The reining first class traditional ruler of Ebiraland in Kogi state, the Ohinoyi Dr. Prince Ado Ibrahim has won a long-drawn legal battle against some of his subjects that wanted to unseat him.
This followed the Supreme Court’s ruling affirming as the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland. Ibrahim was appointed the paramount ruler of Ebrialand by the then Military Administrator of Kogi State, Colonel Bzigu Afakirya, on June 2, 1997.
After his enthronement, a suit challenging his appointment was instituted before the Kogi State High Court on March 6, 1998.
Ibrahim appealed to the Supreme Court after he was ordered to be deposed by the concurrent judgments of both the Kogi State High Court where the matter started and subsequently the Jos Division of the Court of Appeal.
But the Justice Ibrahim Muhammad-led five man panel of the Supreme Court, today, struck out the suit on the grounds that the Kogi State High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit because it (the suit) was caught by “statute of limitation.”
Justice John Okoro who delivered the lead judgment of the apex court held that the Kogi State High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit since the plaintiffs, some of whom are now dead, failed to institute it within three months of Ibrahim’s appointment.
Justice Okoro held that “having appointed the appellant (Ibrahim) on June 2, 1997 and the 1st to 4th respondents becoming aggrieved of the said appointment, their cause of action arose with effect from June 2, 1997.
“Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act states that such an action, prosecution or proceeding ‘shall not lie or be instituted unless it is commenced within three months after the act, neglect or default complained of …’
“The effect of the Public Officers Protection Act like any other statutes of limitation is to deprive the court of jurisdiction to entertain an action filed outside the time prescribed in the statute.
“The first to fourth respondents did not file their suit until March 6, 1998, clearly about nine months after their cause of action arose.
“That action, in my estimation, ought to have been filed not later than 2nd September, 1997.
“Let me state again for the umpteenth time that where a law prescribes a period for instituting an action, proceedings cannot be instituted after that period.”
The apex court ruled that the Kogi State High Court, having been robbed of the jurisdiction to entertain the suit, “in the same vein, the lower court (Court of Appeal) had no jurisdiction to hear and determine the appeal arising from a judgment generated from the High Court which had no jurisdiction to entertain same.”
Justice Okoro then held that “accordingly, both the judgment of the High Court of Kogi State delivered on April 3, 2006 and that of the court below (Court of Appeal) delivered on January 12, 2009, are hereby set aside.”
Respondents in the appeal are, Alhaji Maigida Lawal, Alhaji Isa Omolori, Mr. Idris Seriki, Mr. Nwaha Sanni, Military Administrator of Kogi State and the Attorney-General Federation. [myad]