Suit Stopping Ondo CJ’s Investigation: The Statement By Ondo State Govt Is An Insult To My Person – J.S. Okutepa, SAN


*Says If The Ondo Govt Has Respect For Court, It Would Have Filed Processes To Counter The Suit
*Says He Wouldn’t Have Accepted The CJ’s Brief If It Was Rooted In Moot Points

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Jibrin Samuel Okutepa, has reacted to the statement of Ondo State Government regarding the suit filed by the Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Oluwatosin Akeredolu of the State seeking to stop her investigation by the state government.

Recall that the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has barred the Ondo State Government from probing the Chief Judge of the state. Ondo government did not appear in the suit and after the court order, the government described the suit as an “ego trip”

Okutepa, who filed the suit on behalf of Hon. Justice Oluwatosin Akeredolu CJ, has described the Ondo State Government’s statement as contemptuous and an insult to his person.

The Learned Silk said, “My attention has been drawn to Press Statement said to have been issued by the Government of Ondo State on the judgment delivered by the Hon Mr Justice E. I. Ekwo J of the Federal High Court Abuja, in favour of the Hon the Chief Judge of Ondo State Hon Mr. Justice Oluwatoyin O. Akeredolu CJ.

“In the state press statement titled: ‘Re: Court Bars Ondo Govt From Probing Cj Suit Was An Ego Trip Which The Government Refused Participation’ and signed by one Donald Ojogo commissioner for information the commissioner described the suit by CJ as ego trip for which he claimed the government refused to participate.

“It is sad and unfortunate that the government of Ondo State could authorize such contemptuous statement to be issued against a judgment that was delivered after all the parties we served on many occasions and the government led by an eminent senior Advocate did not deem it fit to respect the processes served on the government. As lawyer to the Hon CJ in the matter

“I consider the Press Statement as insulting to my person as it portrays me as accepting brief to take the matter that was purely academic to court for judicial determination.”

Okutepa also described the statement of Ondo State Government as an afterthought and a face-saving measure to cover up their plot against the Chief Judge.

According to him, if they truly have respect for the court, they would have filed processes to counter the suit. He made reference to the February statement of the Attorney-General of Ondo State and said he wouldn’t have accepted the brief if the facts were roped in moot points.

The statement reads in part, “It is important to remind the Ondo State Government that the press Statement is certainly afterthought and face-saving measures to cover the plots that gave the Hon the Chief Judge of Ondo State the cause of action which led his lordship to brief me to go to Court. It sad that the government of Ondo State can suffer memory loss of the reasons why the Hon CJ went to Court. Let me repeat again that

“The press statement is an afterthought and as face saving measures after the evil plot was denounced by proper judicial decision.

In the first place the Government Ondo State and parties involved were duly served the originating Processes and hearing notices.

If the government has respect for judicial process as it claims it should have appeared in court and inform the court that the issues and concerns raised were not true or not being pursued by the government. Ondo State government did not do so.

“Secondly Ondo State Government forgot that legal letters were done to the Governor, State House of Assembly and the Attorney General of Ondo State on the matter.

“We must set record straight. It is appalling to see a childish display of adolescent behavior in the press statement issued on behalf of the government being led by learned gentleman of the highest distinction at the Bar like this.

So sad. Perhaps I will need to draw the attention of Ondo State Government to the Press Statement issued by the Hon the Attorney General of Ondo State on 18th February 2021 which led the Hon the CJ to brief me to go to court. This was widely reported as:

‘ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ONDO STATE, SIR CHARLES TITILOYE HAS RELEASED HIS REPORT ON INVESTIGATION OF ALLEGATION AGAINST ONDO STATE CHIEF JUDGE AS CONTAINED IN THE VIDEO CLIP CIRCULATED ON SOCIAL MEDIA BY ONE OLUPELUMI FAGBOYEGUN.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT —-
1. ….. Discontinued criminal trial of Olupelumi Fagboyegun at the Chief Magistrate Court, Owo.
2. …….Asked contending parties to settle their grievances by filing civil action in Court or seek alternative dispute Resolution of the case.
3 ……… Invited Ondo State Judicial service Commission to investigate the 3 years delay of the criminal trial of Olupelumi Fagboyegun before the Magistrate Court, Owo.
4. ……. Referred the matter to Ondo state House of Assembly for full investigation.

BELOW IS THE FULL DETAIL OF THE REPORT RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC ON THURSDAY;

REPORT ON THE INVESTIGATION BY THE OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ONDO STATE ON THE ALLEGATION AGAINST THE CHIEF JUDGE OF ONDO STATE AS CONTAINED IN THE VIDEO CIRCULATING ON SOCIAL MEDIA RELEASED BY OLUPELUMI FAGBOYEGUN ON 15th OF FEBRUARY, 2021.

Introduction: On the 15th of February, 2021, one Mr Olupelumi Fagboyegun made public a video wherein he accused the Ondo state Judiciary and the office of Chief Judge of Ondo State of using the Magistrate Court to persecute him unjustly and keep him on trial for a period of 3 years for an offence punishable with 1 year imprisonment. This video went viral and it attacks the integrity and independence of Courts in Ondo State. It also suggests a connivance of the Prosecution team and the Court in delay of Justice in the matter. I therefore found it necessary as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Ondo State to investigate this allegation.

Consequent upon the above I directed the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to investigate this allegation and review the case file. I interacted with John Dada Joshua Esq, the Counsel from the Department of Public Prosecutions in charge of this case before the Chief Magistrate Court, GRA Owo. I also interacted with the Chief Registrar of the Ondo State High Court, Mrs. Bolatito Ajibade to hear the version of the Ondo State Judiciary and Chief Judge of Ondo State on this allegation. The Chief Registrar availed us of their defence to this allegation. The complainant in the Video Clip, Mr. Olupelumi Fagboyegun was not available and could not be reached. The Chief Judge was not in her office on the 17th of February, 2021, when I visited on fact-finding mission to the Ondo State High Court and the Protocol officer of the Chief Judge informed me that she has travelled and will not be available in office until 22nd of February, 2021.

Considering the public interest and urgency required in this case, I hereby submit the following as my findings so far from the investigation conducted by the office of Attorney General of Ondo State on this matter.

1. The case started on the 15th day of March 2018, through the allegation made by one Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi at the Area Commander’s Office of the Nigeria Police Force, Owo against Mr. Olupelumi Fagboyegun. In his Statement before the Police, he complained that Mr. Olupelumi Fagboyegun locked up JOF Farms, Oke Ogun Owo that was given to him to use through license issued by Hon. Justice O. O. Akeredolu, the Chief Judge of Ondo State.

2. That the said complainant also stated that on his complaint to Justice O.O. Akeredolu of the interference of Mr. Olupelumi Fagboyegun who claimed to be the son of Late Rev. Jide Fagboyegun (the father of Justice Akeredolu), Justice Akeredolu directed him to lodge a complaint of impersonation at the Police Station against Olupelumi Fagboyegun. Justice Akeredolu insisted that Olupelumi Fagboyegun is not a son of her father and not a member of Fagboyegun family.

3. The Police thereafter arrested Olupelumi Fagboyegun (52 years old as at 2018). In his statement before the Police, he noted that his mother informed him that his real father was Rev. Jide Fagboyegun, the father of Justice O. O. Akeredolu and that he lived abroad and only returned to Nigeria after the death of his Father, Rev. Jide Fagboyegun. That he went to stay at his father’s house at Owo where he was arrested by the Police for forcible entry into his father’s house. That he had met members of Fagboyegun Family and Justice O.O Akeredolu on this issue of his paternity and Justice O.O Akeredolu said he was not a member of their family and had threatened him and his kids.

4. The Police, after taking statement from the Complainant, the Defendant and some members of Fagboyegun family charged the Defendant to Court in Suit No MOW/102C/2018 for Forcible entry thereby committing the offence of conduct likely to cause the breach of Peace.

5. Olupelumi Fagboyegun was granted bail by the trial Magistrate since he was arraigned on 19th March 2018, and he is still on bail till date. It is untrue that he is under any form of Custody.

6. The taking over of prosecution of the case from the Police Prosecutor by the Department of Public Prosecutions on the 31st of July, 2019, was directed by the then Attorney General of Ondo State who was my Predecessor in Office, (that is Mr. Kola Olawoye SAN.)

7. That the Department of Public Prosecutions did not brief me of this case on assuming office as the Attorney-General of Ondo State until this video of the Defendant went viral on social media.

8. That truly there was a change of Magistrate presiding over this matter on three different occasions. The following Magistrates have presided over the case (1.) S. O. Adedapo, (2) O. Aladeniyi. (3) O. W. Dosunmu and there was once a substitution of charge preferred against the suspect Olupelumi Fagboyegun upon which his plea was taken afresh.

9. I also found that the criminal charge of conduct likely to breach peace has no link with the determination of the issue of paternity of Olupelumi Fagboyegun which is a civil action that can be resolved through a DNA test. Intra family scrambling for property of the deceased should not have been criminalized but settled through civil suits and alternative dispute resolution means.

10. The trial of a case of Conduct likely to breach peace which is a misdemeanor (simple offence punishable with 1 year imprisonment) regrettably has taken a period of 3 years in a Magistrate Court with summary Jurisdiction.

11. Consequent upon the aforementioned facts:
A. The office of Attorney General of Ondo State in exercise of the power conferred upon it by Section 211 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) hereby discontinues the criminal trial and proceedings against Olupelumi Fagboyegun in Suit No MOW/31C/2020 pending at the Chief Magistrate Court, GRA Owo.

B. Contending parties in this case are advised to seek the resolution of their dispute in the Court through a civil action or other means of alternative dispute resolution available to them.

C. Ondo State Judicial Service Commission is hereby invited to investigate issues relating to the delay in the hearing of this case before the Magistrate Court, Owo for three (3) years, that is 2018 to 2021.

D. This matter is further referred to Ondo State House of Assembly for investigation.
Dated this 18th day of February, 2021

Signed.

Sir Charles Titiloye Esq. Ksm
Hon. Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ondo State.’ “

“Judging from the above one then wonders how the government of Ondo State who contemptuously refused to appear before the court to defend itself can resort to self help in the form of the press statement to say it did not envice the intention of removing the CJ and that the Suit was ego trip. Certainly as senior lawyer and one who sworn to uphold and defend Nigerian constitution I will not have accepted brief that was rooted in moot points.”

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