Fresh Fm Demolition: Legal Consequences
The demolition exercise that was embarked upon by officials of the Oyo State Government yesterday, 19th day of August, has generated debates within the rank and file of Ibadan indigenes and beyond while creating ripples as to the legality of the move. It cannot be gainsaid that the criminalisation of dissent and opposition and the adulation of those in rocky heights are deeply embedded in our political atmosphere and this has form a major part of our existence which cannot be isolated when discussing government's policies and programmes. I have intentionally refrained myself from taking a position on the whole issue because of my inability to confirm, if truly, there is a pending suit in the law court awaiting determination and, if, indeed, the government which happened to be the Defendant in the case has been served processes of the suit that was said to be in the law court.
The recent action of the Oyo State Government and the alibi given by both the counsel to the State Government, Chief Aliyu SAN and the Commissioner for Information and Culture, Toye Arulogun in the Court today, makes it appear as if Nigeria as a country has bid goodbye to sanity in government. It appears as if all of us as a people have surrendered to the shackles of vagabonds, imbecilic liars and unreasoning chatterbox. Today, it won't be wrong to assume that decency dwell only in the realm of imaginations and desire because, we have refused to change our attitudes to government and politics leading to flagrant disobedience to the rule of law and holding the Court in contempt. The action of Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State has once again proven to us that politics in this part of the world is being run by irresponsible and irresponsive charlatans who will never change no matter what. Nigerian politicians are not concerned with the effects of their policies and programmes on the people which has made them act with total disregard for the ruled while concentrating on building a formidable political front.
I have come to a point that I now do away with emotion when discussing politics because, I have come to realise that nothing is worth dying for, but, while not being excessively emotional, we must always note that some issues are worth being discussed without being clouded by emotion. Olayinka Joel Ayefele has been in the news since last week after a directive was given by the Oyo State Government ordering for the demolition of his structure that houses his radio station and music studios. Meanwhile, it would interest you to know that Ayefele was reported to have filed for an interlocutory order in the Oyo State High Court to seek for stay of execution of the said directive by the State Government. Though, until the processes in a matter are served on a Defendant, he cannot be said to be aware of the pendency of the suit. However, it has been reported that the company has filed for a suit at the Oyo State High Court on Thursday seeking injunctive reliefs against the Oyo State Government and, despite the Courts being on vacation, the suit have been filed along with a Motion Ex-parte seeking leave of court to be heard and served on the Defendant during vacation. Nonetheless, it was learnt that the suit has a prayer seeking an interim order of injunction to restrain the defendants from taking action as well as an application for abridgment of time which was said to have been served on the State Government pending the hearing of the suit today, 20th of August.
Afterall, it is trite law that when a question for determination is before the Court, it is for parties to maintain the status quo, especially when the 'res' is supposed to be preserved (in this case, the Fresh FM building structure).
No doubt, the government acted in contempt of the law Court and the hasty demolition can be said to have been done in bad faith which smacks of vendetta, recklessness, impunity, insensitivity and utter misuse of power with no regard for the rule of law. The singular act of the Oyo State Government is a manifestation of wickedness in high places and a testament to the fact that, truly, mad men have occupied high places in Nigeria.
There is no doubting the fact that Nigeria is living dangerously and we would be setting a bad template if we continue on this same ignoble path that we are. The horizon is looking ominous for our dear country as we gradually descend into full blown dictatorship under a democratic dispensation with scant regard for the rule of law and the tenet that underpin a sound democracy. We now run a system where the essence of constitutional government to ensure that the powers of the State are kept in check so that personal liberty would not be infringed are being disregarded. It is unfortunate and sickening that despite pending Court case, the government of Oyo State could go ahead to demolish the structure even when violation has not been determined by the law court.
On the subject of the rule of law, the apex court in the Military Governor of Lagos State & 2 ors v. Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 621 as contained in Ratios 9-12, p. 623 held that:
"9. Once the Court is seized of a matter, no party has a right to take the matter into his own hands.
10. The essence of the rule of law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear.
11. After a defendant has been notified of the pendency of a suit seeking an injunction against him, even though a temporary injunction be not granted, he acts at his peril and subject to the power of the Court to restore the status wholly irrespective of the merits as may be ultimately decided.
12. No one (including Government) is entitled to take the law into his own hands."
Also, as decided in the case of J. Edward Jones v. Security and Exchange Commission, the Court held that; when a suit has been brought to restrain certain acts of the defendant and he has notice, even if no injunction yet, the Defendant's hands are tied and any act done thereafter to pre-empt will be reversed.
Conclusively, the media, NUJ, concerned citizens, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Trade Unions and Civil Rights Societies and the Students' body in the State should mobilize mass actions, both legally and physically and call the Governor of Oyo State to order as there is an urgent need for a joint movement to check the Executive bestiality and rascality in Oyo State.
Kazeem Olalekan Israel (GANI) is A-300L Political Science student of Obafemi Awolowo University. He writes from Ile-Ife. He can reached on [email protected] .