Justice Yinka Afolabi of an Osun State High Court has declared that the suit filed by a rights activist, Barrister Kanmi Ajibola was more than asking the court to nullify the state tax law signed by the governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola but was also challenging the legality of the state coined the “State of Osun” and the “State of Osun House of Assembly”.
At his sitting in Ilesa High Court on Monday, February 06, 2017, Justice Afolabi gave the House of Assembly legal team headed by Barrister Rachael Ojimu a wake-up call that the notice of preliminary objection and the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the state legislative was improper.
In a six paragraphs affidavit sworn to by Akintunde Ayodele, a litigation clerk in the Department of Legal Services, House of Assembly, it contended that the “State of Osun Land Use Law, 2016” signed by the governor did not contravene any law and that in the interest of justice, the suit should be dismissed. However, ounsel to the applicant, Barrister Samuel Echeonwu stated that apart from the fact that the first respondent, Governor Aregbesola refused to reply to the matter, the second respondent, the state lawmaker filed its preliminary objection out of time.
“It appears there was a deliberate act by the respondents in this matter. As for us, we are ready to move on with the hearing of this matter today”, he stated. Mrs Ojimu, who is also the Assembly’s Director of Legal Services explained that the preliminary objection was filed on December 1, 2016 has replied to all issues raised by the applicant.
But Justice Afolabi who adjourned the case till March 26, 2017 for definite hearing chided the state counsels, saying it was unfortunate with the way cases involving government were being handled by them. “I think government should be paying cost for any delay in court processes. Maybe by then, they will be very serious with cases in
court. This is a case that is challenging the legality of the house of assembly. It is case to know whether the State of Osun Assembly exists in the first instance or not. It is a constitutional matter this court has jurisdiction to entertain”, he stated.
Barrister Ajibola had argued in his suit filed on October 4th, 2016 that by the provisions of the 1999 constitution, there was nothing called the “State of Osun”.
He asked the court in his suit that the land use law by that its name, “the State of Osun Land use Charge Law 2016’ and its maker, “State of Osun House of Assembly” were unlawful and unconstitutional.
According to him, “Osun State is the creation of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Expressly and impliedly, what the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria created is Osun
State not “State of Osun”
“I believe that ‘State of Osun’ is an impish coinage and unknown to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The first Defendant, that is the Governor of Osun State, took his oath of office as the Governor of Osun State.
“I believe there is a difference between ‘Osun State Government’ and ‘State of Osun Government’. I believe ‘Osun State’ does not mean the same thing as the ‘State of Osun’”. “I believe that ‘Osun State House of Assembly’ does not mean the same as ‘State of Osun House of Assembly’. I strongly believe that the ‘State of Osun Land Use Charge law, 2016’ is made for the state unknown to the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I strongly believe that the ‘State of Osun Land use Charge Law, 2016’ is made by a legislative body unknown to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, he said.
Besides, the lawyer noted that no one can sign into effect any new tax regime apart from the state Commissioner for Finance, informing the court that the governor has failed to inaugurate new state executive council for two years further make the introduction of the said tax unacceptable.
He stated if the law is allowed to operate, the state through a private company, Interspatial Limited will be making an average of unlawful N50 billion per annum at a time when workers in the state are being paid irregularly and with half salaries.
He asked the court to stop the state government from implementing the law and set it aside in its entirety adding that the policy and its operation would be encouraging social, security and economic malaises in the state.