A Lagos State High Court has declined Jurisdiction and recused itself from a suit seeking to determine the founders and legitimate Obaship stool of Igbo-Efon community Eti-Osa, located at Lekki-Epe axis of Lagos State. The court presided over by Justice G. A. Safari of the Lagos Judicial division of the court made this known on the 5th of November, 2020, whilst delivering Judgement in a fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Suit filed by some members of the community.

The suit number  EPD/793C MFHR/ 19 had  Kehinde Morufu Abogun, Jelili Moruf Agobun, Adulahi Abogun, Chief Atiku Abogun as Applicants in the suit, others Applicants were, Shamsudeen Abogun, Murisiku Abogun, Lawal Abogun, Surajudeen Apena, Ganiyu Toibu, Idris Apena, Sodiq Abogun, Musa Jinadu; all accounting for the first to twelfth Applicants in the suit. The Applicant had dragged the Commissioner of Police Lagos State, the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCIID), Ibrahim Olukolu, Musbau Olukolu, Wale Olukolu, Nafiu Olukolu, Firidu Jinadu, Moslemi Jinadu, Fatai Jinadu, Moses Jinadu, Sharafa Jinadu and Yusuf Jinadu; as the first to twelfth respondents respectively.

However, despite recusing itself from the suit in part, the court made a further order, restrained the Lagos State Commissioner of Police from arresting, detaining any member of those celebrating the Abogun/Yemoja day in Igbo-Efon, of Lagos  State except in accordance with the law.

The contention about the founder of the community, as well as the legitimate owners of the Oba title had formed part of the suit before the court, the judge  noted that (in page fifteen of its Judgement) the suit before it was brought as a means of enforcing the fundamental human rights of the Applicants, TheNigerialawyer reports.

However, according to the judgment obtained by TheNigerialawyer(TNL), Justice Safari considered that since the issue of Obaship and founder are highly contentious issue, he would not make any catergorical finding on it, thereby declining to hear those issue. 

“With respect to the issue of who founded Igbo-Efon Community and who attacked who between the Applicants and the 3rd to 12th Respondents. I am of the view that these two issues cannot be resolved by affidavit evidence, as both parties have presented conflicting affidavit evidence in support of their various positions.” 

Holding further, his Lordship noted that, “the issue of determination of who founded Igbo-Efon and the Obaship stool of Igbo-Efon is not within the purview of a Fundamental Rights unity, I will therefore refrain from making any categorical finding on same.”

Recall that the Applicants had dragged the Respondents to court vide an (amended) Originating Motion dated the 31st day of January, 2020 and brought pursuant to Sections 6 (6), 33, 34 (1), 35, 40, 42, 46 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, Articles 4, 5, 6, 12 & 14 of the African Charter on Human, and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004; praying the court for the enforcement of its right, as it relates to their right to celebrate the festival of their descendant Kumoro Abogun tagged Abogun/Yemoja days, without any form of molestations or arrest by the Defendants.

In line with the prayer sought, the court restrained the Lagos State Commissioner of Police from arresting or detaining any of those celebrating the Abogun/Yemoja day in Igbo-efon axis of Lagos state except in accordance with the law and it recognized the Applicants’ right to freedom of association, but it refused the relief seeking the determination of title and Obaship. 

According to  page 16 of the judgment “Prayer B with regards to the declaration in respect of the molestation, stabbings and infliction of injuries on the 9th – 10th Applicants by the 3rd to 12th Respondents is refused in view of the conflicting affidavit evidence of the parties in respect of same which conflicting affidavits cannot be used to resolved without calling of oral evidence.”

Similarly, the court found that the first respondent (Commissioner of Police, Lagos State) was not able to justify his breach of the Applicants’ rights as averred to in plaintiff’s application. 

“In deciding this application, I take Judicial Notice that the 1st Respondent did not defend this Suit despite being served the Originating Process as shown by the proof of service before the Court while the 2nd Respondent has been struck out as a party for being a non-juristic person. The implication of the failure of the 1st Respondent to file a Counter affidavit to this Suit is that he is deemed to have accepted the facts contained in the affidavit in support of the application.

 “I refer to Order VIII Rule 3 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2019 and the authority of INAKOJU VS ADELEK 2008 30 WRN PAGE 1. Consequently, I hold that the 1st Respondent having failed to file a Counter affidavit to this application is deemed to have accepted the facts contained in the Applicants’ affidavit in support, and hold that the 1st Respondent have failed to justify his alleged likely infringement or breaches of the Right to Freedom and liberty of the 1st to 12th Applicants” the Court held.

It’s noteworthy that the issue of ownership of the community and the attempt by the Abogun family to elevate the Baale stool to Obaship to the exclusion of both the Olukolu and Jinadu families, and in disregard to the existing stool of the Oba Ojomu of Ajiran which is the consenting authority and traditionally caps the Baale of Igbo-Efon including the last one has undermined the peace of the community.

The Olukolu and Jinadu families are loyal to the Ojomu and oppose any challenge to the Ojomu where the Olukolus are members of the Oluge ruling house.

This Chieftaincy issue has brought tension to the community leading to multiple court actions with heightening expectations about the judgments.

As Justice Safari observed on page 13 of his judgment

“From the affidavit evidence placed before the court by the Applicants and the 3rd to 12th Respondents, it is obvious that the issue in contention between the parties goes beyond the issue of enforcement of fundamental rights of the Applicants…This is evidence in the affidavit evidence of both parties stating the history of how Igbo-Efon community was founded and by whom…”

The court had earlier on struck out the name of the State Criminal Investigation Department (the second respondent) from the list on account of it not being a juristic person. This action of the court was taken by the court via its ruling on a preliminary objection brought by the respondent counsel challenging the issue of jurisdiction, with regards to the number of parties and the Originating Process.

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