It is no longer news that the Edo State Sanitation and Pollution Management Law No. 5 of 2010 has been nullified by the Edo State High Court of Justice.
The said (former) law, which was popularly known as the Waste Management Law brought hardship, pains and suffering on Edo people since it was enacted by the Edo State House of Assembly. By the law, the Edo State Government appointed Waste Managers to collect waste from Edo people. Failure to patronize them was a criminal offence. Failure to pay the Waste Manager’s Bill was also made a criminal offence.
ABUSE OF POWERS
Abuse of powers inevitably set in. People were arrested and jailed by Magistrates (acting more like revenue collectors than judicial officers) in Mobile Courts which were set up to try defaulters summarily. Most times, the Magistrates were used (wittingly or unwittingly – I hope) to jail Edo people for such simple things like failing to pay a Waste Managers Bill for services rendered.
Often, people complained (with proof) that the Waste Managers did not evacuate waste, but still billed them for services. It did not matter. So, many paid to avoid jail. The Police Force were supremely complicit in the judicial charade, as they were used as enforcers to arrest innocent people. Tears were shed to the witness of the heavens and the earth, but the Government and the Magistrates turned deaf ears in the midst of the money that poured in. Until the Waste Board and a Waste Manager, one Kingsley Ayo Ebome, plied their nefarious trade in the house/premises of Mr. Johnson Igbinedion.
MR JOHNSON IGBINEDION:
Mr. Johnson Igbinedion has a house in Benin City. His wife runs a bakery at the back of the house. Sometime in 2012, the Waste Manager sent them a Bill for waste collection for up to seven months. But they had never seen the man before and their waste had never been collected during the period. In fact, the Igbinedions used all their household waste as combustible material in the bakery.
WASTE BILLS BUT NO WASTE COLLECTION:
The Waste Manager agreed that they no waste was generated, but the Bill had to be paid anyhow. To avoid trouble, Mr. Johnson Igbinedion agreed to pay the Waste Manager Five Thousand Naira (about US $13) monthly. The arrangement worked for some time until the Waste Manager became greedy and wanted more money- for rendering no services. Mr. Johnson Igbinedion rebuffed his demand for more money. So, the Waste Manager decided to up the ante.
ARREST OF DAUGHTER IN PLACE OF THE FATHER:
On 20th August 2014, the Waste Manager came to arrest Mr. Johnson Igbinedion and charge him before the Mobile Court for “not paying” his Bill. But fortitously, he met that Mr. Johnson Igbinedion had travelled to Port Harcourt that morning. The man left disappointed, but returned less than an hour later with a detachment of Policemen. They then arrested Mr. Johnson Igbinedion’s daughter who was visiting from School. They forcefully took her to the Mobile Court presided over by His Worship A. A. Ihenyen Esq, and charged her for non-payment of her father’s Waste Bill on the ground that she was the “occupier” of the premises.
The Chief Magistrate convicted her instantly and ordered her to pay the N90, 000 (Ninety Thousand Naira) Waste Bill and N6, 000 (Six Thousand Naira) as fine – a total of about US $265.51 – or spend Four Months in Prison. The Waste Bill and Fine were paid to avoid the imprisonment of the innocent girl.
THE COURT CASE AGAINST EDO GOVERNMENT:
I was roused from sleep by the incessant ringing of my phone on that 20th August 2014. Time was about 1pm. I had just returned from a trip abroad and was trying to sleep off the jetlag. When I answered, Mrs. Johnson Igbinedion was crying. Her husband was away and her daughter had been arrested. She had been ill and her daughter was the one caring for her in the absence of her husband. After frantic search, they located the girl in a Mobile Court and she had been convicted awaiting conveyance to prison. Could I come please? I was too far away, so I counselled her to pay the Bill and the Court fine if she could. We can deal with the Government later, and hurry before the girl is hauled off to Prison.
Thereafter, Mr. Johnson Igbinedion and his wife, incensed with the treatment of their daughter, instructed us to file a suit (No. B/460/2013 between Mr. Johnson Obasogie Igbinedion v. Edo State House of Assembly and 6 Others) seeking, among other reliefs:
- A Declaration that the Edo State Sanitation and Pollution Management Law No 5 of 2010 is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (s amended), Item 7 Part III of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act, and other laws and therefore ultra vires the powers of the Edo State House of Assembly, and thus unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect whatsoever.
- An Order of Court nullifying the aforesaid Edo State Sanitation and Pollution Management Law No 5 of 2010 in its entirety.
- A further Declaration that the establishment and composition of the Edo State Waste Management Board by the Edo State Government pursuant to the provisions of the aforesaid Edo State Sanitation and Pollution Management Law No 5 of 2010 is also ultra vires the Edo State Government, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
- A further Declaration that the Edo State Waste Management Board’s licensing, registration, appointment or contracting of Mr. Kingsley Ayo Ebome as a Waste Manager with powers to chare the Claimants fees, levies and rates from the Claimants House/Bakery for waste (which was not collected) and also instigate criminal prosecution against Mr. Johnson Igbinedion before the Edo State Magistrate/Mobile Court(s) is unconstitutional, illegal, null, void and of no legal effect whatsoever.
- An Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the Edo State Government, by themselves, their servants, agents, assigns, privies, or anyone claiming to derive authority from them howsoever, from acting pursuant to, further implementation and/or performing or giving effect to the provision of the said Edo State Sanitation and Pollution Management Law No. 5 of 2010.
THE PEOPLE REJOICE WHEN THE RIGHTEOUS RULE
After hearing the case, the Chief Judge of Edo State, sitting in High Court No.1, granted the reliefs claimed by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson Igbinedion in part by (1) nullifying the Edo State Sanitation and Pollution Management Law No. 5 of 2010, (2) Also annulled all appointments of Waste Managers, (3) Nullified the Board itself and (4) Restrained the Edo State Government from any further implementation of the Law.
EFFECT OF THE JUDGMENT
By the Judgment, the Edo State Waste Management Board has ceased to exist in law. Any disobedience to the Order of Perpetual Injunction will swiftly be met with contempt proceedings against any official of government. That is the Judgment of the Court.
(Hon. Dele Igbinedion is the Principal of Dele Igbinedion Chambers – Abuja, Lagos and Benin.)