must interpret them holistically, and that the court in interpreting the provisions of a statute has no right to read into words that are not in the statute with a view to arriving at its conclusion and that there is no provision in the Oyo State Chiefs Law that takes away the governor’s rights from instituting a commission of inquiry to look into issues on matters on which the House of Assembly could make law.

Ajimobi stated in another ground of appeal that the judge erred in law and totally misapprehended and misinterpreted the provisions of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State in coming to the conclusion and agreeing with the first respondents that only indigenes of Ibadan could be made members of the commission set up by the governor to look into Ibadan chieftaincy stool, saying that he (governor) has absolute discretion under section 25 of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State as to the membership of any commission of inquiry, including the one dealing with Ibadan Chieftaincy.

He contended that Justice Aiki took a very narrow view in interpreting the provisions of section 25 of the Chiefs Law complained about and that the law donates wide discretionary powers to the governor and the court cannot take away such powers donated by law under any guise.In another ground of appeal, the governor said the learned judge erred in law by overruling all the heads of the preliminary objection raised to the competence of the first respondent’s case and in the process, failed and refused to follow decided authorities of Appellate Courts cited before him and thereby embarked on clustered justice, which led to a miscarriage of justice against the appellant and that the learned judge erred in law and totally misapprehended the facts of the matter in overruling the objection of the appellant on the inappropriateness of the originating summons proceeding in the determination of the first respondent’s case.

He noted that from the facts and decided authorities, originating summons were inappropriate for the commencement and prosecution of the matter, that clearly from the facts and the Law, the first respondent has no locus standi to prosecute the case, consequently, the suit discloses no reasonable or any cause of action at all and that the case was of pure academic value and hypothetical.

The governor said the judge erred in law and came to wrong conclusion by holding that the governor has no power to set up a Commission of inquiry on the issue of beaded crown wearing obas and coronet crown wearing obas, contrary to the provisions of the Chiefs Law of Oyo State, which donates such powers and authority to the governor, saying the learned judge cannot choose which sections of the Chiefs Law to agree with and which ones he would not, that the Chiefs Law gives a lot of powers to the governor on all chieftaincies and any aspect thereof within the state and that the court is without any authority under any guise to take away, whittle or in any other manner assail the governor’s powers donated by the Chiefs Law.

While the legal tango continues, prominent Ibadan indigenes are already closing ranks with the setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee to resolve the matter out of court. Dr. Lekan Are, former military governor of Ogun State, Brigadier General Raji Rasaki (rtd) and the leadership of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) are playing leading roles in the initiative for out of court settlement on a royal dispute that had almost degenerated into a full-blown crisis.

While it is difficult to predict the outcome of the appeal, the State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr. Oluseun Abimbola told The Guardian that there was nothing wrong with prominent indigenes mediating, even though the case is in the Appeal Court.He said: “People can intervene at any point in time, once the matter has not been decided by the Supreme Court. Even at that, the Supreme Court is proposing a practice direction though not yet passed, that even when parties have won or lost at the Appeal Court, instead of coming to the Supreme Court, they can explore out of court settlement, if they wish. I think at any point in time, mediation, negotiation and settlement can always be available and I think on this case, it is not different.”

When asked if the government envisaged the legal brouhaha over the review, he said, “In any society, particularly in the evolution of issues of institution, organisations, or even processes, there are bound to be those who support and those who are against it, even for the most altruistic proposals. One very good example is that some people thought that slave trade was legal, appropriate and it was practised for generations. At some point, segregation was appropriate in some localities and when there was agitation for change, it was violently resisted in some areas and when some countries took legislation on government policies to change the obnoxious practices, some people went to court.

“To your question of whether it was anticipated or not, people who have good, bad or no reason at all can challenge any position, policy or proposal at any point in time. So, I would say it is not beyond contemplation. That is why government ensured that every required step was diligently followed.

Speaking further on why the state House of Assembly was not involved in the process to pass a law altering the declaration, Abimbola said: “The position of the Chiefs Law is that, when the governor is satisfied that the declaration is inquired, and that satisfaction can be a product of feedback or recommendation of inquiry or his personal knowledge, but he won’t say he is satisfied because there would be need to issue a declaration or even to amend a declaration, as the case may be. Then he can direct necessary chieftaincy committee that made the declaration to do the amendment. When the commission of inquiry makes its recommendations, that is the content of what will inform the governor to know the facts relating to a particular chieftaincy. It was brought to the governor and executive council and then the governor issued his opinion, which was contained in a White Paper and gazetted. That White Paper was a representative of government’s opinion in respect of what is to be done. The White Paper is still not the amended declaration. It is the government’s opinion as to what was to be done.

“It was pursuant to that White Paper and the Chiefs law in section 10 that, if the government is satisfied, he may require a chieftaincy committee to amend the declaration. It is contained in the White Paper, which was transmitted to relevant chieftaincy committees and then the chieftaincy committee, amended the declaration. After this, it was gazetted and registered. Those are the steps as contained in the law and followed by the governor. There is no part of it that says the House of Assembly must amend the declaration or register it.”

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