The Supreme Court on Friday held that the Osun state High Court ought to have struck out the suit on the chieftaincy dispute in Osun State on the appointment of a successor to the late Olufon of Ifon-Osun, Oba Olatoye Ilufoye Omotoyinbo II.
The apex court, in a unanimous judgment delivered on Friday, said the trial court should have struck out the matter instead of dismissing it.
The court also pointed out that the Court of Appeal did not correct that error and accordingly, allowed the appeal brought before it by Alhaji Maroof Adekunle Magbagbeola and 11 others
The panel of Justices of the apex court, in the judgment, set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, except some portions which struck out the appeal, restore the ruling of the trial court delivered on 30th March 2009.
“We did not find it necessary to delve into the many issues formulated by parties”, the court held.
The appeal was filed on August 8, 2011, by Alhaji Maroof Adekunle Magbagbeola, Osun State governor, the Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General and nine others.
According to court documents, the dispute arose from the state government’s handling of Magbagbeola’s appointment to succeed Oba Omotoyinbo II, who joined his ancestors on August 20, 2007.
Akintola, who was dissatisfied with the process leading to the appointment of Magbagbeola, sued at the state High Court and prayed the court to, among others, void Magbagbeola’s appointment.
In his deposition, Akintola averred that in line with Ifon-Osun’s tradition, the Olumoyero Ruling House, whose turn it was to produce a successor to the throne, nominated him (Akintola) and Magbagbeola for the kingmakers to perform the customary and traditional rites of determining who among the two nominees should succeed the deceased king.
He said the head of Olumoyero family, Prince Lasisi Oyedokun, was, in line with tradition, required to present both nominees to the kingmakers to perform the customary rites of determining the actual successor.
Akintola added that while they were waiting for the process to start, the governor and Attorney-General of the state allegedly appointed some individuals they named warrant kingmakers, who eventually appointed Magbagbeola to the throne, a choice the governor and Attorney-General later endorsed.
He prayed the court to, among others, void Magbagbeola’s appointment and direct the parties to comply with the traditional procedure in the state’s Chiefs Law.
Magbagbeola, the governor, the AG and nine others objected to the suit, insisting among others, that Akintola’s suit was wrongly initiated because he allegedly failed to exhaust the internal stipulations in Section 20 (1) and (2) of the Chief’s Law Cap 25 of Osun State 2003.
They said the state government’s appointment of “warrant kingmakers” to conclude the nomination of a successor to the throne was informed by the traditional kingmakers’ inability to form a quorum.
In a March 30, 2009, ruling, the state High Court upheld the preliminary objection filed by Magbagbeola and others and dismissed Akintola’s suit on the ground that it was not properly initiated.
Akintola appealed to the Court of Appeal in Akure.
In a March 3, 2011, judgment, the court allowed the appeal and ordered that the case is sent back to the High Court.
It reassigned the matter to a new judge for it to be heard afresh, a decision Magbagbeola and others appealed against at the Supreme Court.
In their appellants’ brief, Magbagbeola and others urged the Supreme Court to set aside the Appeal Court’s decision, which they said was arrived at without proper interpretation of Section 20 (a) and (b) of the Chief’s Law of Osun State, 2003.
In his respondent’s brief, Akintola noted that the thrust of the appellants’ appeal was against a portion of the judgment, which states that the noncompliance with Section 20 (2) by a person aggrieved by the appointment of a chief is not fatal because the section does not provide a sanction.
Akintola averred that he is not required to exhaust the administrative remedy provided by the law before suing in court.
He said Section 20 (2) of the Chief’s Law was not applicable to his case.