Tension in Ekiti over LG Headquarters relocation

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The 19-year-old battle between Eda-Oniyo and Iye Ekiti over the headquarters of Ilejemeje local government areas in Ekiti State worsened on Wednesday as an Ado-Ekiti High Court nullified the proclamation made by the state government.

Ruling on the application by the claimant (Iye-Ekiti), the presiding Judge, Justice Abiodun Adesodun, said the government should have waited for determination of the suit before the court before making the proclamation.
Justice Adesodun described the decision of the government as an act of, “executive rascality and self- help,” adding that the status quo should be maintained pending the final determination of the case.
Deputy Governor Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi had on Monday made a proclamation which relocated the headquarters of Ilejemeje local government area from Iye-Ekiti to Eda-Oniyo, alluding the December 14, 2018 judgement of the Supreme Court.
Following the creation of of Ekiti State in October 1, 1996, Ilejemeje Local Government Area was as one of its 16 local government areas with headquarters located in Eda Oniyo.
But three months later, through a radio announcement by then Military Governor of the state, Col. Inua Bawa, government notified the public of the relocation of the local government from Eda-Oniyo to Iye-Ekiti.
The Eleda of Eda Oniyo, Oba Awolola, instituted a legal action by a writ of summons at the State’s High Court in 1999 seeking a declaration that the relocation of the headquarters for Eda-Oniyo to Iye-Ekiti was illegal, null and void.
The High Court ruled in 2001 in favour of Oba Awolola but the Ekiti State government appealed against the judgment and won at the Court of Appeal, Ilorin.
The monarch, through his lawyer, Mr. Oluwadamilare Awokoya, filed another appeal marked SC.194/2008 before the Supreme Court to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal.
The apex court, in its judgment, set aside the March 6, 2006 Court of Appeal’s judgment and affirmed that of the High Court.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour on December 14, 2018, the Apex Court the state government to take immediate steps to relocate the council headquarters to Eda-Oniyo from Iye-Ekiti.
Egbeyemi said the government has no option than to align with the Apex Court’s decision.
The deputy governor proclaimed that the decision of the Supreme Court is sacrosanct, inviolable and binding on the government.
He said it will be “illegal, irregular, unconstitutional, null and void”, to recognise Iye Ekiti, as the headquarters of the council.
But the High court voided the relocation and ruled adding that the status quo should be maintained pending the final determination of the case.
Counsel to the claimant, Taiwo Kupolati, while making his final address argued that the decision of the government contravened the local government administration law of 1999 which recognized Iye-Ekiti as the headquarters of Ilejemeje local government area.
Kupolati said the community was not joined in the suit leading to the judgement of the Supreme Court, noting that there was no statute backing the proclamation of the government on the relocation.
He called on the court to enforce the right of the claimant and save the state from what he described as “absolute recklessness.”
Counsel to the first(state government) and second (Attorney General) respondents, Yetunde Kolawole revealed that the state government made the proclamation based on the verdict of the supreme court. Kolawole added that it would amount to contempt of court for the state government to jettison the decision of the apex court in the country.
On his part, counsel to the third respondent ( Eda-Oniyo Ekiti), Deji Adetifa argued that the court could not go against the judgement of the supreme court, disclosing that the law recognized hierarchy of court.
He noted that the claimants should have approached the supreme court if they had any grievance on the ruling not the high court, urging the court to dismiss the suit with huge cost against the claimants.
“Assuming without conceding that the claimant has genuine grievances against the Supreme Court ruling, the appropriate thing is to go back to the apex court for review not this court.
“Coming here is a wrong place and we want the court to decline the invitation to embark on judicial rascality,” Adetifa said.
Justice Adesodun, however, fixed November 19, 2019 for judgement on the case.