The Supreme Court on Friday ended the 19 years legal dispute over the right location of the headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
Resting the case in its judgment, a five-man bench of the apex court unanimously ordered the Ekiti State Government to immediately restore the headquarters of the local government to Eda-Oniyo from Iye-Ekiti where it was relocated to shortly after the state was created on October 1, 1996.
The case started in the High Court of Ekiti State with the suit filed in 1999 by the traditional ruler of Eda-Oniyo, the Eleda of Eda-Oniyo, Oba Julius Awolola, to challenge the sudden relocation of the headquarters of Ilejemeje local government from his town, as established by the state’s law law, to Iye-Ekiti.
The Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour-led bench of the apex court, on Friday, held that the establishment of the headquarters of the local government in Eda-Oniyo was backed by statute and could not be relocated elsewhere without the promulgation of a new law.
Justice Paul Galinje who read the lead judgment of the apex court’s panel, held that the act of the Ekiti State Government relocating the headquarters of the local government from Eda-Oniyo to Iye-Ekiti “has no legal basis”.
“The location of the headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government in Eda-Oniyo is a product of statute and no law has been promulgated to relocate it to any other place,” he ruled.
Justice Galinje upheld the earlier judgment of the Ekiti State High Court which had in 2001 affirmed that Eda-Oniyo was the lawful location of the Ilejemeje Local Government Area’s headquarters, following a suit by Oba Awolola.
The apex court set aside the March 6, 2006 judgment of the Ilorin Division of the Court of Appeal which had ruled otherwise.
Oba Awolola had instituted the appeal in 2008 to challenge the judgment of the Court of Appeal which had ruled in favour of the respondents, who were the Governor of Ekiti State, the Attorney-General of the state and the chairman of the Ilejemeje local government.
The Federal Military Government had on October 1, 1996, created among others, Ekiti State with Ilejemeje Local Government Area as one its 16 local government areas.
The headquarters of the Ilejemeje Local Government Area was located in Eda-Oniyo with the backing of the States Creation (Transitional Provisions) Decree No. 36 of 1996.
But three months after, by a radio announcement, the Ekiti State Government notified the public of the relocation of the local government from Eda-Oniyo to Iye-Ekiti.
Oba Awolola was said to have on behalf of the people of Eda-Oniyo protested to the office of the Head of State, where he was told that the office did not authorise the movement of the local government to Iye-Ekiti.
When the protests failed to produce the desired result, the monarch was said to have, through his lawyer, Mr. Oluwadamilare Awokoya, filed a suit against the governor of the state, the Attorney-General and the chairman of Ilejemeje local government area in 1999.