Deji’s power: Akure North Monarchs write Akeredolu over misinterpretation of Court judgment

Traditional rulers under the umbrella of the Akure North Local Government Council of Obas and the Registered Trustees of Olus and Baales in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State have written Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, to clarify wrong interpretation of a State High Court on the power of the Deji of Akure concerning Prescribed Authority.

In a letter signed by their lawyer, Barr. Femi Emmanuel Emodamori, the monarchs and Olus insisted that the judgement marked: SUIT NO. AK/28/2017 and delivered in March, 2018, never declared the Deji of Akure as the Prescribed Authority of any community in Akure North Local Government.

The Royal Fathers faulted a legal advice (Annexure A) purportedly written from the office of the State Attorney General.

The lawyer said, “the attention of the Akure North Local Government Council of Obas and the Registered Trustees of Olus and Baales in Akure North Local Government (hereinafter collectively referred to as “our clients”) has been drawn to a Legal Advice with Reference No. DLD/LR/19286 and dated 14th February, 2022 with the above caption, written to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs by the Ondo State Ministry of Justice, and copied to the Deji of Akure.

“CONCLUSION AND PRAYERS.
As a senior and foremost Legal Practitioner before becoming the Governor of Ondo State, Your Excellency would agree with us that although judgments of Courts must be obeyed until they are set aside or stayed, it is an entirely different thing to misrepresent and distort the decisions in a judgment written in black and white for the purpose of favouring any party thereto, as Annexure A herein clearly purports to do.

“It is perplexing therefore, for any Legal Practitioner in the Ministry of Justice to write a perverse and legally baseless Legal Advice claiming that the Court declared the Deji as the Prescribed Authority of any community in Akure North Local Government in Annexure B.

It is clear from the totality of the foregoing that Annexure A (the Legal Advice) was orchestrated and compromised in favour of the Deji of Akure. It would however lead to disastrous breakdown of peace and order in the State unless it is immediately withdrawn.
Consequently, our clients are calling on Your Excellency to direct the immediate withdrawal of the fraudulent Legal Advice, and order an inquiry into the circumstances or motives behind its issuance as well as those behind same.
Please accept the highest regards of our clients.

Below is the full text of the letter;

5th April, 2022

Our Ref: FEE/GOV/ODS/23/022

The Governor of Ondo State
Governor’s Office
Alagbaka, Akure.

Through
The Hon. Attorney-General of Ondo State
Ministry of Justice
Alagbaka, Akure.

Your Excellency,

RE: THE NEED FOR CLARITY ON THE ISSUE OF PRESCRIBED AUTHORITY OF SOME TRADITIONAL RULERS OVER OTHER OBAS OUTSIDE THEIR DOMAINS IN THE LIGHT OF THE JUDGMENT OF THE HIGH COURT DELIVERED IN MARCH, 2018  IN SUIT NO. AK/28/2017.

The attention of the Akure North Local Government Council of Obas and the Registered Trustees of Olus and Baales in Akure North Local Government (hereinafter collectively referred to as “our clients”) has been drawn to a Legal Advice with Reference No. DLD/LR/19286 and dated 14th February, 2022 with the above caption, written to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs by the Ondo State Ministry of Justice, and copied to the Deji of Akure. A copy of the Legal Advice is attached hereto as Annexure A, while the Certified True Copy of the judgment of the Ondo State High Court in Suit AK/28/2017 upon which the Legal Advice was supposedly based is attached hereto as Annexure B, for ease of reference. Oba Joseph Oluwadare Agunbiade (The Oloba of Oba-Ile) and Chief Samuel Elewuju (The Asinigbo of Isinigbo) are the Claimants in Annexure B, while the Deji of Akure, one Ojo Sule and the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants respectively.

Your Excellency, our clients have very strong reasons to assert that the purported Legal Advice is completely questionable and compromised. They also believe that same might have been mischievously issued for or in the name of the Honourable Attorney-General without affording him the benefit of the real facts and ratios of the judgment upon which it was supposedly issued.

Consequently, we have the instruction of our clients to draw the attention of Your Excellency to the false and/or distorted claims in the Legal Advice, as well as the potentially dangerous conclusions therein which are capable of igniting serious chieftaincy crises of unimaginable proportion in both Akure North and Akure South Local Government Areas of the State, unless the perfidious Legal Advice is immediately withdrawn.

Our clients’ position in this regard is based on the following incontestable facts and the current position of the Ondo State Chiefs Law:
DELIBERATE MISREPRESENTATION AND/OR DISTORTION OF THE JUDGMENT IN SUIT AK/28/2O17 IN THE LEGAL ADVICE.
Annexure A (the Legal Advice) claims or states: “That the Ondo State Government wholly abides by the decision of the High Court of Justice Akure on the 28th day of March, 2018 by his Lordship, Hon Justice W.A Akintoroye attached to the letter on the prescribed authority of the Deji of Akure over other communities listed in the Judgment such as : (1) Ipinsha (2) Aule (3) Ilara (4) Eti (5) Aiye (6) Odudu (7) Ishinigbo (8) Osi (9) Iloro (10) Udopo (11) Ishafirin (12) Ugbemo (13) Oda (14) Igbatoro”. Annexure A states further that:
“I am directed to further state that the prescribed authority of the Deji would be upheld and maintained until a contrary decision of the appellate or higher court is given on the subject matter.”

Meanwhile, Your Excellency, contrary to the above false or distorted claim(s) regarding the decision of the Court in Suit AK/28/2017, His Lordship, Hon Justice W.A Akintoroye actually held that the issue of prescribed authority of the Deji of Akure was not before him, and that the Deji was not claiming to be a prescribed authority beyond Akure South Local Government. Your Excellency is respectfully referred to pages 47 – 48 of the said Judgment (Annexure B), where the Court held as follows:

“For the claimants to succeed and have their first (1st) relief granted unto them, they would need to prove that the 1st defendant claimed or is claiming to be the prescribed authority beyond Akure South Local Government of Ondo State. I could not see a scintilla of evidence on the part of the claimants to the effect that the 1st defendant arrogated or is claiming to be the prescribed authority over isinigbo and the communities around it in the Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State.

All I have before me is the power of the 1st defendant as the consenting authority over Isinigbo and its surrounding settlements and communities.” 

It is ironic, therefore, that while the Judgment states that the Deji is only claiming to be the “Consenting Authority” over “Isinigbo and its surrounding settlements and communities” and not the “Prescribed Authority”, the Legal Advice supposedly premised on the same Judgment is claiming that the Judgment declared the Deji of Akure as the “Prescribed Authority”.

Worse still, the Legal Advice went further to falsely list 14 communities (including many communities in Akure South and Ifedore Local Government Areas) where the Judgment purportedly declared the Deji to be the Prescribed Authority, even though the Judgment never mentioned the communities, let alone declaring the Deji as their Prescribed Authority.
2.  THE ABOLITION OF THE PRACTICE OF CONSENTING AUTHORITY BY THE ONDO STATE GOVERNMENT SINCE 1981.

The practice of “Consenting Authority” which the Deji of Akure is still laying claim to, as stated in part of the Judgment quoted above, had been abolished by the Ondo State Government as far back as 1981 in Paragraph 11 of her White Paper Morgan Chieftaincy Review Commission, a Certified True Copy of which is attached hereto as Annexure C.

Consequently, even the finding in the Judgment that the Deji is only claiming to be the “Consenting Authority”, and not the “Prescribed Authority”, for the appointment of chiefs in some communities in Akure North Local Government Area, is unfounded in law.
It would be strange and unacceptable for the office of the Attorney-General to feign ignorance of the difference between “Prescribed Authority” and “Consenting Authority” while writing the Legal Advice (Annexure A). Again, the office of the Attorney-General cannot feign ignorance of the fact that ‘Consenting Authority’, which the Deji is still laying claim to, had been abolished in Ondo State over four decades ago and no longer exists in the Ondo State Chiefs Law.

3.ANNEXURE A CONTRADICTS AND/OR MISREPRESENTS THE EXISTING STATE GOVERNMENT’S POSITION DIRECTING THE DEJI TO STOP APPOINTMENT OF MINOR CHIEFS IN AKURE NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
Your Excellency, quite apart from the above glaring mischiefs bedeviling Annexure A, it also clearly contradicts and/or misrepresents the recent official position of the State Government directing the Deji of Akure to stop further appointments of minor chiefs in Akure North Local Government and reverse such appointments that he had made, to avert breakdown of law and order, pending the determination of pending appeals in respect of the matter.
The position of the State Government in this regard is contained in a letter written to the Deji of Akure with reference number CD/C6/9/20/T/212, dated 19th April, 2021 and signed by the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, a copy of which is attached hereto as Annexure D, for ease of reference.

It would be unthinkable that both the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs would feign ignorance of the existing position of the Ondo State Government as contained in Annexure D.

4.THE OFFICIAL COMMUNICATION OF THE LEGAL ADVICE TO THE DEJI OF AKURE WITHOUT EQUALLY COMMUNICATING SAME TO THE TRADITIONAL AUTHORITIES IN AKURE NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
Your Excellency, our clients are conscious of the fact that the Ministry of Justice officially copied Annexure A to the Deji of Akure, even though it was meant to be a Legal Advice/internal memorandum issued to the Commissioner of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. Curiously, however, the Legal Advice was not equally communicated to the traditional authority in Akure North Local Government Area, thereby further reinforcing our clients’ belief that the entire Legal Advice was orchestrated and/or manipulated to favour the Deji of Akure without ever seeking the input of our clients in Akure North Local Government Area. This also explains why the Legal Advice is full of out-rightly fabricated,  false or distorted ‘decisions’ allegedly contained in the Judgment upon which it was supposedly premised.

5.THE LEGAL ADVICE AS A CATALYST FOR SERIOUS CHIEFTAINCY/INTER-COMMUNAL CRISES BETWEEN AKURE NORTH AND AKURE SOUTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS.
There is no doubt that the fear of breakdown of law and order which the State Government expressed in Annexure D is exactly what the perfidious and perverted Annexure A would cause in Akure South and Akure North Local Government Areas of Ondo State, unless the State Government immediate directs its withdrawal and orders an inquiry into the circumstance and motives behind the compromised Legal Advice, considering the sensitive nature of chieftaincy matters.

6.CONCLUSION AND PRAYERS.
As a senior and foremost Legal Practitioner before becoming the Governor of Ondo State, Your Excellency would agree with us that although judgments of Courts must be obeyed until they are set aside or stayed, it is an entirely different thing to misrepresent and distort the decisions in a judgment written in black and white for the purpose of favouring any party thereto, as Annexure A herein clearly purports to do.

Annexure B never declared the Deji of Akure as the Prescribed Authority of any community in Akure North Local Government. On the contrary, the Court held in Annexure B that the Deji is not claiming to be a Prescribed Authority beyond Akure South Local Government.  It is perplexing therefore, for any Legal Practitioner in the Ministry of Justice to write a perverse and legally baseless Legal Advice claiming that the Court declared the Deji as the Prescribed Authority of any community in Akure North Local Government in Annexure B.

Worse still, Annexure A falsely or fraudulently mentioned 14 communities in Akure North, Akure South and Ifedore Local Government Areas where the Court allegedly held that the Deji has the power of a Prescribed Authority, even though the judgment never said that.

It is clear from the totality of the foregoing that Annexure A (the Legal Advice) was orchestrated and compromised in favour of the Deji of Akure. It would however lead to disastrous breakdown of peace and order in the State unless it is immediately withdrawn.
Consequently, our clients are calling on Your Excellency to direct the immediate withdrawal of the fraudulent Legal Advice, and order an inquiry into the circumstances or motives behind its issuance as well as those behind same.
Please accept the highest regards of our clients.

Yours faithfully

Femi Emmanuel Emodamori

Cc:

  1. The Deputy Governor of Ondo State
    Governor’s Office, Alagbaka
    Akure.
  2. The Commissioner for Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs
    Ministry of Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs
    Alagbaka, Akure.
  3. The Chairman
    Akure North Local Government Area
    Iju/Ita-Ogbolu
  4. The Commissioner of Police
    Ondo State Police Command
    Igbatoro Road
    Akure.
  5. The Ondo State Director
    State Security Services (S.S.S)
    State House Annex, Alagbaka
    Akure.
  6. The Ondo State Commandant
    Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)
    Alagbaka, Akure.
  7. HRM, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi
        (The Deji of Akure)
    Deji’s Palace.
    Akure.
    Your Excellency/ Sir/Kabiyesi,
    The above is for your information and necessary action, please.

Yours faithfully

Femi Emmanuel Emodamori

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