Intriques as Court Voids Creation of 33 LCDAs in Ondo

Fidelis David examines the dynamics that necessitated the conceptualisation of 33 local council development areas for Ondo state by the late Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the controversies that followed and the politics surrounding it’s recent scrapping.

Since it’s creation on February 3, 1976 under the military regime of General Murtala Mohammed, Ondo state has continued to move in diverse fronts with developments in all facets.

Statistically, 19 people have served as governors vis 12 military governors and 7 civilian governors. Brigadier General Raji Rasaki (rtd) served the shortest term in office of seven months, while Dr Olusegun Mimiko served the longest term.

Mimiko was  succeeded by late Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) who died in Germany on December 27, 2023 after a protracted illness.

Arguably, Akeredolu is one of the governors of the coastal state who contributed it’s quota to the development of the coastal state in all facets, particularly, in the area of enhanced grassroots development.

But, unfortunately, Akeredolu’s vision and resolve to further promote the development of the land and people of the Sunshine State was deleted by the merciless hand of death because he provided leadership, not only for the South West zone, but for the entire Southern part of the country, when it became most imperative for courage to speak.

Hypothetically, the late governor observed that Ondo State is estimated above 3.4 million according to the 2006 census and  actually 18th on the list of the most populated states in the country, hence the need to join the committee of South West states for expansion.

However, it is important to note that the Ondo State local government areas are further divided into three units/senatorial districts comprising Ondo North, Ondo Central and Ondo South. 

Ondo North has  Akoko North-West, Akoko North-East, Akoko South-West, Akoko South-East, Ose and Owo. Ondo Central has Akure North, Akure South, Ifedore, Idanre, Ondo East and Ondo West while Ondo South has Odigbo, Irele, Ile Oluji/Okeigbo, Ese-Odo, Okitipupa and Ilaje.

Akeredolu’s Creation of LCDAS

Amid Protests and rejection, late Governor  Akeredolu had on September 8, 2023 assented to the bill creating 33 local council development areas (LCDAs) in the state, a day after his return from Germany where he went for a three-month medical leave.

This, Akeredolu, said it was substantial step towards fulfilling his campaign promises and driving development to the sunshine state.

To him, the purpose of the yearnings and quest to bring government closer to the people and hence facilitate development at the grassroots must not be defeated through LCDAs.

The LCDAs were to co-exist with the existing 18 Local Governments in the state while the signing of the Bill into law, brought to 51 the total number of Local Councils in the state.

The bill was signed despite protests from some communities who described it as a political exercise aimed at ceding their ancestral lands to other communities,  maintaining that undue political manipulation and chicanery were allowed to prevail over objectivity and rationality in the creation of the LCDA.

In the scrapped local government reform, Akoko had five LCDAs, Akure and Owo had four each while Ondo and Ilaje had three each. Idanre, Ose, Ile-Oluji and Okitipupa had two each while Ifedore, Ese-Odo, Odigbo and Irele were given one LCDAs each.

Court’s Decision 

However, an Ondo State High Court last Thursday declared the creation of the 33  LCDAs Akeredolu as unconstitutional and illegal. 

The Presiding Judge, Justice A.O Adebusuoye, said the LCDAs were not lawfully created and described the LCDAs created by the late governor as inchoate as it was effected in Ibadan, Oyo State, not in Ondo State and did not comply with sections 7 and 8 of the 1999 constitution. 

Significantly, leaders of the four local governments in Akokoland, had approached the court to challenge the creation of the LCDAs in the area, alleging marginalisation of the area. 

The leaders of the Akokoland which include, Akoko Southeast, Akoko Southwest, Akoko Northwest, and Akoko  Northeast, through their lawyers, Mr Tolu Babaleye, dragged the state government to court challenging the marginalisation in the creation of the LCDAs. 

Basically, Justice Adebusoye in his judgment held that the creation of the LCDAS did not comply with sections 7 and 8 of the 1999 constitution. 

Technically, he agreed with the leaders of the four local government areas that there was no equitable distribution of the council areas among the existing local governments in the state. 

However,  the Akokoland leaders under the umbrella of the Akoko Development Initiative (ADI) who filed the suit, hailed the judgment, noting that the decision of the court represented the true position of law. 

The ADI in a statement signed by the claimants in the suit including former Speaker of State House of Assembly, Hon. Bakitta Bello, Matthew Ofosile, and Lawal Rogbitan, said the judgment of the court represented the true position of law and the aspiration of the people of the four local government areas of Akoko. 

According to them, they noticed the lopsidedness in the recommendation from the Executive Council to the State House of Assembly for the creation of the 33 LCDAs, in July 2023, and made representation to the Government in letters addressed to the Governor and the Attorney General to correct the injustice meted to individual Local Government Areas and the entire Akoko land. 

They said there was no adjustment made to the error pointed to the Executive Council before it forwarded its recommendation to the Ondo State House of Assembly for legislation. 

 “Given the protest at the House of Assembly by aggrieved citizens across the State, the House of Assembly adjusted her time-table which was designed to pass the bill in one sitting, to accommodate a hurriedly arranged public hearing on the bill.

“Representatives of Local Governments in Akoko presented memoranda at the hearing which was backed up with adequate records and data to assist the House arrive at equitable decisions.” 

An Exercise with Political Undertone?

To many people, when the history of Ondo State is written for posterity, one of the critical areas of intervention where late Akeredolu’s name will be written in gold is the creation of the 33 LCDAs while some people, particularly, Ijaw and Akoko communities expressed dissatisfaction with the creation with the believe that it had strong political undertones.

Led by their traditional rulers, Sunday Amiseghan, the Kalasuwei of Apoi land; and Pere Egbunu, the Agadagba of Arogbo-Ijaw, the communities said the exercise to a great extent put them at a disadvantage in the state.

According to the communities, the whole of Okparama 1 and II and Ogidigba were ceded to Ilaje while part of Apoi 4 and 5 were ceded to Irele Local Government Area.

They posited that instead of ceding parts of their communities in Ese-Odo Local Government Area to other areas, more LCDAs should be created from Ese-Odo.

Agboola Ajayi Kicks

But, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the forthcoming governorship election in the state, Agboola Ajayi, believes that the scraping of the LCDAs had political undertones.

Specufically, Ajayi condemned the decision of the court, saying the judgment was anti-people and would hinder development of Ondo communities.

Ajayi, who accused the administration of Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa of backing the suit, said the people preferred a government that is close to them. He said Aiyedatiwa also filed a suit against local government autonomy.

“The judgment is anti-people. It will be promoting an agenda that will hinder rapid development of the communities. The Ondo State government is behind the suit. They must appeal the judgment. The suit filed by the PDP was not to totally abrogate the LCDAs but illegal inauguration of Caretaker Chairman.

“If an Owl flies at night and a child dies the next day, you do not need to find out the cause of death”, he said.

Aiyedatiwa’s Position

In what could be described as swift twist, the state governor through the Attorney General of Ondo State, Dr Olukayode Ajulo (SAN), said it has promptly requested the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment and  upon receipt, a meticulous study and analysis will be undertaken, culminating in a comprehensive legal opinion to the Government of the State.

“Subsequently, all necessary measures, in accordance with our laws, will be taken to safeguard the interests of our citizens, foster peaceful coexistence, and uphold the rule of law. The Honourable Attorney General remains steadfast in his commitment to prioritizing the well-being and welfare of our citizens, working tirelessly to ensure that justice and the law are served.”

Influencing a Court Judgement

Besides, the Lucky Aiyedatiwa Campaign Organisation Foot Soldiers Independent Council (LACO-FSIC) on Saturday described a statement credited to Ajayi, who allegedly accused Aiyedatiwa of influencing a court judgement, as reckless, defamatory, and an attempt to bring the Nigerian judiciary to ridicule.

The group in a statement by its State Director of Information,  Mr. Kayode Fasua, said that it was lamentable that Ajayi, by the statements credited to him, had lowered the bar for himself and his party, in the quest to become the next governor of Ondo State.

“While Agboola Ajayi has every right to express his opinion on a court verdict, he is not licensed to inpugn on the integrity of the sitting judge and the judicial institution, by claiming Governor Aiyedatiwa had influenced the judge to pass his judgement.

“We had waited for three days in the hope that Ajayi would deny the story or claim that he was quoted out of context, but alas, he regaled in silence, thus affirming that he said that the governor influenced the judge to pass a wrong judgement, which he considered the dissolution of the 133 LCDAs.

“Therefore, we are calling on the judiciary to take up Agboola Ajayi and put him on trial, to produce evidence of how Aiyedatiwa influenced the judge; otherwise, he should be sentenced accordingly,” the LACO-FSIC urged.

Until his death in 2021, the national publicity secretary of Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin had on several occasions said Ondo state has a rich history as the bastion of resistance and a land intolerant of opportunism. To him, it’s easy to predict what Ondo people would tolerate and what they would not accept. 

Therefore, literarily, the chilling accounts of such pushback adduced with the dynamics surrounding the creation of 33 LCDAs which has been nourished by Bruce Lee and James Bond films and clearly, after all, rejection wrapped in civility arouses no ill feelings.

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