By NBF News

An Okene high court, recently made a landmark judgment over a contentious raging issue in Ebiraland on whether or not the Aninghere who are mostly blacksmiths in the area are  indeed  slaves or 'property' of  Ebira people. In Suit N0;HC0/7C/2008, brought before Justice S.O. Otu, one Alhaji M.J. Bajehson, the  Shettima of Ebiraland had dragged one Chief Yusuf Mamman Akaaba, the Oneyiye of Ebiraland to court for allegedly publishing a libelous letter dated 26 July 26, 2003, where he addressed him as slave and not a native of Ebiraland.

Bajehson also claimed that the defendant referred to him in the said letter and indeed his kith and kin as  migrants  who came to settle in Ebiraland and that accounted for the allegation in the letter that he  provided financial aids to Ekpedo community in Edo State when they had a communal clash with neighbouring Ogori  community few years ago.

The claimant declared that the ascription  of the defendant of his origin to slavery or slaves is discriminatory, offensive, dehumanizing and demeaning and contrary to his entrenched fundamental rights.

The claimant also declared that the words published about him or his person are reckless, defamatory, provocative and malicious as they were made in bad faith and for improper motive and intended to destroy his image both in the business  circles and the community

He therefore urged the court  to award him three million Naira as general damages as the publication has caused him to be ostracized and alienated and he no longer enjoys the patronage of various Ebira  Cultural and social groups as before.

In his defence, the defender asserted that Aninghere came from Uneme or Ekpedo in Edo State and that the ancestor of Aninghere was a hunter found wandering in a forest and brought home by an Ebira man, an Ukah  hunter and therefore have no any relationship with any Ebira person

The defendant  averred that the claimant's father and ancestors are Aninghere and so known and recognized as such and are therefore not Ebiras by blood and do not belong to any of the clans neither do they own a  family land.

He urged the court to dismiss the claims as lacking in merit, ill motivated and an upstart  attempt to manipulate and rewrite a doubtful history, saying the publication in question was reasonable and truthful in fact and substance and did not in any way constitute defamatory or libelous publication.

Delivering  judgment, Justice S. O. Otu, said the evidence of the claimant and his witnesses who traced their ancestry to one Iyakhire, an Omu-uhi, a blacksmith completely knocks the bottom out of the contradicting assertion that the Aninghere and Ebira share  common ancestry.

'There is no evidence whatsoever that either the ancestor of the Aninghere or the ancestor of the Ebira had affinity , be it ancestral, cultural or linguistic, in other words there is no affinity between the Iyahkize and Itaazi- Ebira

'Any Aninghere ought therefore to insist on, and be proud of their ancestral and unique heritage, which is different from that of the Ebira''

Justice Otu, however ruled for the defendant to claim that the claimant was or his Aninghere community were part of the properties owned by Ebira families, and that the claimant gave moral and financial support to Ekpedo people in Edo State during their communal clash with Ogori people in Kogi State all meant to expose the claimant to ridicule, hatred and odium in the estimation of the right thinking members of the society

He therefore awarded the sum of N450,000  as general and exemplary damages against the defender.