New Telegraph

Travails of 103-year-old Kwara monarch

I t is indeed a sad commentary on the society that the traditional ruler of Jebba community in Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State, Oba AbdulKadir Alabi Adebara, despite being duly appointed by the community’s kingmakers and traditionally coronated without any rancour, bitterness or ill feeling, could be subjected to a barrage of harrowing inhuman treatment in the past 21 years of his ascension to the throne of his forefathers. Aside from his unpaid accumulated salary and other personal emoluments by the state government, past and present, all this while, New Telegraph’s checks shockingly discovered that Oba Adebara was arrested, humiliated and treated like a common criminal before his eventual arraignment in 2006 in a Magistrate Court, and later in 2009 before another High Court Judge, Justice Hannah Ajayi, in Suit No. KWS/2c/2009 state, on trumped up charges.

Prison

The monarch was subsequently remanded in prison for a period of 19 days, after which he was admitted to bail, in a case that lasted eight years. Intriguingly, Oba Adebara’s alleged offences were: “That he was parading himself as an Oba in gross violation of both the state and local government orders, while also giving evidence in a suit before the High Court as the Traditional Ruler of Jebba Community when he clearly knew that the information was false and in contravention of the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law, as well as the Penal Code”. Oba Adebara, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges, reaffirming in his evidence-in-chief that: “I am presently the Oba of Jebba, that I became the Oba on 16th May, 2003 having succeeded the deceased Oba Ahmadu Adebara.”

Curiously, the case had dragged since March 9, 2006 at both the Chief Magistrate Court and another High Court before it was finally reassigned to the Court of Justice Hannah Ajayi in 2009. Counsel to the monarch, J. S. Bamigboye, had successfully challenged his client’s arraignment before a Magistrate’s Court on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because it was criminal in nature. Hence, the subsequent transfer of the case to a High Court that was competent to hear and adjudicate on it.

Oba’s argument

In the same vein, Bamigboye had successfully punctured the arguments and submissions of the Prosecution Counsel to the State Government, Mrs F. B. Ishola, countering and summiting that the content of the letter purportedly written by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs was not addressed to any precise person or stool, arguing that it was general in content. To the Counsel, for the prosecution to bring the accused person within the confines of the letter, they must prove, among others, that the accused was appointed Oba of Jebba in 2003 without compliance with the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law of 1963, which the Prosecution woefully fell short of proving.

Bamigboye further argued that there was no evidence, credible or incredible, before the court to show the precise provision of the Chiefs and Deposition Law 1963 which the traditional and governmental appointment of the accused failed to comply with. To him, the prosecution had also failed to adduce any evidence whatsoever to suggest that the accused person did not take the oath of office upon his appointment and grading as required by law. “Contrary to the evidence of the prosecution that there was massive protest against the appointment of the accused, the evidence of the defence, to all intents and purposes, indicated massive support by the Jebba community, including the 33 villages under Jebba.

In fact, there was no challenge to the appointment of the accused within the Ruling House; there was also no acknowledged petition to the governor over the appointment, while there was no suit against the said appointment. “Thus, the purported letters, including the two which emanated from the local government, do not and cannot act as instruments of deposition because the Oba still remains an Oba by virtue of his traditional appointment and is competent to parade himself as such,” Bamigboye submitted.

Ruling

In her ruling, Justice Hannah Ajayi, who found the evidence of the four prosecution witnesses apparently contradictory, while that of the two called by the defence tallied, averred that the prosecution had failed to prove that the appointment of the accused as the Oba of Jebba in 2003 was done without complying with the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law 1963. Similarly, she agreed with the defence Counsel that the prosecution also failed to prove that the late Governor Mohammed Lawal’s administration did not follow the advice of the Council of Chiefs in appointing the accused person and subsequently “discharged and acquitted him on both counts”.

Expectedly, immediately after the historic judgment, which pronounced a no-guilty verdict on His Royal Highness, Oba AbdulKadir Alabi Adebara, spontaneous wild jubilations erupted at the High Court premises among the monarch’s teeming supporters and subjects who had been thronging the court to witness proceedings, thanking God that after eight traumatic years of legal battle against the state, Oba Adebara triumphed and was declared the rightful and authentic monarch of Jebba Community in a judgment which delivery lasted more than three hours. Reacting to the court judgment, the elated Oba Adebara, who dedicated the victory to the tripod of God, the judiciary and Jebba people who had stood firmly by him throughout the traumatic period described the judgment as a triumph over impunity and a reaffirmation that the judiciary is indeed a bastion of hope for the common man. He was particularly ecstatic that, by the judgment, those who had wanted to bring his name and that of his family into disrepute, as well as wipe out his lineage met their waterloo in the process.” For his part, Counsel to Oba Adebara had expressed happiness that, at last, justice had prevailed, lauding Justice Ajayi for her diligence and thoroughness.

Govt’s appeal

The state Director of Public Prosecution, Abdulmumini Abdulkareem, however, said the judgment would be studied in order to determine the next line of action, noting that the decision whether to appeal or not rests squarely with the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. New Telegraph, however, learnt that the state government had belatedly appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal, which the appellate court eventually struck out for being statute barred and for lack of diligent prosecution. Following the historic High Court judgment, Bamigboye, Counsel to Oba Adebara had, on April 1, 2014, written to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs requesting for the payment of the accumulated salary arrears, and other personal emoluments of Oba Adebara as a Third Class Graded Chief in the state from May 18, 2003 to the date of the court judgment, expressing confidence that, “as a fair and just leader committed to rule of law, legality and tenets of democratic rule, our demands would have an immediate attention”.

Sadly, till date, there has been no response, positive or negative, by the state government to the Counsel’s letter and others that were later written on the issue, despite the court judgment, affirming Oba Adebara as the authentic monarch of the Jebba Community. Worried and disturbed by the unsavoury development and treatment of their monarch, the people of Jebba Community recently addressed a press conference in the monarch’s Palace, lamenting the nonchalance of the state government to the implementation of the court judgment, starting with the payment of all withheld salaries and other personal emoluments despite series of letters which had been written to successive administrations to no avail, including the current administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.

Community’s request

Addressing journalists on the plight of their Royal Father and other sundry issues, spokesman for Jebba Community, High Chief Jaiyeola Omotosho, made a passionate appeal to Governor AbdulRazaq to immediately direct the payment of the 21 years unpaid salary and other personal emoluments of Oba Adebara, while also demanding the upgrading of his stool from the present Third Class status to First Class in line with his contemporaries of 1983 who are now in First Class. According to the spokesman, such monarchs who are now in First Class include Elese of Igbaja, Olosi of Osi, Emir of Yashikira and Emir of Ilesha Baruba.

High Chief Omotosho lamented that: “Ever since the judgment, several letters had been written to both past and present governments for the implementation of the court judgment, starting with the payment of all withheld salaries, allowances and other personal emoluments, all to no avail. “The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the Oba of Jebba’s letter of appeal to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq dated August 31, 2023 requesting for the payment of his personal emoluments and the implementation of the court judgment.

“We have strong reasons to believe that some officials of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs are working in cahoots with one or two traditional rulers in the state who are out to frustrate the payment of the accumulated salaries and allowances of our monarch. “We, therefore, request Governor AbdulRazaq to direct his searchlight on the state Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs over alleged removal from circulation of the relevant subject file on Oba of Jebba’s request.”

Mum

All efforts to get the reactions of the state government on the vexed issue proved abortive as the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Abdullahi Abubakar Bata, walked out on journalists who were in his office for his reaction to the allegations, while the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Ibrahim Sulyman Senior, said he could not speak on the matter despite being the Chief Legal Officer of the state.

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