Legal Nigeria

Obong of Calabar: Council accuses Gov Otu of disrespecting Supreme Court’s judgment

The Cross River Traditional Council has accused Governor Bassey Otu of disrespecting the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the selection of Obong of Calabar.

The Council said on Sunday in reaction to alleged recognition of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu  as the Obong of Calabar by the Cross River state government in a statement on Sunday.

“We want to state here without any ambiguity that the Governor’s decision is a serious challenge to the Supreme Court judgment, as it is not within his power to do so,” the traditional council said in a statement jointly signed and issued by Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Effiok, and Etubom Micah Archibong VI, its Chairman and Secretary issued in Abuja on Sunday respectively.

The traditional council affirmed that selection of the Obong is its exclusive responsibility and its legitimacy has been recognized by the Constitution of the Obong’s Palace and affirmed by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Effiok stressed that there is the absolute need by all and sundry to respect and obey the Supreme Court Judgment concerning the selection of Obong in the state.

According to Effiok, it had become imperative to brief the public to clarify some misconceptions held by highly-placed government officials and to also set the records straight.

Effiok explained that a recent statement by a government official indicated that the state government has undertaken a judicial review of the State High Court, and Supreme Court rulings.

He added that it also indicated that the state government has undertaken the review of the Constitution of the Obong’s Palace and interfaced with Royal Fathers.

According to Effiok, the Council is not aware of any panel of Judicial or Administrative Review, adding that it has not been invited to appear or testify before such body and as Royal Fathers.

“Above that, not having had any interface with the Governor on the matter only goes to reinforce our impression that he was only expressing his personal opinion

“”As Governor to all, we are understandably uncomfortable that he embarked on such a Judicial review and interfaced with other ‘Royal Fathers’ without any reference to the legitimate Council. This is so unfortunate.

“The high court case being relied upon by the governor has no relevance with the Supreme Court Judgment delivered on January 13, 2013.

“This is except to the fact that the four respondents contemptuously disobeyed the orders of Justice Ukpai A. lbitam.

“In reality, the judgment of the High Court by Justice Obojor A. Ogar on the 30th of January 2012, setting aside the selection and subsequent crowning of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu, has been confirmed by both the Appellate and Supreme Courts,” Effiok said.

According to Effiok, there is absolutely no State High Court Judgment delivered on this subject on the 25th of September 2022.

He explained further that such an error is a natural consequence of the independent review embarked by the governor.

“We refuse to be drawn into the tempting impression that the governor, being from the same Efik family of Adiabo Principality, as Otu, has anything to do with his conclusions.

“But, this again, goes to emphasize how unsafe it was for our governor to embark upon this journey unassisted.

“Be that as it may, we wish to point out that the Supreme Court of Nigeria Judgment of 13th January 2013, set aside the selection of Otu as the Obong of Calabar on the 31st of March 2008.

“This means that from 31st March 2008 to date, there is and has been no Obong of Calabar, as we are still in the selection process.

“The same judgment directed that the selection process be conducted afresh, and the selection process can only be carried out by those who were in the Etuboms’ Council at that time.

“And it should be carried out according to the Constitution of Etuboms’ Traditional Council, 2002. There are only seven of us alive as of the time of the said Supreme Court Judgment, Effiok maintained.

He alleged that Etuboms who were not qualified to vote as at 31st March 2008, and who had been capped by an impostor, hurriedly came together and purportedly re-selected Otu on January 18, 2023.

“This again was an avoidable and unnecessary fundamental flaw,” he stressed.

Effiok further said that in compliance with the Supreme Court Judgment, the Council embarked on a fresh selection process.

He added that, unfortunately, Otu, who’s real name is Isukise and hails from Okobo, refused to be part of the selection process even though he was duly invited through the courier service to attend the exercise.

“In turning down the invitation to appear before the qualified Etuboms for screening and possible selection, we had no option than to screen the only other candidate presented.

“He is Dr Anthony Asuquo Ani, presented to us by the Western Calabar Traditional Rulers’ Council – Etubom. We found him qualified, and have since selected and proclaimed him as the new Obong of Calabar,” he said.

Buttressing further, Effiok said the Council had notified the State Government and sought permission to conduct his coronation and for his recognition by the Cross River State Government.

“It does appear that the Governor has rejected our request and has granted explicit recognition to Otu as the Obong of Calabar.

“We want to state here without any ambiguity that the Governor’s decision is a serious challenge to the Supreme Court judgment, as it is not within his power to do so.

“Let us state here therefore most equivocally that our Etuboms’ Council is the one recognised by the Supreme Court Judgment and Ani is the Obong of Calabar of the Efik Nation and his Traditional Coronation shall be carried out accordingly.

“We will like those who may want to know that the selection of an Obong in Efik land is exclusively the responsibility of the tradition council, which has nothing to do with politics.

“As far as we are concerned, the only legitimate and recognised Traditional Council is the one headed by my humble self as the chairman,” Effiok stressed.

He then suggested that the governor should set up an independent and unbiased body to handle the situation, or submit the Supreme Court’s Judgment to a court of competent jurisdiction to interpret for immediate implementation