Prince Yaya Adigun & Ors Vs Secretary, Iwo Local Government (1992) LLJR-SC

Prince Yaya Adigun & Ors Vs Secretary, Iwo Local Government (1992)

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On the 23rd day of February. 1999, I dismissed this appeal and adjourned to today to give reasons for the decision.   I now hereby give reasons for the judgment. The appellants Prince Yaya Adigun and two others for themselves and on behalf of Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House of Iwo brought a suit against the Military Governor of Oyo (now substituted by Military Administrator of Osun State), and Secretary Iwo Local Government and sixteen others (who are various chiefs of two town) claiming as follows:   (i) Declaration that in the absence of an Oluwo of Iwo, no new declaration of custom regulating the succession to the Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy can be made. (ii) Declaration that until a new Declaration regulating succession to Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy has been made, the Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House in accordance with the Customary Law applying to that Chieftaincy is the only Ruling House to present a candidate for the Oluwo of Iwo.

(iii) Declaration that the right of Ogunmakinde Ande to present a candidate for the vacant stool of Oluwo of Iwo had accrued since the Judgment of the Supreme Court on 20th March, 1987, which invalidated both the declaration of 4th January, 1979 and that on 28th July, 1981.   (iv) Declaration that any action of the Defendants jointly and or severally that takes or purports to take away the accrued right of Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House is unconstitutional being retroactive in effect.

(v) Injunction restraining the Defendants jointly and or severally by their officers servants and or agents and howsoever from taking any step whatsoever which may directly or indirectly affect the accrued right of the Plaintiffs and or from appointing or causing an appointment of a candidate or candidates from any family other than the Ogunmakinde Ruling House. (vi) Declaration that after the judgment of the Supreme Court in Suit No. SC. 98/1986 of 20th March, 1987 nullifying the registered Declaration of 4th January, 1979 and 28th July, 1981, the Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House automatically became the only Ruling House in accordance with the Customary Law applying to the Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy with accrued right to present a candidate for the Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy.”  

The claim was filed as part of Statement of Claim on the 29th March, 1998. The first Plaintiff is the Head of Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House of Iwo, the second and third Plaintiffs Alade Lamuye and Tiamiyu Ajani are principal members of the family. There was a vacant stool of Oluwo of Iwo, one of the principal towns of the Yorubas. The last Oluwo died sometime in 1982. It was before the death of the last Oluwo that for the first time a statutory declaration of Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy was made following Justice Apara’s Commission in 1979. The Declaration, Exhibit P1 in this suit, was registered in the Gazette on 19th July, 1979 and recognised Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House as the only Oluwo of Iwo Ruling House. This no doubt met with some opposition and another panel was set up, termed Agiri Commission of Enquiry, which turned in its report culminating in another Declaration in 1981, Exhibit P2 in this suit. Exhibit P2 dropped Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House of the Plaintiffs and recognised three other houses, to wit, Adagunodo, Gbase, and Alawusa as the only Ruling Houses of Oluwo of lwo Chieftaincy. As a result of this new Declaration (i.e. Exhibit P2) the Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House led by the present first Plaintiff, Prince Yahaya Adigun joined by Prince Alade Lamuye and Prince N. O. Abanikanda (all also plaintiffs in the present suit) and others challenged the 1981 Declaration in a suit at the former Oyo High Court sitting at Oshogbo in 1981 claiming as follows:

“(i) a declaration that by the Customary Law prevailing in Iwo, the Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House is the only Ruling House from which appointment to the Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy is to be made.  (ii) a declaration that the instrument dated the 28th day of July, 1981 is in so far as it purports to declare the Customary Law prevailing in Iwo with respect to the appointment to the Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy, is wrong and accordingly illegal and void and (iii) And injunction restraining all servants, officers and agents of the Government of Oyo State or of the Iwo Central Local Government from acting pursuant to or taking any steps to implement the aforesaid declaration registered on 29th July, 1981.”  The High Court dismissed the three claims on 16th June, 1982. On appeal, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and a further appeal was lodged at Supreme Court. In a unanimous judgment on 2nd March, 1987, (the appeal, SC. 98/1986), it was held that Agiri Commission of Enquiry violated the principle of fair hearing and natural justice by denying the Plaintiffs the hearing granted Adagunodo, Gbase and Alawussa Families. The Court therefore allowed the appeal in respect of claims (ii) and (iii), and dismissed the appeal in respect of claim (i). Thus the Supreme Court held as follows:- “(i) that Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House is not the only Ruling House of Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy. (ii) that the Declaration of 1981, Exhibit P2, is void as it never afforded Ogunmakinde Ande Family opportunity of being heard by Agiri Commission of Enquiry and thus its purported declaration of customary law could not be sustained. – (iii) that Exhibit P2 should not be enforced and injunction asked for was therefore granted and the Government was ordered to set up another commission to ascertain the true customary law and tradition as to appointment of Oluwo of Iwo.”   However, despite the clear wording of the Court’s judgment the plaintiffs returned to Supreme Court by way of motion under “inherent jurisdiction” of the Court praying as follows:   “(1) That notwithstanding the provisions of Order 8 rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules this Honourable Court shall entertain the prayers contained in paragraph (ii) of this Motion on Notice. (2) That the judgments delivered by the Justices of this Honourable Court on 20th day of March, 1987 be amended to read as if:  (a) the decision to dismiss the fast claim of the plaintiffs (i.e. the claim for declaration that the customary law prevailing in Iwo, the Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House is the only Ruling House from which the appointment to the Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy is to be made) were deleted and that there should be substituted therefore a decision granting the said declaration. (b) all references to orders (in the nature of mandatory or prohibitory injunction or of mandamus or otherwise however, not included among the reliefs claimed by the plaintiffs and directed against the said plaintiffs or directed against any of the other parties to the action were deleted from the said judgments.   (3) Such further or other orders as this Honourable Court may deem fit to make.”

There was hardly anything resembling ambiguity in the previous judgment of Supreme Court as given on 20th day of March, 1987, nor was there any reason other than mischief in bringing this motion. Once the Supreme Court in its decision has effectively decided on the matter before it and there is no ambiguity or slip to be corrected, it becomes functus officio of the Court to reopen it. Finality of the decision of the Supreme Court is entrenched in the Constitution. Therefore once the decision of the Court is clear, it is final in the sense that the thrust of the ratio decidendi is manifest in it. Inherent powers of the Court can only be invoked if there is a missing link in the main body of the judgment and some steps must be taken to fill the gaps or ambiguity so that the justice of the issues will be clear. That is why this Court can sometimes be called upon to dot the ‘i’ and fill in the gaps in the slips apparent in a judgment. Otherwise the Court cannot under the guise of so-called “inherent powers” alter or add to a clear and unambiguous judgment once given. Forts et origo of our jurisdiction is the Constitution and it is the Constitution that we must revert to in considering our rules and practice. (Adegbenro v. Akintola (1963) 1 All NLR 552; Nafiu Rabiu v. Kano State (1980) 8- 11 SC. 130).The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the application (See Prince Yahaya Adigun & Ors. v. Attorney-General of Oyo State & Ors. (1987) (No.2) 2 NWLR (part 56) 197).   As a result of the judgment of this Court given on 20th day of March 1987, and the ruling on the application delivered by this Court on 14th day of April, 1987, Oyo State Government set up an Administrative Panel sometime in July, 1987 before which the plaintiffs appeared and thus made representation. The Administrative Panel presided over by Professor Bolanle Awe submitted its report to the Oyo State Government in December, 1987, which the Government considered and accepted in February, 1988, by a White Paper. The Panel’s report recommended four Ruling Houses for Oluwo of Iwo Chieftaincy as follows:-   I. Adagunodo; 2. Gbase; 3. Alawusa; and 4. Ogunmakinde Ande.   But before Oyo State Government could take the further step of issuing a Declaration on that Chieftaincy, the plaintiffs went back to the High Court to initiate the new suit giving rise to this appeal now before this Court. What the plaintiffs are claiming is no more than the original claims that culminated in the appeal that was finally decided in 1987 in this Court on the 20th day of March, 1987. It seems the suit was meant to pre-empt issuance of a new Declaration based on the Report of Bolanle Awe’s Administrative Panel. The “accrued right” the plaintiffs claimed was to the effect that only Ogunmakinde Ande Ruling House was the sole Ruling House, a matter finally decided by this Court in 1987. If all the new suit was meant to achieve was to maintain Ogunmakinde Ande’s family as the sole Ruling House, it was certainly an abuse of Court process because it disregarded the clear pronouncement of this Court that it was not the sole Ruling House. It is for this reason of abuse of Court process that I on 23rd day of February, 1999 dismissed this appeal.

M.E. OGUNDARE, JSC.: I dismissed this appeal on 23rd day of February, 1999 and indicated then that I would give my reasons for so doing today.   I have had a privilege of the preview of the reasons given by my Lord Belgore, JSC for he too dismissing the appeal. I agree entirely with the reasons given by him which I hereby adopt as mine. The claims of the Plaintiffs/Appellants are no more than another futile attempt to have the judgment of this Court given on 20th day of March 1987 reversed notwithstanding the ruling of this Court given on 14th day of April 1987 to the effect that it had no jurisdiction so to do. This Court, or any other court for that matter, would have no jurisdiction to sit on appeal against the judgment of this Court – see Section 215 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979. Consequently it is equally my view that the suit leading to this appeal is an abuse of the process of Court and was rightly dismissed by the two Courts below.

Other Citation: (1992) LCN/2482(SC)

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