15 December 2017

Nigeria: Court Declares Name Change to 'State of Osun' Illegal

Osogbo — The Osun State High Court in Ilesa thursday declared the change of the name of the state to the "State of Osun" illegal, null and void.

Delivering judgment in a case instituted by a human rights activist, Kanmi Ajibola, challenging the legality of the 'State of Osun Land Use Charge Law', Justice Yinka Afolabi ruled that the law and its makers were unknown to the 1999 Constitution.

In his over one hour judgment, the judge chided the state Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, for deliberately and singlehandedly renaming the state illegally contrary to the known norms and the country's constitution.

He also declared that the makers of the law, who are currently serving as members of the state House of Assembly, were not sworn in as members of the 'State of Osun House of Assembly' but as members of Osun State House of Assembly going by the seventh schedule of the constitution.

Going through history of state creations in Nigeria since 1962, Justice Afolabi stated that since the creation of the state in 1991, previous governments used the constitutional envisaged name, Osun State while all other 35 states of the federation have not deviated from the constitutional names given to them.

"The executive governor of the state changed the name in 2011. The renaming of a state goes further and deeper for anyone to singlehandedly do. To re-order the name of Osun State as 'State of Osun' is hereby declare illegal, null and void.

"On the oath of allegiance, I want to state that the seventh schedule is part of the law. It is not a mere draft or mere oath. It does not give room for any alteration. After deposing to an oath of office, you cannot turn around to do otherwise," the Justice Afolabi stated.

Ajibola had canvassed that all businesses done in the name of 'State of Osun' be declared null and void, saying such were done contrary to the constitution.

He had gone to court in 2016, asking for certain reliefs after being served a notice by a private company known as Interspatial Limited and christened as 'State of Osun Land Use Charge Annual Demand Notice' in the name of 'State of Osun', and signed by one Mrs. A. Ogunlumade, Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Finance.

According to him, the notice was addressed to him as the property owner of No. 42, Onigbogi Street off Ibala, Ilesa West, and was served him on August 15, 2016.

Justice Afolabi threw out all the arguments by the state Attorney-General, Dr. Basiru Ajibola, who stood in as counsel for the state governor and the state government and that of the Director of Legal Services, Mrs. Rachel Ojinni, as he granted all the seven prayers of the plaintiff.

The judge also berated the governor for his refusal to appoint his commissioners who should perform their statutory duties, saying the tax law itself envisaged that tax matters must be endorsed by the Commissioner for Finance and not any other person.

However, the state Attorney-General disclosed at the court that the judgment would be appealed.

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