It has been brought to the notice of this office that a controversy appears to have arisen (or been manufactured) arising from the recent exercise of the powers of my office in exercising nolle prosequi (or withdrawal of a criminal charge) in Charge no. MOR/148C/2015.
In order to set the records straight and prevent people with a political agenda from misrepresenting the facts as they relate to this matter, it is necessary to recount the sequence of events that led to the current situation.
1. Sometime in 2015, during a period of traditional transition in the Benin Kingdom, a certain Rich Arisco Osemwingie made claims in various newspapers and other electronic media to be an alternate Traditional Ruler within the Benin Kingdom and described himself as ‘Emperor of Utantan Kingdom of Benin’
2. The same claimant followed up this act by instituting an action at the High Court against (amongst others) the Benin Traditional Council, the Edo State Government and other traditional authorities in the Benin Kingdom, with a view to securing a court order to restrain the coronation of His Majesty, Oba Ewuare II as the Oba of Benin.
3. It was my duty, honour and privilege as the then Solicitor-General of Edo State and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to work alongside other Senior Counsel of Edo extraction who successfully combated and ultimately defeated this claim right up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The cost of the litigation was borne by the Edo State Government.
4. As a corollary to the then ongoing civil claim in 2015, the Ministry of Justice through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, filed charge no MOR/148C/2015 against the said Rich Arisco Osemwingie for the misdemeanor offence (as provided in the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law) of claiming or allowing himself to be referred to as a Traditional Ruler not having received the sanction of the law or recognition of the authorities to that effect.
5. The purpose of the said criminal charge filed in 2015 was to bring maximum pressure to bear on the said Rich Arisco Osemwingie regarding the escapade he had embarked upon which we deemed at that time to be a clear and present danger to the peace and tranquility of Benin and the entire State.
6. With the eventual dismissal of Rich Arisco Osemwingie’s claim by the Supreme Court, there no longer existed any legitimacy whatsoever for the claim of being a traditional ruler which had previously been pursued by the said Rich Arisco allegedly on behalf of the Ogiamen Chieftaincy Family of Benin.
7. Furthermore, by a letter dated 4th of April, 2022 (seven years after the institution of the charge), the said Rich Arisco Osemwingie wrote to my Office formally and without reservations, renounced all claims of co-sovereignty with His Majesty, the Oba of Benin, all competition with the Palace of the Oba of Benin and vowed to “maintain cordial relationship for the peaceful development of Benin Kingdom and put an end to the legal tussles in various Courts.”
8. In response to the said renunciation letter, I came to the considered view that the prosecution in Suit no MOR/148C/2015, served no further public policy purpose and therefore exercised my powers under the Constitution to put an end to same.
9. It must be noted that a withdrawal of a charge by the Attorney General on grounds of public policy does not amount to an acquittal in respect of the charge in question and cannot be a bar to future prosecution if the subject either fails in his undertaking or continues in the commission of the offence.
For the education of those who might not be aware, the PARAMOUNT TRADITIONAL RULER in the seven Local Government Areas which make up Edo South Senatorial District is our revered monarch, His Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, the Oba of Benin.
It is within his Majesty’s prerogative to appoint and exercise authority over ANY CHIEF within his Majesty’s domain howsoever they may be called or described.
It is not and has not hitherto been the duty or responsibility of Government to appoint or recognize CHIEFS within the Benin Kingdom outside the prescribed authority of the Royal Palace of Benin.
The Edo State Government therefore has no recognition role in the appointment and activities of anyone claiming to be a CHIEF.
At the risk of repetition, that is entirely a traditional and cultural matter within the domestic authority of the Royal Palace of the Benin Kingdom.
This office will therefore appeal to all persons seeking to project an impression of conflict between the Government and the Palace on this issue and or any other issue for that matter to find other avenues to exercise their energy and imagination, as this office has absolutely no intention, desire or even legal responsibility in that regard.
On a personal note, it must be stated that the office of Attorney General as created by the Constitution has a long and distinguished pedigree in our State and I am proud to be a mere temporary custodian of the enormous powers granted by law to this office to protect and promote the common public good. I assure all and sundry that I do not take this responsibility lightly.
Oluwole Osamudiame Iyamu, SAN, MCArb.
Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo State