2nd June, 2011
The apex court in Nigeria, the Supreme Court, has dismissed the 23-year old suit filed on behalf of Elete Chieftaincy Family by two members, Chief Imam Busari Idowu Dauda and Mr. Idowu Oniyide.
The suit, which centred on chieftaincy matters, was filed against Oba Yishau Goriola Oseni, the Oniba of Iba, the Attorney-General of Lagos State and the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in Lagos State. Others are Mr. Rashidi Rufai, Alhaji Aliyu Saliu and Mr. Olu Aina.
The action was commenced at the Ikeja Judicial Division of the High Court of Lagos State, where both parties filed amended statements of claim and defence.
Elete Chieftaincy Familyâ€™s claim against Oba Yishau Goriola Oseni and others was that only its member is entitled to create or confer chieftaincy titles on all or any of the villages within the Elete Division, thereby declaring that the purported approval of Oba Yishau Goriolaâ€™s recommendation of Mr. Rashidi Rufai, Alhaji Aliyu Saliu and Olutina as Baale of Olemba Hausa, Balogun of Elemba Hausa and Baale of Ilemba Awori respectively, by the Chieftaincy Committee of Badagry Local Government at its meeting of 5 May, 1987 was irregular, unconstitutional, null and void.
Perpetual injuction restraining the Attorney General of Lagos State and the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the state and their agents from acting upon the recommendations of Oba Goriola was also sought as well as an order restraining the Attorney General of Lagos State from installing the recommended persons for any chieftaincy post.
At the trial of the case, the plaintiffs called nine witnesses, while the defendants called four with quite a number of exhibits.
In his judgement on 12 January, 1990, the trial judge declared that the Elete Chieftaincy Family was entitled to create and confer chieftaincy titles one all or any of the villages within the Elete Division. He also declared that the purported approval of Oba Yishau Goriolaâ€™s recommendation of Rashidi Rufai Alhaji Aliyu Saliu and Olu Aina for chieftaincy posts was null and void, while he also restrained the Government of Lagos State from installing them.
Dissatisfied with the judgment, the defendants, Oba Yishau Goriola Oseni and others proceeded to the court of appeal and in its judgment on 8 July, 1999, the appeal was allowed, setting aside the judgement of the trial court and in its place, was substituted by a judgment dismissing the Elete Chieftaincy Familyâ€™s claim, which was in turn aggrieved and went to the Supreme court.
The two parties, through their counsels, filed and exchanged their briefs and arguments.
However, in a unanimous decision of five judges of the Supreme Court delivered on 20 May, 2011, the appeal of the Elete Chieftaincy Family was dismissed.
Francis Fedode Tabai in the said judgment, said â€œI hold that the appellants, that is the Elete Chieftaincy Familyâ€™s authority to create chieftaincies and confer same on deserving persons is of necessity tied to their ownership of the two villages, they cannot be granted the reliefs claimed. The result is that each of the first, second and fourth issues is resolved against them.
â€œIt is also my view that resolution of these three issues against the appellants disposed of the appeal.
â€œIn referring to the judgment of a Lagos High Court that the Supreme Court reproduce the judgement in part, it is interesting to note that whereas the plaintiffs were unable to produce as witnesses, people who acknowledge them as landlord in respect of any part of these villages, at any rate, the defendants produced two witnesses who testified that they were tenants of Oniba Family. This shows that the defendants are in possession of the land in dispute.â€
A cost of N50,000 was awarded in favour of Oba Yishau Goriola Oseni, Rashidi Rufai, Alhaji Aliyu Saliu and Mr. Olu Aina.
Meanwhile, Oba Yishau Goriola Oseni the Oniba of Iba town and the three others who have been installed, have called on the people who have purchased their land in the past for regularisation and documentation.