Between S’Court Ruling and Community’s Grouse

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EKITI LG CRISIS

Recently, the Supreme Court declared that the headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government of Ekiti State should be Eda Oniyo and not Iye-Ekiti. But the Iye-Ekiti community went to high court, which has raised considerable highbrows about the abuse of court process. But as Shola Oyeyipo writes, the community claimed that since it was never part of the original suit, perhaps, the state government needed to explain its own role via another court process

The long drawn legal battle over the siting of the headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government area of Ekiti State went all the way to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. The apex court affirmed that the headquarters of the local government be moved from Iye-Ekiti to Eda Oniyo-Ekiti. This would seem to have settled the matter, as the Ekiti State government did not waste time implementing the letters of the judgment.

The deputy governor of the state, Bisi Egbeyemi, who announced the implementation of the judgment said, “By virtue of the judgment, Eda-Oniyo is the only recognised headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government. The headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government and its machinery are hereby relocated from Iye-Ekiti to Eda Oniyo-Ekiti.”

One would have expected that the matter would have been put to rest. But the Iye-Ekiti community, which was at the receiving end of the judgment has kicked, claiming that there were sundry issues, which the Supreme Court judgment did not take into consideration.

The community, through the National President of Iye-Ekiti Development Association, IDA, Engineer Femi Kupolati, said while the community fully respected and was always willing to abide by the sanctity of the nation’s judiciary, claimed that going by the pronouncement of the Court of Appeal, the state government ought to have presented to the Supreme Court the Local Government Administration Law No. 2 of 1999, which affirmed Iye-Ekiti as the headquarters.

“The entire Iye community received the Supreme Court ruling with great shock. One, the Court of Appeal already declared the case as being statute barred. The fact remains the local government relocation was done by the then Federal Military Government and not the state and there was a memo to that effect, which was sent to the state government. And as a result of this, the Government of Ekiti State in line with 1999 Constitution already did the needful by passing a law affirming Iye-Ekiti as headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government.”

Kupolati said, while he would not claim there was a miscarriage of justice, he could understand that the apex court had delivered its judgment on the basis of the level of information available to it.
“The state failed to respond or appear in court while the case lasted,” Kupolati stated.

While the Supreme Court might have given its judgment, which is binding on all parties involved, including the state government, the Iye-Ekiti community might have a case after all.

Perhaps, there is need to go down memory lane to understand the grouse of the Iye-Ekiti community. In 1996, after the creation of Ekiti State from the old Ondo State, five additional local government were created for the state to bring the number to the present sixteen.

These were Gbonyin Local Government, Efon Alaaye Local Government, Emure Local Government, Ise/Orun Local Government as well as the controversial Ilejemeje Local Government.
The headquarters was initially sited at Eda Oniyo before the Federal Military Government through the Provisional Ruling Council, changed the headquarters to Iye-Ekiti.

In November, 1999, the Ekiti State House of Assembly and the Executive passed a statute entitled ‘Local Government Administration Law No. 2 of 1999’, which backed up the relocation of Local Government headquarters to Iye-Ekiti.

As expected, this did not go down well with the Eda-Oniyo community. The community went ahead to challenge the relocation in court. They sued the Ekiti State government and strangely, the state government did not participate in the proceedings.

“No witness gave evidence on behalf of the State. The trial court just granted the prayers of Eleda of Eda-Oniyo,” the lawyer to Iye-Ekiti community, Taiwo Kupolati, declared in a full-page advert in some national dailies.

However, in giving its judgment, the trial court, said it had not been able to find the statute or legislation by which the headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government was relocated to Iye-EKiti. The interpretation of this is that the state government did not present it during the trial.
When the matter went to the Appeal Court, the appellate court averred that Eda-Oniyo was statute-barred hence the relocation of the headquarters to Iye-Ekiti could not be reversed.

The case, as expected, proceeded to the Supreme Court. At the apex court, it was stated that while it agreed that the headquarters had been relocated to Iye-Ekiti, the law to that effect had not been validly promulgated.
The Supreme court stated: “The headquarter of Ilejemeje Local Government Area was a product of statute and that since NO LAW has been validly promulgated that has relocated the headquarter of the Local Government aforesaid, the act of the Respondent had no legal basis.”

Yet, the Ekiti State Government promulgated Local Government Administration LAW NO. 2 OF 1999 on 26 November 1999, which relocated the headquarters to Iye-Ekiti. It remains to be seen why the state government did not present this statute during the court proceedings.

After the judgment of the Supreme Court, the Iye-Ekiti Community wrote to Ekiti State government and queried why the statute enacted in 1999 relocating the headquarter to Iye-Ekiti was not presented to the Supreme Court. The Government neither acknowledged nor acted on the letter. The state government was said to have set up a committee to which Iye-Ekiti community was not invited.

The Iye-Ekiti had then proceeded to the High Court filing a case joining the Attorney General of the state and the traditional of Eda-Oniyo as parties. When asked if this was not abuse of court process, the lawyer to the Iye-Ekiti community, Taiwo Kupolati, said it was not and it was not disregarding the pronouncement of the Supreme Court.

His words: “Iye-Ekiti Community not being party to the earlier proceeding could not apply to the Supreme Court for review and the Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction over claims of declaration by individuals. The only means for venting the grievance of Iye-Ekiti Community and seeking justice is by filing a new action in the High Court with the Attorney general of Ekiti State and the Oba of Eda Oniyo as parties.”

Kupolati claimed that it would be unfair to say, as being claimed in some quarters, that the Iye-Ekiti community was challenging the pronouncement of the Supreme Court.
He stated that the state government should be able to explain to the whole world why it continually refused to tender the statute it promulgated in court, which should have guided the Supreme Court in its decision.