*Parties urged to return to negotiation table
Oyo State High Court on Wednesday adjourned the case between the state government and sacked local council chairmen till February 21, to enable the two parties explore available Alternative Dispute Resolution.
The parties in the case number: I/78/2020, reached the accord to return to the negotiation table when they appeared before Justice Mashud Abass of an Oyo State High Court, sitting in Ibadan.
The court had Wednesday last week, granted the application filed by the state government for out-of-court settlement and gave the parties one week to return to the court in order to give progress reports on the outcome of the arrangement.
The claimants in the case are Governor Seyi Makinde (first claimant); Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters (second claimant); and Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Oyelowo Oyewo (third claimant).
The defendants are the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State (first defendant); Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye, the chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state (second defendant); Chief Akin Oke, the chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state (third defendant); the Inspector-General of Police (fourth defendant); and Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (fifth defendant).
Justice Abass adjourned the case till February 21 for the parties to return to court and give reports on the out-court-settlement, urging the parties to allow compromise so that they could reach amicable resolutions.
The court said the report that would be given by the parties on the next day of adjournment would determine whether the out-of-court settlement would work or they would have to go the whole hog of litigation, adding that judgment would be given according to the law, and in line with judicial precedents, especially of the higher courts.
Makinde’s administration on May 29, 2019 sacked council chairmen elected on May 12, 2018 by the APC administration and replaced them with caretaker chairmen in December 2019. All the sacked chairmen are members of the APC. All the caretaker chairmen are members of the PDP. The sacked chairmen forcefully resumed in January, this year, which created problems in the local government administration in the state.
However, in the court on Wednesday, the legal counsel to all the claimants, Dr. Akin Onigbinde (SAN), said two meetings had been held, adding that only one of the defendants came with a proposal, which he described as absolute and that other four defendants have not presented any proposal.
He said that progress had been made and that court should still grant adjournment for the parties to explore more windows to settle out of court.
Counsel to the first defendant, Funke Fawole, reported to the court that she was at the meeting held last Saturday and on Monday, saying that the negotiation had broken down and the parties agreed to return to court.
But counsel to the second defendant, Adekunle Sobaloju, said he and his client would not oppose the bid for out-of-court settlement. Also, counsel to the third defendant, Ojo Adebayo, did not oppose the bid for out-of-court settlement.
However, counsel to the fourth and fifth defendants, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), had reported to the court that the negotiations had failed and his clients were ready to proceed with the litigation.
Speaking with reporters after the court session, Akintola described what happened in the court as an attempt to ensure that peace reigned in the state. He said: “The rules of court make provisions for settlement of cases out of court and that was what the claimants tried to explore and we considered that at the last date of adjournment.
“Unfortunately, when we met, on February 8, the people that invited us for reconciliation came with no proposal and in order to ensure that we fast track the process of reconciliation, we presented our demands on behalf of ALGON. Don’t forget that our interests are joint and several tied together. They came with nothing. They sought for some time for them to look at our demands and find a way out of it. They then came back after 10 minutes, saying they needed more time and we agreed for last Monday, which was February 10.
“We met again on the 10th and they came with no proposal. All they said was that our demands were absolute but they did not come up with anything. The order of the court is clear, that is, report of settlement or hearing. Since we are all stakeholders in the state and want peace, they are asking for more time. The claimants, the governor and attorney general are asking for more time and we have obliged them till on the 21st.
“The first demand was that the return of the local government chairmen and councils is sacrosanct. That is guaranteed by the constitution and the Supreme Court has made pronouncement on that over and over again. If we all abide by the rule of law in this country, the country will be a good place for all of us. Every attempt to truncate the provision of the constitution, rule of law has brought us to this state of quagmire and we will continue to be in the state of quagmire as long as the actors keep sidetracking the issue of the rule of law. If everybody follows the rule of law, there will be no problem in this country.”
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