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Court declares ‘State of Osun’ illegal

The Osun State High Court sitting in Ilesa on Thursday declared the change of the name of the state to the “State of Osun” as illegal, null and void.

Delivering judgment in a case instituted by a human rights activist, Barrister 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, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola for deliberately and singlehandedly renaming the state illegally contrary to the known norms and the nation’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 scheduled 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 the 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 as 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 as saying such were done contrary to the constitution.

Barrister Ajibola 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, 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 on him on the 15thday of August 2016.

Some of the reliefs he sought for included a declaration that the “State of Osun Land use Charge Law 2016” having being enacted by the legislative body that is not known to the constitution and for the state not known to the 1999 constitution as such illegal and unconstitutional.

An Order setting aside the “State of Osun Land use charge Law, 2016” having being enacted by the legislative body that is not known to the constitution and for the state not known to the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) is not enforceable in Osun State.

Among other reliefs sought by the plaintiff included, “a declaration that Osun State Government having been delegated with the power to collect Land use charge revenue by the provisions of section 2(2) and (3) of the “State of Osun Land use charge Law, 2016”, Sections 4(1), 8(2), 10(1) & (5), 16(c)(i) & (ii), 17, 18, 21(3) and 22 of the “State of Osun Land use charge Law, 2016” are not operable without appointing the Commissioner of finance in Osun State.

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 it must be 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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