In The Supreme Court of Nigeria
On Friday, the 14th day of December 1990
Prince Ademolu Odeneye. ....... Appellant
Prince David Olu Efunuga ....... Respondents
Judgment of the Court
On the 18th day of April, 1988, the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, dismissed the appeal of the Defendants/Appellants against the judgment of Sonoiki, J. of the High Court of Ogun State, sitting at Shagamu and delivered on the 28th November, 1986. This appeal before us by Prince Odeneye, the 5th Defendant, dated 22/4/88 is against the judgment of the Court of Appeal just referred to.
The issues for determination before this Court are as formulated by learned Counsel to the 5th Defendant/Appellant. They are entirely based on the determination of the question whether the procedure adopted in the election of Prince Odeneye as the Alakenne of Ikenne, is in accordance with the enabling Customary law declaration, and are as follows -
(i) Whether the Plaintiff has locus standi to bring this action; and
(ii) Whether paragraph (v) of the Declaration relating to the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy (Exhibit "A") is ultra vires section
4(2)(a)(v) of the Chiefs Law of Ogun State.
The issues will be much clearer after a recapitulation of background facts, even if cursory, leading to the institution of the action. The facts are that on Thursday the 18th July. 1985, pursuant to a letter from the 4th Defendant No.IDM/28/1O5 the Obara Ruling House, the principal Ruling House, in Ikenne, there are others, and the one to which both the Plaintiff/Respondent. and the 1st and 5th Defendant/Appellant belong, held a meeting for the purpose of deciding the question of the filling of the vacant position of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy. The 1st defendant in this case presided at this meeting. He is the Head of Obara Ruling House. The second defendant, Attorney-General of the State, is a nominal defendant. The third defendant, subsequently substituted with the Secretary to the Government has Ministerial responsibility in Chieftaincv matters. The 4th Defendant is the Chief Executive of the ljebu-Remo Local Government responsible for setting in motion the process of filling the vacancy. subject matter of this action.
At the aforesaid meeting of the Obara Ruling House on the 18th July, 1985, Plaintiff/Respondent was one of the four candidates nominated, whose names were to be and were eventually sent to the kingmakers in respect of the vacant Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy, purportedly in cornpliance with the letter No. IDM/28/105 of the 4th Defendant referred to above and the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958.
After the meeting. the plaintiff met the 1st defendant in his house and complained to him orally, and subsequently in writing, that the procedure adopted and the nomination made at the meeting of the 18th July, 1985 was contrary to the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincv Declaration of 1958, that is Exhibit A.
On the 26th day of July, 1985, the kingmakers purported to have appointed the 5th Defendant. the Alakenne of Ikenne from the list of four names including the names of the plaintiff and the 5th Defendant, under the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958.
On the 29th July, 1985, Plaintiff/Respondent issued a writ of summons claiming, from the Defendants as follows -
i. A declaration that the purported nomination of four candidates A for the vacant stool of Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy at a meeting of the Obara Ruling House held on 18th July, 1985, being contrary to the provisions of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration of 1958, is null, void and of no effect.
ii. An order directing the 4th Defendant to issue a fresh notice inviting the 1st defendant to summon a meeting of the Obara Ruling House for the purpose of nominating "a candidate" to fill the vacant stool of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy in accordance with paragraph (v) of the Provisions of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958.
iii. Plaintiff also claims commensurate costs against all the defendants.
Prince Ademolu Odeneye, who was chosen as the Alakenne of Ikenne by the kingmakers on the 26th July, 1985, was not one of the defendants in the action brought by plaintiff on the 29th July, 1985. On the 5th August, 1985 Prince Ademolu Odeneye brought a motion seeking to be joined as one of the Defendants. The application was granted and the said Prince Ademolu Odeneye became the 5th Defendant.
Pleadings were filed and exchanged. Parties led oral evidence in sup-port of their pleadings. The contention of the Defendants at the trial are the same as the issues for determination formulated before this Court. It was contended that paragraph (v) of Exhibit 'A' is inconsistent with and ultra vires sections 4, 14 and 15 of the Chiefs' Law. Secondly, it was submitted that the Plaintiff has no locus standi to bring the action and that it is only the family represented by its head who can bring this action. It was also contended F that the writ of summons and Statement of Claim did not disclose any cause of action.
The learned trial Judge rejected all the contentions.
He held that Exhibit "A", the Alakenne of Ike nne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958 was not inconsistent with sections 4, 14 and 15 of the Chief's Law Cap.20, accordingly, the purported nomination of four candidates for the vacant stool of Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy at the meeting of the Obara Ruling House on the 18th July, 1985 is contrary to the provisions of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958, and is consequently null and void.
On the question of locus standi, the learned Judge held that Plaintiff being one of the four candidates nominated on the 18th July, 1985, and therefore has sufficient interest in filling of the vacant stool of Alakenne of Ikenne which could be adversely affected if he was denied the right to bring this action.
Learned trial Judge held that the writ of summons and statement of claim disclose a cause of action. The claims of the Plaintiff were accordingly granted.
The defendants appealed against the decision to the Court of Appeal. Parties filed briefs of argument on which they relied and expatiated orally. Five grounds of appeal were relied upon. The main issues for determination formulated, which represent the kernel of the matter, were still confined to the issues of the locus standi of the plaintiff, and the validity of the nomination exercise of the 18th July, 1985. What was described therein as subsidiary issues could be subsumed under the second main issue.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and affirmed decision of the learned trial Judge that the Plaintiff had sufficient interest in the subject-matter of the action to enable the Court to accord him locus standi.
In respect of the second main issue, the Court of Appeal construed the B provisions of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958 as not inconsistent with the Chiefs Law, Cap. 20 of Ogun State, and accordingly held that the nomination made by the Obara Ruling House was not done in accordance with the requirements of Exhibit "A" i.e. the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958 and is therefore invalid.
The appeal was therefore dismissed and the judgment of the trial Court C was affirmed. The 5th Defendant, Prince Ademolu Ode neye is the only appellant before this Court. Appellant has filed several grounds of appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal referred to above. Learned Senior Counsel have filed briefs of argument on which they relied in their arguments before us. Learned Counsel to the Appellant has formulated two issues for determination which have been accepted and adopted by learned
senior counsel to the Respondents. The issues formulated are as follows -
2.0l. Whether the Plaintiff/Respondent has locus standi to bring this action action for a declaration nullifying the nomination exercise.
2.02. Whether paragraph (v) or Exhibit 'A' is not ultra vires section 4(2)(a)(v).
I have considered it unnecessary to reproduce the grounds of appeal because they are well covered by the formulation of the issues for determination accepted by the parties.
Before hearing this appeal, Mr. Onafowokan, S.A.N., learned counsel to the appellants observed that briefs of argument of Respondents were filed out of time. Mr. G.O.K. Ajayi, S.A.N. then made an oral application and was granted extension of time within which to file his brief of argument.
I think it is more appropriate in my consideration of the issues to begin with the first, which is whether plaintiff/respondent had locus standi to bring this action. If it is shown that the respondent had no locus standi to commence the action, the appeal succeeds in limine. A consideration of the second issue therefore becomes unnecessary and irrelevant.
The main contention of the Appellant is that the plaintiff/respondent G had no locus standi to commence this action. Learned Senior Counsel to the Appellant cited the locus classicus of Adesanya v. President (1981) 5 S.C. 112 at p.162 (1981) 2 NCLR 358 and submitted that plaintiff/respondent had not shown that by the nomination by the Obara Ruling House of four candidates his civil rights and obligations have been violated or adversely affected. It is not sufficient to say merely that he was one of the four so nominated; and that the exercise was invalid. Again it was not the contention of the respondent that he had the right to be nominated by the Obara Ruling House to the exclusion of all others. Accordingly, the right so violated if at all, was not peculiar to the plaintiff/respondent.
It was submitted relying on Momoh v. Olotu (1970)1 All N.L.R.117 A that the Plaintiff being a member of the Obara Ruling House, by itself, whose turn it is to produce a candidate for the vacant stool of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy, and participating at the nomination Meeting did not accord respondent the locus standi to institute the action. It was finally submitted that the court below was in error to hold that respondent had the locus standi to institute this action when on the pleadings there was nothing to show that his civil rights and obligations have been violated or threatened or adversely affected by the exercise complained of. Learned Counsel to the Appellant distinguished the decision of Orogan V. Soremekun (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt.44) 688 relied upon in the court below, on the fact, that in that case, plaintiffs pleaded the capacity in which their action was brought. This is not the position in this case.
Chief G.O.K. Ajayi, S.A.N. learned senior counsel to the respondent has in his brief of argument, which he adopted in his elaboration of the arguments before us, submitted that the Court below was right when it held that a candidate at an election has an interest in its conduct, and that he therefore has the locus standi to complain about any aspect of that election which is not in accordance with the law.
Chief G.O.K. Ajayi. S.A.N.. reframed what he considered to be the D proper issue of locus standi for consideration in this action, as follows -
Does the Plaintiff's capacity or position as a candidate give him locus standi to challenge the nomination exercise carried out bv the Obara Ruling House.?
Having stated the contentions of the parties I shall now proceed to consider the contentions before us on the first issue. It is now well settled that locus standi is the legal capacity to institute proceedings in a Court of law -See Thomas v.. Olufosoye (1986)1 NWLR (Pt.18) 669. Accordingly locus standi will only be accorded to a Plaintiff who shows that his civil rights and obligations have been or are in danger of being violated or adversely affected -See Adesanya v. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor. (Supra); Thomas v. Olufosoye (1986)1 NWLR (Pt. 18) 669; A.G. Kaduna State v. Hassan (1985)2 NWLR (Pt.8) 483. I do not think learned Counsel to the appellant is correct in his criticism of the Court below that respondent did not in his pleading disclose the existence of his civil rights and obligations which could be affected by the exercise of the nomination to the vacant stool of Alakenne of Ikenne.
Learned Counsel to the respondent has submitted and correctlv th ato plaintiff's complaint was about the whole exercise of the nomination leading to the appointment of the Alakenne of Ikenne. and that he therefore properly complained to those who were in charge of that exercise.
The Court of Appeal in its judgment considering this issue referred to paragraphs 1.8.9, 10, 11 and 12 of the statement of claim and observed that whether or not the applicant has locus standi to sue is a matter to be determined on the state of the pleadings. The Court observed that the paragraphs of the statement of claim referred to contained averments that
(a) the plaintiff is a member of the Obara Ruling House.
(b) that it was the turn of the said ruling house to produce a candidate to fill the vacant stool of the Alakenne;
(c) that the plaintiff was one of those who participated at the said meeting for the selection of the Alakenne;
(d) that he was one of the four candidates who eventually got selected and presented to the kingmakers for the purpose of filling the vacant stool.
I agree entirety with the Court below and the submission of Chief G.O.K. Ajayi, S.A.N. that the averments in the pleadings disclose not only that respondent is a member of the Obara Ruling House, whose turn it is to produce a candidate to fill the vacant stool of Alakenne of Ikenne, but that he not only participated at the meeting for the selection of the candidate for nomination, and also was one of the four candidates who were eventually selected and presented to the kingmakers for the purpose of filling the vacant stool. He therefore had sufficient interest in ensuring compliance with the law relied upon for the filling of the vacancy in which he is interested.
I think the facts of this case are quite different from the decision of Momoh & anor. V. Olotu (1970)1 All N.L.R. 117 relied upon by learned counsel to the Appellant. In the instant case as distinguished from Momoh V. Olotu (supra); respondent was not only a member of the Ruling House as in Momoh V. Olotu, (supra), but he has actually been selected and presented together with four others to the kingmakers for the purpose of filling the vacant stool the pleadings in the instant case have satisfied what Ademola, C.J.N. said the plaintiff in Momoh V. Olotu &Anor. (supra) lacked. He said at p.123.
........it is not enough for the plaintiff to state that he is a member of the family he has to state further that he has an interest in the
Chieftaincy title, and furthermore, state in his statement of claim how his interest in the chieftaincy title arose.
In the case respondent has shown both his interest and how it arose. In Adefulu V. Oyesile (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt.122) 377 S.C. it was held that any purported selection by the kingmakers or its approval by the Governor of a person not nominated by the Ruling House is an exercise in futility. In Momoh V. Olotu (supra) appellant was held not to have locus standi because he could only show that he was a member of the family, without showing any further interest he had in the Chieftaincy title.
Learned Counsel to the appellant contended that "the pleading that the nomination was invalid without any allegation of infraction of or its adverse effect on the plaintiff's civil rights and obligations poses no question to be settled between the plaintiff and the appellant as to the civil rights and obligations of the plaintiff."
There seems to me a fundamental misconception by learned counsel to the respondent about the scope of the rights of action provided under the Constitution 1979. It is well settled that there is locus standi wherever there is a justiciable dispute, Section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution 1979 provides that the judicial powers of the Courts
.......extend to all matters between persons or between government or authority and any person in Nigeria and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligation of that person.
There is the contention between persons about the filling of the vacant chieftaincy stool of the Alakenne of Ikenne. It is also not in dispute that respondent is one of those presented to the Kingmakers for the filling of the vacant stool. It is therefore not arguable that respondent is interested in the exercise for the filling of the vacant stool of the Alakenne of Ikenne. There was therefore clearly a litis contestatio not only between respondent and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants, responsible for the faulty nomination exercise, but also the 5th defendant, who claimed to have been elected to the vacant stool of the Alakenne of Ikenne. This is what accords locus standi.
The decision of Thomas V. Olufosoye (1986)1 NWLR (Pt. 18) 669 is clearly different in that there, appellants having stated that they had no interest themselves in the office in question (Bishop of Lagos) would suffer no injury. Indeed no question of their civil rights and obligations was in issue; -See also Adefulu V. Oyesile (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt. 122) 377 S.C.; Maradesa V. Governor Oyo State (1986)3 NWLR (Pt.27) 125 where like Momoh v Olotu (supra) where it was not shown that he belongs to any Ruling House entitled to present a Candidate to fill any vacancy, or (2) a member of the Orile-Owu Community (3) he was a Candidate or Kingmaker, there was no locus standi to bring the action.
The respondent in the instant case has been aptly described by the court below. It was said,
He certainly is no "busy-body" or a "meddlesome interloper." He has a stake - a clearly defined and recognisable stake, which he wants protected. In this regard it is self-evident that any wrongful procedure adopted in the selection of an Alakenne is F sure to affect him adversely, as indeed he says, it has.
I agree entirely. The subject matter of attack by the respondent is the procedure followed in the selection and appointment of Alakenne of Ikenne. There is ciearly no doubt that respondent had locus standi to question the procedure followed in the purported filling of the vacant stool of the Alakenne of Ikenne and to seek for a declaration as to its validity. The learned trial Judge was right to so declare and the court below to affirm the decision.
I now turn to the contention in the second issue for determination. This issue involves the interpretation of Exhibit "A" that is, the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958.
Learned Counsel to the appellant has submitted in his brief of argument G that whereas section 4(2)(a)(v) of the Chieftaincy Law, pursuant to which Exhibit "A', was made only authorises the Chieftaincy Committee of the competent council to prescribe the Customary law relating to the method of nomination of each Ruling House, paragraph V of Exhibit "A" while purporting to do this contains a statement limiting the number of candidates eligible for nomination to one. It was then argued that the enabling provision of section 4(2)(a)(v) referred to did not authorise the determination of the number of candidates that could be so nominated. It was submitted that paragraph V of Exhibit "A" which authorises the family to nominate a qualified candidate for the Chieftaincy without prescribing how that "qualified candidate" is to be nominated is ultra vires the enabling provision. Learned A counsel cited and relied on Nigerian Railway Corporation & Anor. V. Holloway & Anor. (1%5) NMLR 237 at 241; Uta Construction & Engineering Property Ltd. & Anor. V. Pataky (1965)3 All E.R. 650. It was finally submitted that by limiting the number of candidates eligible for nomination to one, while purporting to state the customary law relating to the method of nomination by the Ruling House, paragraph V of Exhibit "A" is ultra vires section 4(2)(a)(v) of the Chiefs Law and is accordingly null and void and of no effect.
In rejecting the construction by learned counsel to the appellants that paragraph V of Exhibit "A" is ultra vires the provisions of section 4(2)(a)(v) of the Chiefs Law, Chief G.0. K. Ajayi, S.A.N. for the respondents submitted that the proper approach is to consider the statute as a whole. He argued that sections 2 and 15 of the Law clearly envisage a situation where the relevant customary law may provide for the nomination of only one candidate. Accordingly paragraph v of Exhibit "A" could not be in conflict with the Chiefs Law as a whole.
In his further submission with respect to the alleged conflict of paragraph v of Exhibit "A" with section 4(2)(a)(v) of the Chiefs Law, learned counsel pointed out that the expression "shall include" envisages that the relevant customary law is not excluded. Learned counsel then concluded that "the most that can be said of Paragraph (v) of Exhibit "A" is that it not only states the customary law relating to the method of nomination, it also states that only one person can be nominated."
Learned counsel submitted that the assertion by appellants that the E number of candidates "eligible for nomination" is limited to one is not correct. He referred to paragraph (iii) of the Declaration which provides that members of the ruling house of the male line may be proposed as candidates. He submitted that many may be proposed, but only one may be nominated.
Arguing further, learned counsel submitted that the Declaration is not exhaustive as to what it could contain, and it is no where stated that a Declaration shall not contain any prohibition on the number of candidates or of persons nominated.
Finally it was submitted that the customary law of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy is that whilst it is the Ruling House which makes the choice; the only and proper function of the Kingmakers is to accept or reject the person chosen by the family.
I shall now turn to the construction of the provisions of section 4(2)(a)(v) of the Chieftaincy Law of Ogun State and paragraph V of Exhibit "A" the Makenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958 to determine whether or not the two provisions are inconsistent. I appreciate that Exhibit "A" was made by virtue of powers vested under section 4 (2) (a) (v), and is therefore a subsidiary legislation.
I shall no'w hereunder and for ease of reference reproduce the relevant H provisions of sections 4, 9 and 14 of the Chieftaincy Law of Ogun State, Cap.20
4. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Law, a committee of a competent council -
(a) may; and
(b) shall, if so required by the Commissioner, make a declaration in writing stating the customary law which regulates the selection of a person to be the holder of a recognised chieftaincy
(2) In the case of a ruling house chieftaincy the declaration shall include
(a) a statement of the customary law relating to the following matters -
(i) the number of ruling houses and the identity of each such ruling house;
(ii) where there is more than one ruling house, the order of rotation in which the respective ruling houses are entitled to provide candidates to fill successive vacancies in the chieftaincy;
(iii) the persons who may be proposed as candidates by a ruling house entitled to fill a vacancy in the chieftaincy;
(iv) the number and identity of the kingmakers;
(v) the method of nomination by each ruling house; and
(vi) the identity of any other person whose consent is required to an appointment made by the kingmakers, and the usage regulating the granting or withholding of such consent; and
(3) In the case of a recognised chieftaincy other than a ruling E house chieftaincy, the declaration shall contain a sufficient description of the method of selection of the holder of the chieftaincy.
9. Where a declaration in respect of a recognised chieftaincy is registered under this Part, the matters therein stated (including any
recommendation under paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section (A) shall be deemed to be the customary law regulating the
selection of a person to be the holder of that chieftaincy to the exclusion of any other customary usage or rule.
14. (1) A person shall, unless he is disqualified be qualified to be a candidate to fill a vacancy in a recognised chieftaincy if -
(a) he is proposed by the ruling house or the persons havmg the right to nominate the candidate according to customary law; and
(b) (i) he is a person whom the ruling house or the persons having the right to nominate candidates are entitled to propose, according to customary law, as a candidate; or
(ii) he is unanimously proposed as a candidate by the members of the ruling house or the persons entitled to nominate candidates. -
On the other hand. paragraph v of Exhibit 'A" i.e the Alakenneoflkenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958, provides -
(v) the method of nomination by each Ruling House is as follows -
The Ruling house whose turn it is to provide a candidate, shall nominate at a family Meeting to be summoned by the Head of the Senior Ruling House, i.e. Obara. a qualified Candidate for Kingmaker. The nominee will be presented to the Oliwo, and the Kingmakers for acceptance at the Oliwo's house. The Oliwo shall be the Chairman at the Meeting.
Exhibit 'A", and paragraph V thereof reproduced above, was made under and by virtue of section 4(2)(a) of the Chiefs Law of Ogun State, Cap.20. It is therefore a subsidiary legislation which derives its validity from the Chiefs law, its provisions therefore, must be in conformity with the terms of its enabling law. See Din v. A-G., Fed. (1988) 4 NWLR (Pt.87) 147 p.154; Macfisheries (wholesale & Retail) Ltd. v. Coventry Corporation (1957) 3 All E.R. 299 at p.302; Kaycee (Nig.) Ltd. v. Prompt Shipping Corporation & Anor. (1986)1 NWLR (Pt.15) 180.
In construing the provisions of Exhibit "A,', it is permissible and indeed, relevant and important not only to read the relevant sections of the enabling statute, but also other related sections in that statute and the statute as a whole. The primary responsibility of the court is to ascertain the intention of the legislature so as to give effect to it - See Ojokolobo v. Alamu (1987) 3 NWLR (Pt.61) 377 at p.413. Such an approach provides the Judge with the key to unlock the elusive and sometimes obscure intentions of the legislation buried in ambiguous expressions.
On a careful reading of sections 4, 9 and 15 of the Chief's Law, Cap.20, it seems to me that the Chief's Law contemplated and envisaged the situation where a Declaration of Customary Law could be made enabling the nomination of either a candidate, who would be appointed or rejected by the Kingmakers, or candidates among who the Kingmakers could appoint one.
Section 9 provides that the registered declaration shall be deemed to be the customary law regulating the selection of a person to be the holder of that chieftaincv to the exclusion of any other customary usage or rule. It is instructive to refer to the provisions of section 15 which deals with the procedure to fill vacancies in ruling house chieftaincies. It could be seen from the relevant provisions of section 15(1)(a)(b)(c)(d). the expression, is "candidate or candidates."
It is in section 15(1)(f), that the distinction was clearly made. The relevant part provides in (1)(f)(i)(ii)(iv),
(i) if the name of only one candidate is submitted who appears to the Kingmakers to be qualified and not disqualified in accordance with section 14, they shal declare him appointed;
(ii) if the names of more than one candidate are submitted who appear to the Kingmakers to be qualified, and not disqualified in accordance with section 14, the names of those candidates shall be submitted to the vote of the Kingmakers and the candidate who obtains the majority of votes of the Kingmakers present and voting shall be declared appointed.
Under (iv) the Kingmakers are entitled to reject an only candidate if he is disqualified in accordance with section 14 of the Chiefs Law.
It follows therefore from the above that the Chiefs Law provide for the A circumstances where there is only one candidate, or in the situations where there are two or more candidates. The words of section 15 are clear and unambiguous. They do not require any interpretation and should be given their plain literal meaning. The words themselves negative the necessity of a resort to importation of section 40 of the interpretation Law where the singular includes the plural and vice versa.
Similarly unambiguous and clear are the words of Exhibit "A". They should be construed in their ordinary plain meaning. Exhibit "A", as has been shown contains the Declaration of the Customary Law relating to the Alakerme of Ikenne Chieftaincy which regulates the selection of a person to be the holder of the recognised Chieftaincy of Alakenne of Ikenne - See Edewor v. Uwegba (1987)1 NWLR (Pt.50) 313. It is the customary law which applies to the consideration of the respondent for the vacant stool of the Alakenne of Ikenne.
As I have observed in this judgment, the words of the Declaration of Customary Law relating to the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy, that is Exhibit "A", are clear, plain and unambiguous. If given their literal meaning, the Obara Ruling House is required at a family meeting summoned by its Head to provide a qualified candidate for the Kingmakers. The nominee will be presented to the Oliwo and the Kingmakers for acceptance.
It seems to me that where the candidate chosen at a family meeting summoned by the head of the family is presented to the Kingmakers for acceptance r is qualified to be so presented, acceptance by the Kingmakers is a fait accompli. They cannot refuse to appoint. - See Taiwo i: Sarurni 2 NLR l06. Hence where more than one candidate is presented to the Kingmakers, even if they are all qualified, the procedure is a contravention of Exhibit "A "contrary to the Customary law for the filling of the vacant stool of Alakenne.
The Declared Customary law in accordance with Exhibit "A " is that ONLY ONE CANDIDATE shall be nominated at the family meeting to be presented by the Ruling Family whose turn is to provide af candidate. I therefore agree with the court below that the learned trial Judge was right F that the Declaration in Exhibit A was not in conflict with its enabling law and that the nomination made b~ the Obara Ruling House was not done in accordance with Exhibit 'A ", and is accordingly therefore invalid.
The appeal of the appellant therefore fails and is hereby dismissed.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal dated the 18th April. 1 988 affirming the Judgment of the trial Judge dated 28/I 1/86 is hereby affirmed. Appellant shall pay costs assessed at N500 to the plaintiff/respondent.
Judgment delivered by
I have had the advantage of reading in advance the draft of the judgment just delivered by learned brother, Karibi-Whyte, J.S.C. and I agree with him that the appeal fails and should be dismissed.
This appeal deals with chieftaincy matter, the ascension to the stool of the Alakenne of Ikenne. In the contest for the stool, the appellant emerged the successful candidate, but the plaintiff/respondent though a candidate, was not chosen by the kingmakers. He then went to the High Court and successfully challenged the procedure adopted for the selection. The appellant's selection and appointhment were then set aside. The appellant then appealed to the Court of Appeal without success and hence he has brought this appeal to the Supreme Court. More specifically, the claim before the High Court was for:
l. A declaration that the purported nomination of four candidates for the vacant stool of Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy at a meeting of the Obara Ruling House held on 18th July, 1985 being contrary to the provisions of Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration of 1958 is null void and of no effect.
II. An order directing the 11th defendant to issue a fresh notice inviting the 1st defendant to summon a meeting of the Obara Ruling house for the purpose of nominating a candidate to fill the vacant stool of Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy in accordance with paragraph (5) of the provision of Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958.
III. Plaintiff also claimed commensurate costs against the defendants.
The issues for determination in this appeal formulated by the appellant Dare two fold and read:
(1) whether the plaintiff/respondent has locus standi to bring this action for a declaration nullifying the nomination exercise;
(2) whether paragraph (v) of Exhibit A' is not ultra vires. Section 4(2)(a)(v) of the Chiefs Law of Ogun State.
The issue of locus standi appears to be the main issue raised by the appellant E for determination as the question raised in the second issue deals only with the validity of paragraph (v) of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration. That paragraph (v) reads:
The ruling house whose turn it is to provide a candidate shall nominate at a family meeting to be summoned by the head of the
senior ruling house (i.e. Obara) a qualified candidate for the chieftaincy to be presented by the family head to the kingmakers.
The nominee will be presented to the Oliwo and the kingmakers for acceptance at the Oliwo's house. The Oliwo shall
he chairman at the meeting.
Even if the appellant were able to succeed on this issue, he will not be entitled to the relief he seeks unless he succeeds on the first issue. Therefore, the issue of locus standi deserves close examination. I shall therefore proceed to examine that issue.
Chief Onofowokan, S.A.N. submitted on behalf of the appellant that the plaintiff/respondent had no locus standi to commence the action bescause:
(1) he failed to establish his civil rights and obligations in the chieftaincy; and
(2) he failed to establish any infraction of his civil rights and obligations;
(3) no question arises to be settled between the plaintiff and the appellant as to the civil rights and obligations of the plaintiff.
He founded his contention on the authority of section 6(6) (b) of the Con- A stitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979.
Adesanya v. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1981)5 S.C.112 at 187.
Thomas v. Olufosoye (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 669;
Attorney-General, Kaduna State v. Hassan (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 18) 483
Momoh v. Olotu (1970)1 All N.L.R. 117
Chief G. 0. K. Ajayl, S.A.N. learned counsel for the respondent in reply submitted that the Court of Appeal was right when it held that a candidate at an election has an interest in its conduct and that therefore has the locus standi to complain about any aspect of that election which is not n accordance with the law.
It is common ground that the plaintiff/respondent as well as the appellant are members of the Obara Ruling House. It is also common ground that the plaintiff/respondent was proposed for nomination by the Ruling House for the stool of Alakenne of Ikenne subject to acceptance by the kingmakers. It is also common ground that paragraph (v) of the Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958 stipulated the nomination of only one candidate. Finallv. it is common ground that in contravention of paragraph (v) of the Chieftaincy Declaration, 4 candidates were nominated and the selection of one of the four was left to the kingmakers in contravention of the customary law.
Everv candidate proposed for nomination by the Ruling House has an interest in the observance of the procedure laid down in the Chieftaincy Declaration. of 1958 since under the law he is entitled to be nominated alone by the Ruling House.
What exercise did the kingmakers carry out when faced with four candidates? Under the law, their only duty is to approve or reject the candidate nominated for their approval by the Ruling House. By proceeding to make a choice among the four candidates, the kingmakers were usurping the function of the Ruling House. It will therefore be an infraction of the right of F every member of the Ruling House for the kingmakers to usurp the function of the Ruling House. The usurpation has deprived each of the four proposed candidates the right to be nominated and the Ruling House the obligation to nominate any of the four candidates for approval. When a party's standing to sue is in issue in a case, the question is whether the person whose standing is in issue is a proper party to request an adjudication of a particular issue and not whether the issue is justiciable. See
Oloriode V. Oyebi (1984)1 SCNLR.390 at 392 per Obaseki
Adesanya V. President of Nigeria & Anor. (1981) 2 NCLR. 358.
See also Flast v. Cohen 392 US. 83 at 88 (Supreme Court 1942).
When therefore the appellant submitted that the plaintiff/respondent had no locus standi, his objection only amounts to a submission that the H plaintiff/respondent is not the proper person to sue for the declaration and injunction. The appellant is not contending that the claim is not justiciable.
The judicial powers invested in the court established by the Constitution including the High Court of a State extends or between government or authority and:
to all matters between persons/any person in Nigeria and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.
See section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979.
Any person who brings any matter to court for the determination of any question as to his civil right and obligation therefore has locus standi to sue From what I have said above, it is clear that the principal question to be determined posed by the claim instituted by the plaintiff/respondent is a question as to the civil rights and obligations of the plaintiff/respondent in his capacity as a candidate for nomination. My answer to the first issue there fore is that the plaintiff/respondent has locus standi to institute the action
against the defendants including the appellant.
The appeal therefore fails and I hereby dismiss it and affirm the decision of the Court of Appeal. The respondents shall have costs in this appeal fixed at N500.00.
Judgment delivered by
I have had the opportunity of reading in draft the judgment read by my learned brother, Karibi-Whyte, J S.C. I entirely agree with his reasoning and conclusions. I too see no merit in the appeal. Accordingly, it is hereby dismissed with N500.00 costs to the 1st respondent.
Judgment delivered by
Two issues were raised in this appeal. First, was the respondent, a person who could sue in this matter. Or put in another way. has the respondent locus standi in this matter? This Court has reiterated in several cases the principles behind locus standi. A person will have legal capacity to sue in a matter in which it has been clearly shown to the Court that his rights or obligations have been or are about to be or are in imminent danger of being violated or invaded or adversely affected by the act complained of. Omoloye v. A. -G., Oyo State (1987)4 NWLR (Pt.61) 267 at 209; Adesanya v. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1981) 5 S.C. 112, 149-150(1981)2 NCLR 358. The right to sue or locus standi can be conferred by the Constitution; Orogan v. Soremekun (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt.44) 688 or a statute or by some customary law like a member of the family who can even without the consent of the other members thereof sue to enforce his right to protect the family rights or property. Olowosago v. Adebanjo (1988) NWLR (Pt.88) 275; Melifonwu V. Egbuyi (1982) 9 S. C. 145. Locus standi can exist in voluntary arrangement of mode of controlling relationship in a voluntary organization whereby certain principles a group is averse to can be challenged Thomas V. Olufosoye (1986) NWLR (Pt.18) 669. Whether in a chieftaincy matter Adefulu V. Oyesile (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt.122) 377 or under the Constitution or a mere statute Emelogu V. State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt.78) 524; section 6(6)(b) of 1979 Constitution a party must show clearly that he has right to protect and that his coming to court is to seek remedy so that the right will not be violated.
The respondent in this matter on appeal not only claims that he is entitled to be nominated for the vacant stool of Alakenne (which in all respects is enough to confer locus standi) but he went further that his name really came up as one of those nominated which to my mind more that satisfies his right to sue. I find no merit in this issue of locus standi as canvassed by the appellant. Surely the respondent is not a mere busy-body.
The second issue is whether Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration 1958 (Exhibit A) did contravene the principal law [i.e. Chiefs Law 1958 S.4 (2)(a)(v) under which it was made. The purport of s.2 through to S. 16 of the Law is clear, there is room for a situation where only one candidate may be presented. There is no contravention of the statute by the Declaration.
It is for the above reasons and fuller reasons contained in the judgment of Karibi-Whyte, J.S.C. with which I am in agreement that I dismiss this appeal. I also award N500.00 as costs of this appeal against the appellant.
Judgment delivered by
This is a further appeal by the plaintiff against the judgments of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, coram: Akanbi, Kutigi and Ogwuegbu, JJ.C.A. which had dismissed his appeal against the judgment of an Ogun State High Court presided over by Sonoiki, J.
The matter before the High Court was a Chieftaincy tussle between the plaintiff, Prince David Effunuga, and Prince Ademoln Odeneye, who was, on his own application, joined as the 5th defendant. It was common ground that it was Obara Ruling Rouse,to which the plaintiff and the 5th defendant belong, that was entitled to fill the stool in dispute, to wit: that of Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy. The 1st defendant was the Head of the House. The 2nd defendant was the Attorney-General of the State, the 3rd, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and the 4th the Secretary to ljebu Remo Local Government. The issue was the filling of the vacant chieftaincy pursuant to a letter Exh. F. from the 4th defendant dated... The plaintiff challenged the nomination by the House of four candidates for the chieftaincy stool for the kingmakers to select one. His case was that the selection, by the House on 18th July, 1985, of four candidates instead of one for the kingmakers to select one was contrary to the Chieftaincy Declaration. So, the selection, from the list of four candidates, of the 5th defendant by the kingmakers on the 26th of July, 1985, was contrary to Chieftaincy Declaration, Exh. A. There can be no doubt that the Declaration envisaged the House's nomination of only one candidate. But the defendant maintained that the provision in the Declaration is contrary to the Chieftaincy Law and therefore void.
The learned trial Judge after hearing evidence and listening to the ad-dresses of counsel held:
From my analysis in the penultimate paragraph 1 hold that both the exercises on l~h July, 1985 at the Obara Ruling House meet- H mg and that of 26th July, 1985, at the kingmakers meeting are not in accordance with the Alakenne Chieftaincy Declaration. The kingmakers are not expected under the Declaration to vote. Their duty is merely formal, i.e., to accept the candidate of the family duly presented by the Head of Obara Ruling House.
Then he granted to the plaintiff the declaration he sought, pronounced the nomination and selection as null and void and ordered a fresh nomination and selection exercise.
5th defendant's appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed; hence his further appeal to this Court. The two issues for determination in this Court are:
(i) Whether the plaintiff (hereinafter called the respondent) had locus standi to institute the suit; and
(ii) Whether paragraph (v) of the Chieftaincy Declaration, Exti. A, is not ultra vires the Chieftaincy Law of the State (5.4(2) a(v).
Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the respondent has no locus standi to institute the suit in that merely being a member of Obara Rulmg House did not accord him a locus. He relied on the case of Momoh V. Olotu (1971) 1 All N.L.R. 117. Learned counsel for the respondent submitted the contrary and contended that the appellant's submission on locus standi was based on a misapprehension of the law.
I agree with Chief Ajayi for the respondent. In this respect I must repeat what I said in the recent case of MA. Eleso V. The Governor of Ogun State & 4 Ors. (1990)4 S.C.N.J. 45 at pp.45-46; (1990)2 NWLR (Pt.133) 420 at 444 where I state:
Now, right to sue in a chieftaincy contest may arise in two different ways, A man may by his statement of claim and evidence show that the right that is being asserted is that of his family by reason of, say, their hereditary interest. In that case, it is the family, usually through their representative, who can bring the action on the premises that it is the civil right of the family that has been breached. On the other hand, a man may be asserting his own right to the chieftaincy stool. What is required in that case is that his statement of claim - and evidence if evidence has been called -should show the nature of his interest and his entitlement to the stool; see Amusa Momoh & Anor. V. Jimoh Olotu (1970)1 All N.L.R. 117, at p.123. In that case, what he is asserting is his own civil right to the stool and not that of his family. See Senator Abraham Adesanya V. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor. (1981)1 All N.L.R. 1; (1981) 2 NCLR 358; Thomas V. Olufosoye (1986)1 N.W.L.R. (Pt.18) 669. Section 6(6)(b) of the 1979 Constitution has expressly given him a locus standi in such a case.
In the instant appeal, the pleading in the statement of claim shows that the plaintiff is not only a member of the chieftaincy family but also that he had a right to be nominated and selected and, in point of fact, was one of the candidates. I cannot imagine a person who had a better locus standi to institute the action than himself.
Now, the question of locus standi to institute an action has fortunately been spelt out and delimited by our written Constitution of 1979 - Section 6(6)(b). It extends to:
.... all matters between persons or between government or authority and any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceed- A ings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.
This court as well as the Court of Appeal has tried to expatiate on the extent and limitation of such rights and obligations in a number of cases, including:
Adesanya v. The Presjdent (1981)1 All N.L.R.1; (1981)2NCLR 358
Adefulu V. Oyesile (1989) 5 N.W.L.R. (Part 122) 377
Akilu V. Fawehinmi (No.2) (1989) 2 N.W.L.R. (Part 102)122,
and so many other cases.
It is cleai from all the ca~es, and indeed has not been disputed by the appellant that civil rights of the respondent include his right to the chieftaincy stool. I have shown that his attempt to limit it to the rights of the chieftaincy family is a misconception.
On the other question, that is whether there is a conflict between the Chieftaincy Law of Ogun State and the Chieftaincy Declaration, I agree entirely with the reasoning and conclusions of my learned brother Karibi-Whyte, J.S.C.
The Chieftaincy Law makes provision for the chieftaincy family to nominate either one or more candidates depending upon the circumstances. See S.15(6)(i) and (ii). But the Declaration, Exh. A, which by law is the customary law of Ikenne has made provision for the nomination of only one candidate by the Family Council for presentation to the kingmakers, who should approve his candidate, unless he is disqualified. True, the Declaration, Exh. A, is a subsidiary legislation and ought to be in conformity with F the enabling law, that is the Chieftaincy Law, (for which see Din V. Attorney-General of the Federation (1988)4 N.W.L.R. (Pt.87) 147 at 154). But where, as in this case, an enabling legislation provides for two alternatives, a subsidiary legislation the maker of which has the power to declare what the law on the point is cannot be regarded as being in conflict with it if it declares one of the two alternatives to be the law. So, the Declaration, Exh. A in this case is the valid law and any departure from it is invalid.
For the above reason, the appeal fails and is dismissed. I subscribe to the orders made in the lead judgment of my learned brother.
K. Onafowokan, S.A.N.
With O.A. Ogunsanwo
For the Appellant
Chief G.O.K. Ajayi, S.A.N.
With Mrs. A. Obe, A.A. Oriola and A. Osara.
For the Respondent