Oba of Benin, Eware II.
Justice Olukayode Bada, of the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin, has upturned the decision of a Benin High Court which had earlier ruled in favour of Chief Richard Arisco Osemwengie and others who were challenging the validity of the Edo State Traditional Rulers and Chieftaincy Edict of 1979.
Justice Bada said the lower court erred by ruling in favour of Chief Osemwengie because the suit filed “by Osemwengie and others against the Governor of Edo State and the BTC at the High Court Benin City, is status barred and does not disclose reasonable cause of action.”
It ordered that the suit filed by Chief Osemwengie at the High Court against the Governor of Edo State and the BTC be struck out since it was instituted outside the time limit stipulated by the status of limitation of Bendel State as applicable in Edo State.
The Appellate Court further held that the law relied on by the respondents which existed during the Midwest Region has been repealed by the Traditional and Chieftaincy Edit of 1979, therefore they have no locus standi to institute a suit in the first place against the state Governor and the BTC.
Justice Bada who upheld the Appeal filed by the Edo state Governor and the BTC and others, noted that the Respondents (Chief Osemwengie and others) have been in slumber for 37 years but “suddenly woke up from their slumber even when they have no reasonable cause of action as they are only recognized as a Chief in the palace of the Oba of Benin (Ogiamien of Benin Kingdom) as indicated by the extant law.”
It would be recalled that Chief Osemnwengie and others were earlier charged by the Edo State Government at the Oredo Magistrate Court for waging communal war and installing a traditional ruler without lawful authority as prohibited by the Traditional Rulers and Chieftaincy edit of 1979 of Bendel State, as applicable to Edo State.
It was learnt that with Court of Appeal judgment, Chief Osemwengie and others who were earlier remanded in prison but granted bail will now face trial at the Magistrate Court for ascribing to himself Ogiamien of Utantan Benin nation without the authorities of the Oba of Benin and the state government.
Reacting to the Court ruling, Counsel to the Edo State government and the BTC, Chief Charles Edosomwan, SAN, leading O.A.Aimiuwu Esq and Douglas Ogbankwa, described it as victory for the Benin traditional institution and the people of the Kingdom.
“The Appeal Court has in its own wisdom declared that the suit filed by Defendants at the High Court was an abuse of process and there was no cause of action in it and suit was caught by the limitation of action law. The Appeal Court said this issue has been there over 37 years ago but they brought it today just to constitute some nuisance in the polity.
“But it was declared as such and an abuse of process so the appeal was declared meritorious and was allowed and the suit in the lower court was struck out. There is no suit pending anymore, the only thing pending is the criminal charges against those who have perpetuated this criminality at the magistrate court and that will take its course,” Edosomwan said.