“State of Osun” unknown to Nigeria’s constitution, Osun High Court rules

Osun state governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola

AN Osun State High Court, sitting in Ilesa and presided over by Justice Yinka Afolabi, on Thursday delivered a judgment, declaring that “State of Osun” is unknown to the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, null and void

Handing down his judgment, which spanned over an hour, in legal matter instituted by a human rights lawyer and activist, Barrister Kanmi Ajibola on “State of Osun Land Use Charge Law”, the judge ruled that the change of the name of the state from Osun State to the “State of Osun” was an aberration, illegal, null and void.

Justice Afolabi also decried the incumbent state governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola for deliberately and singlehandedly renaming the state illegally contrary to the known norms and the nation’s constitution.

Similarly, he held that the makers of the law, who are serving as members of the Osun State House of Assembly, were not inaugurated as members of the “State of Osun House of Assembly” but as members of Osun State House of Assembly, in line with the 7th schedule of the constitution.

Highlighting the historical background of state creations in Nigeria since 1962, Justice Afolabi recalled that since the creation of the state in 1991, previous governments used the constitutional envisaged name, Osun State while all the 35 states of the federation have not deviated from the constitutional names given to their respective states.

According to the judge, “the executive governor of the state changed the name in 2011. The renaming of a state goes further and deeper for anyone to singlehandedly do. To re-order the name of Osun State as “State of Osun” is hereby declared as illegal, null and void. On the oath of allegiance, I want to state that the seventh schedule is part of the law. It is not a mere draft or mere oath. It does not give room for any alteration. After deposing to an oath of office, you cannot turn around to do otherwise.”

The litigant, Barrister Ajibola, who approached the court in 2016 had sought for certain reliefs after being served a notice by a private company known as “Interspatial Limited” and christened as “State of Osun Land use Charge Annual Demand Notice” in the name of “State of Osun”, and signed by one Mrs A. Ogunlumade, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance.

He said the notice was addressed to him as the property owner of No 42, Onigbogi Street off Ibala, Ilesa West and was served on him on the 15th day of August 2016.

Part of the reliefs sought by Ajibola included a declaration that the “State of Osun Land use Charge Law 2016” having being enacted by the legislative body that is not known to the constitution and for the state not known to the 1999 constitution as such illegal and unconstitutional.

An Order setting aside the “State of Osun Land use charge Law, 2016” having being enacted by the legislative body that is not known to the constitution and for the state not known to the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is not enforceable in Osun State.

Among other reliefs sought by the plaintiff included, “a declaration that Osun State Government having been delegated with the power to collect Land use charge revenue by the provisions of section 2(2) and (3) of the “State of
Osun Land use charge Law, 2016”, Sections 4(1), 8(2), 10(1) & (5), 16(c)(i) & (ii), 17, 18, 21(3) and 22 of the “State of Osun Land use charge Law, 2016” are not operable without appointing the Commissioner of finance in Osun State.

Justice Afolabi disregarded all the arguments by the Osun State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Basiru Ajibola who stood in as counsel for the state governor and the state government and that of the Director of Legal Services, Mrs Rachel Ojinni as he granted all the seven prayers of the plaintiff.

The judge also chided the governor for his refusal to appoint his commissioners who should perform their statutory
duties, saying the tax law itself envisaged that it must be tax matters must be endorsed by the Commissioner for Finance and not any other person.

However, a credible source in the Osun State Ministry of Justice informed the Nigerian Tribune that arrangement have been concluded to file application for stay of execution over the court ruling early next week.

When contacted over the ruling, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Adelani Baderinwa said “naturally government would appeal the judgment. Such a judgment would always be appealed.”

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