Court restraints IGP From Arresting Ewede Royal Family’s Head In Igboye-Epe

An Epe High Court of Lagos State Lagos, has restrained the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and six others, their officers, men and agents from arresting, detaining or inviting Otunba Abduwasiu Musa-Adebamowo, whether individually or collectively in connection with a dispute touching the his headship of Ewade Ruling House of Igboye.

The IGP was also restrained from doing or taking any action against his powers and rights of management of the family landed properties in Abapawa, Gbojuwara, Talase, Idotun and Legumo villages of Igboyeland, in Eredo area of Epe, Lagos State.

Justice Wasiu Animahun, who made the restraining orders while delivering judgment in a suit  EPD/15044MFHR/2023 filed by the applicant, Otunba Musa-Adebamowo,  saying that the order will subsist until the determination of the suit on which the order of injunction was made.

Others restrained by the order of injunction by the court includes; the Assistant Inspector-General Of Police ForceCID, Annex, Alagbon, Ikoyi, Lagos;  Assistant Inspector-General Of Police, Zone 2 Headquarters, Onikan, Lagos State; Lagos State Commissioner Of Police, Commissioner Of Police Special Fraud Unit, Milverton Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State; Deputy Commissioner Of Police  State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba and the Area Commander, Nigeria Police Force, Area J Command, Elemoro, Lagos State, who were listed as second to seventh defendants in the suit. 

The court granted an order restraining the first to seventh respondents and their officer, men and agents from harassing, intimidating, inviting, arresting, detaining and compelling the applicant  to render account of the management of the family landed properties to the 8th to  14th respondents under whatever guise or means, until the final determination of the suit .

Justice Animahun also made an order of injunction  restraining the first to seventh respondents and their officers, men and agents from re-investigating the applicant on the same criminal allegation made against the  applicant. by the eighth to 14th respondents and/or their privies and cohorts in respect of the management of the account of the family landed properties, until the determination of the suit in which an order of interlocutory injunction was made. 

The eighth to 14th respondents respectively in the suit are Julius Adenuga Lawal; Caleb Adeleke Ogunnubi; Felix Olusegun Adekoya; Kayode Adebowale; Adedayo Victor Sunday; Musiliu Abiodun Musa; Sunday Abiodun Adebowale; Keshab Properties And Investments Ltd; Aviance Homes And Properties Limited; and CMW Properties Limited. 

The court also awarded  the sum of N1 million in favour of the applicant against the eighth to 17th respondents jointly and severally as general damages for the persistent breaches by the first to seventh respondents of the fundamental rights of the applicant to dignity of human person, personal liberty, right to fair hearing and freedom of movement.

The court also awarded the sum of N2 million as cost of instituting the suit, jointly and severally against the eighth to 17th respondents in favour of the applicant.

Hassan Fajimite and Bisiriyu Adeki appeared for the applicant, while Aderemi Oguntoye and J. A. Agbo appeared for the 15th to 17th respondents, and there was no legal representation for others during trial.

Justice Animahun, after citing plethoras authorities and decided cases held that “the series and unending invitations, unlawful harassment, intimidation and  uncivilized humiliation, arrest and detentions of the applicant, by the officers of the Nigeria Police Force in respect of and in connection with the dispute concerning and touching on the headship of Ewade Ruling House of Igboye, in Eredo Local Council Development Area of Lagos State and his powers and rights of management of the family landed properties in Abapawa, Gbojuwara, Talase, Idotun and Legumo villages of Igboye, Epe, Lagos State at the instances, instigations and upon malicious and unfounded petitions from and by the eighth to 17th respondents are illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional and a breach of the fundamental rights to dignity of human persons, personal liberty and freedom of movement of the applicant.”

The court also declared that the applicant, Otunba Abduwasiu Musa-Adebamowo, as tge Head of Ewade Ruling House, Igboye cannot be compelled by the first to seventh  respondents to render account and/or submit family documents on the management of the family landed properties to the eighth to 14th respondents, especially, when the same eighth to 14th  respondents have filed several civil actions namely, Suit No. EPD/10895LMW/2021: Chief Caleb Adeleke Okuboyejo & Ors v. Otunba Abdulwasiu Musa-Adebamowo & Ors, Suit No. EPD/8670GCMW/2022: Mr. Julius Adenuga Lawal v. OtunbaAbdulwasiu Musa-Adebamowo and Suit No. EPD/8996GCMW/2022: Otunba Abdulwasiu Musa-Adebamowo v. Mr. Julius Adenuga Lawal at the High Court of Lagos State, Epe Judicial Division praying inter alia for orders for rendering accounts of the management of the family landed properties and dispute on the headship of the family until final determination of the suit, in which an order of interlocutory injunction was granted. 

The court further declared that the continued and unabated harassment and ill-motivated spirited efforts of the first to seventh respondents and their officers and men to compel the applicant as Head of Ewade Ruling House to render account on the management of family landed properties to the eighth to 14th respondents and/or be re-investigated in respect of same when initial investigation carried out by the second respondent had absolved the applicant of culpability, is unconstitutional, null and void by reason of the fact that the criminal allegation made against the applicant by has been investigated by the Nigeria Police and reports on same has been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecution, Lagos State and whose reports has indicated that no prima facie case has been established against him. 

The court also declared that  the continued and unabated instigation, procurement and use of the first  to seventh  respondents, their officers, men and agents by the eighth  to 17th respondents to intimidate and compel the applicant to consent to the unlawful alienation and/or development or further development of the family landed properties in Abapawa, Gbojuwara, Talase, Idotun and Legumo villages of Igboye or any part thereof is unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional, null and void. 

The court considered all petitions by the respondents and noted  that most of them and Police invitations were made before the Interlocutory order and were made pursuant to the alleged removal of the applicant as the head of the family.

The court held that from the date of the order, one does not expect further feud on the family land, except if the eighth to 11th and 13th respondents persist in doing what they were restrained from doing by the Court.

The judge reminded the respondents of the various enrolled orders of interlocutory injunctions restraining them and  held that if the respondents abide by the orders, violence would have ceased on the family lands.

“I therefore feel that the continued use of the Police is  an attempt to overreach and circumvent the Court Order and the Director of Public Prosecution’s advice.

They appear to feel frustrated and therefore resorted to the use of Police to continue the harassment and intimidation of the applicant.

“I need to remind them that the power of the office of the Attorney General to prosecute suspects is absolutely subject to his discretion. This follows his power of nolle prosequi. Citing relevant authorities, the court held that the steps being taken by the respondents now are targeted towards infringing the applicant’s fundamental Human rights and must therefore be stopped.”

The court reminded the respondents of an excerpt from the Director of Public Prosecution’s advice, dated 04/10/2022, which reads: “However, there are nothing in the duplicate case file to support the allegations by Page B1, Chief and Apostle Kayode Adebowale, that one Lawyer Musa and others armed with knife, cutlass, woods, charms and guns attacked him and tore his clothes on 8″ day of February, 2022. 

“It is also noted that criminal allegations of conduct likely to cause breach, Misuse of power and diversion of family funds contained in Petition dated 28th January, 2022, purportedly signed by one Adebowale Olufemi against Otunba Abdulwasiu Musa Adebamowo was unsubstantiated. There are nothing in the duplicate case file to indicate that Page Bl diverted family funds or conducted himself in a manner likely to cause a breach of peace. 

“Consequently, this office shall not prosecute  Otunba Abdulwasiu Musa Adebowale as there are insufficient facts linking Page BI to the alleged offences. Page BI is hereby released and discharged forthwith.” 

In respect of various petitions by the respondents, the judge held, “even if they were justified in writing, all the above petitions made before the Interlocutory Injunction of 13/12/2022 and the director of Public Prosecution’s advice, dated 04/10/2022, are they also justified to write petitions after the order and the advice in favour of the applicant? Exhibit KA2 is a Police letter of invitation dated 09/05/2023. This was after the Order and the advice in favour of the applicant. 

“In view of the Order and the advice, it is my view and I so hold that the respondents are all estopped pending the determination of the suit in which the order was made from challenging his status as the head of the family. 1 state this because it is my duty as a Judge to ensure that Court Orders are obeyed.

“Further, headship of a family is a civil right. Accordingly, I hold that the Police have no power to investigate or determine a dispute on it. This aligns with the position of the law that Police have no roles in civil conflicts”, he held, citing necessary authority to support his decision.

The court further held: “The first and second respondents had no plausible justification for the arrest and detention of the applicant on the third respondent’s complaint dispute which prima facie shows a civil contractual and that they were invited or instigated by an acclaimed money lender to act as his debt collector.

“Be it reiterated again that once a transaction is in form of a contract, the police are enjoined to exercise restraint.

 Police duties under the relevant statutes including the Police Act, do not enjoin the police to act as debt collectors. Debt collection is therefore ultra vires their enabling statutes”. 

Justice Animahun further held that: “the petitions seeking for him to render account of his service as the head of the family were also anchored on his removal as the head of the family. Again, the Order takes care of this. It cannot be reviewed until after the final determination of the case in which it was made.

“It is amazing that the 8th respondent, that allegedly replaced the applicant as the head of the family would sell large expanse of family land to the 15th to 17th respondents and still be pursuing his allegations against the applicant after the ruling in the applicant’s favour. 

“In my view, the eighth respondent is indeed the party that should render an account to the Applicant on the sale effected by him. This is the effect of the admission by the 15th to 17th respondents that he sold family land to them.”

Justice Animahun held that the persistent of the dispute among the parties arises from the misconception of the eighth to 17th respondents that the Order of 13/12/2022 does not affect the sale effected by them prior to the date of the Order.

“I think that they are wrong because if, in the final determination of the suit, the removal of the applicant as the head of the family is no nullified, the sale to the 15th to 17th respondents becomes null and void. . 

The judge said the law is settled that the head of a family is a trustee and is therefore accountable” to the family.

This may justify the petitions written prior to the date of the Order as applicant did not deny selling family lands. As stated by the Applicant and also shown in some of the suits exhibited by the parties, there is a relief against the applicant for an account to be rendered by him. The challenge is that further investigation/or prosecution after the date of the Order may result into his removal and thus render the Order nugatory. 

“The 15th to 17th respondents denied writing a petition to the Police, ‘as discredited by exhibit KA 6 to the further affidavit, dated 25/10/2023.

On all the grounds stated above, the court held the applicant’s case succeeds. And entered judgment in favour of the applicant.

Justice Animahun held that the steps being taken by the respondents  now “are targeted towards infringing the applicant’s fundamental Human rights and must therefore be stopped.”

“In stating all these petitions, my view is to determine the justification/motive behind them. That is, even if they were justified in writing all the above petitions made before the Interlocutory Injunction of 13/12/2022 and the director of Public Prosecution’s advice, dated 04/10/2022, are they also justified to write petitions after the Order and the advice in favour of the Applicant? Exhibit KA2 is a Police letter of invitation dated 09/05/2023. This was after the Order and the advice in favour of the applicant. 

“In view of the Order and the advice, it is my view and I so hold that the Respondents are all estopped pending the determination of the suit in which the Order was made from challenging his status as the head of the family.

“I state this because it is my duty as a Judge to ensure that Court Orders are obeyed. Further, headship of a family is a civil right. Accordingly, I hold that the Police have no power to investigate or determine a dispute on it. This aligns with the position of the law that Police have no roles in civil conflicts.

“The first and second respondents had no plausible justification for the arrest and detention of the applicant on the 3rd respondent’s complaint dispute which prima facie shows a civil contractual and that they were invited or instigated by an acclaimed money lender to act as his debt collector.

“Be it reiterated again that  once a transaction is in form of a contract, the police are enjoined to exercise restraint. Police duties under the relevant statutes including the Police Act, do not enjoin the police to act as debt collectors. Debt collection is therefore ultra vires their enabling statutes”. 

The Petitions seeking for him to render account of his service as the head of the family were also anchored on his removal as the head of the family. Again, the order takes care of this. It cannot be reviewed until after the final determination of the case in which it was made. It is amazing that the eighth respondent, that allegedly replaced the applicant as the head of the family would sell large expanse of family land to the 15th to 17th Respondents and still be pursuing his allegations against the Applicant after the ruling in the Applicant’s favour. 

In my view, the 8th Respondent is indeed the party that should render an account to the Applicant on the sale effected by him. This is the effect of the admission by the 15th to 17th Respondents that he sold family land to them. 

The persistent of the dispute among the parties arises from the misconception of the eighth to 17th respondents that the Order of 13/12/2022 does not affect the sale effected by them prior to the date of the Order. I think that they are wrong because if, in the final determination of the suit, the removal of the applicant as the head of the family has nullified, the sale to the 15th— 17th respondents becomes null and void.

The law is settled that the head of a family is a trustee and is therefore accountable” to the family. This may justify the petitions written prior to the date of the Order, as Applicant did not deny selling family lands. As stated by the Applicant and also shown in some of the suits exhibited by the parties, there is a relief against the Applicant for an account to be rendered by him. The challenge is that further investigation/or prosecution after the date of the Order may result into his removal and thus render the Order nugatory. 

“On all the grounds stated above, the court held  that the applicant’s case succeeds and entered judgment in favour of the applicant”, the judge said.