Some members of the Etuboms Traditional Council (ETC) in the Palace of Obong of Calabar has cautioned Gov. Bassey Otu-led government against acting contrary to the Supreme Court judgment in the selection of the traditional ruler.
The Chairman of ETC from another camp, HRH Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok, advised in a letter addressed to Gov. Otu of Cross River and a copy made available to newsmen on Monday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the letter, dated Nov. 9, was in reaction to a press release by the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the state government, Emmanuel Ogbeche, recognising Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V as the Obong of Calabar.
Ogbeche, in the release, said: “The governor, having undertaken a judicial review of the State High Court and Supreme Court rulings as well as the constitution of the Obong’s Palace and interlaced with royal fathers, resolves that the issue of waiver for qualification of a candidate to contest the Obong Stool is untenable.
“That His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi V remains the validly selected and elected Obong of Calabar and the Patriarch of the Efik Kingdom,” among others.
NAN observes that the 15th anniversary thanksgiving service of Otu V had been in circulation lately.
The event, which would take place at the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Duke Town Cathedral, Calabar, on December 16, had Gov. Otu as the chief host.
But reacting, the ETC chairman, in the letter he signed, said: “We are writing to express our concern over your letter dated the 7th day of November, 2023 about the position of the Cross River State government on the traditional stool of the Obong of Calabar.
“We issue our response expressing our informal view that the state government could not take such a position in a matter adjudicated and determined by the highest court of the land (the Supreme Court of Nigeria).
“Otherwise, how else would a government bent on protecting the Efik throne from ‘judicial, social, and political scorn,’ as expressed in its release, inject itself into an affray by political fiat?
“By this action, is the Cross River State government implying that it has more statutory powers to conduct a judicial review of a competent court judgment and overrule the Supreme Court to settle the chieftaincy disputes of the Efiks of Cross River State?”
They wondered why the state government would dismiss other competing interests in the Obongship of the Efiks and anointed candidates of its choice for the throne without hearing from them.
They described the state government’s statement as “misleading” and amounted to disobeying the orders of the Supreme Court.
The ETC stressed that besides, such action was contemptuous of the Supreme Court’s judgment of Jan. 13.
“In the light of the above, we cannot accept the state government’s position as contained in the press release of 7th of November, 2023.
“We hope this information will help you make a more informed decision in the interest of equity, fairness, natural justice and peace,” they said.
Also in a press statement, the ETC alleged that the governor was supporting the embattled monarch because they came from the same clan in Adiabo as they bear the same surname, “Otu,” which they further alleged the CPS “mischievously” tried to hide in his letter.
They equally advised the Presbyterian Church where the thanksgiving service would be held to consider its position in the shared history and refrain from falling in contempt of the Supreme Court as well as their traditions.
They informed that based on the apex court judgment and in the interest of equity and natural justice, invitations were sent to all candidates vying for the Obongship, including Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu, who refused to respond.
According to them, we, however, took the unusual step of screening him based on the past documents he had presented to the ETC.
“The ETC has concluded its duties and, per tradition, elected and proclaimed an Obong-elect, which we have communicated to the governor’s office by a formal letter,” they said.
The ETC said Etubom Anthony Ani emerged as the successful candidate.
“By the provisions of the extant Cross Rivers Traditional Rulers Laws and the determination of the Supreme Court, we expect and demand that the government uphold the law in recognising the right individual put forward for the Obongship,” they said.
The council urged Efik people and residents in the state to remain calm and law-abiding.
It would be recalled that the Supreme Court had, on Jan. 13 declared the throne of the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, vacant and ordered that a fresh election be conducted for the position.
In a judgment on appeal number: SC.633/2013, delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the apex court upheld the June 4, 2013, judgement of the Appeal Court, Calabar and ordered for a fresh election in accordance with the 2002 Constitution of the Palace, so as to guarantee justice and equity.
The court, however, affirmed the judgement of the Appeal Court which had declared that Otu V was qualified to contest the election for the emergence of a substantive Obong of Calabar.