How Police Fuels Nnobi Traditional Stool Dispute In Anambra State
1. AIG Usman Akila Gwarry
Assistant Inspector General of Police in-charge of Zone 9 Command
Nigeria Police Zonal Command Headquarters
Umuahia, Abia State
2. CP Hosea Karma
Commissioner of Police, Anambra State Command
Nigeria Police Force State Command Headquarters
Awka, Anambra State
3. Retired IGP Mike Mbama Okiro
Chairman, Police Service Commission
The Police Service Commission Headquarters
The Federal Secretariat Complex, Shehu Shagari Way
FCT, Abuja, Nigeria
Threat Of Breakdown Of Law & Order In Nnobi Community: A Call For Steady Maintenance Of Law & Order & Protection Of Recognized Traditional Institution & Community's Association & The Entire People Of Nnobi Community
(Security & Rule of Law, Onitsha Nigeria 11th November, 2014)- The attention of our organization-International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) has been drawn to the above referenced subject.
Background Information: After the traditional ruler of Nnobi Community in Idemmili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, Igwe Eddy Ezeokoli joined his ancestors in 2003, the issue of selection of his successor fell on three quarters in the Community; namely Ebenesi, Awuda and Ngo. The Constitution of the Community had earlier in 1988 been amended to provide for rotational Igweship among the three quarters of Ebenesi, Awuda and Ngo. For administrative convenience, the Nnobi Community is divided into 72 administrative wards with each of the quarters given 24 administrative wards. While the late traditional ruler of the Community (late Igwe Edmund Ezeokoli) hailed from Ngo quarters, the Ebenesi quarters produced the Okpala who is also called the traditional prime minister. The Ebenesi quarters also has the king crowner called Isiani. The Igweship, the Okpala/traditional prime minister and the Isiani are three reigning royalties in Nnobi Community.
The present Okpala/traditional prime minister has reigned for 38 years.
By the tradition and customs of the Community in consonance with its 1988 amended Constitution, the Ebenesi quarters having produced the Isiani and the Okpala/traditional prime minister cannot, in equity and fairness, produce the next Igwe likewise the Ngo quarters that produced the last Igwe. Chief Ebubechukwu Etudo, who claims to be the Igwe-elect, hails from Ebenesi quarters. It was on account of these that the present traditional ruler, His Royal Highness, Engr. Nick M. Obi (Igwe Omenyili), who is from Awuda quarters, was chosen in line with the customs and traditions of the Community embedded in the amended Community's Constitution of 1988. As it stands presently, the three top royalties and the PGship are evenly spread among the three quarters of Ebenesi, Ngo and Awuda. While the Igweship has moved to Awuda quarters, the Isiani & the Okpala/traditional prime minister is retained by the Ebenesi quarters and the Ngo quarters has the present
President General of the Community.
However, the Igwe-elect so called, Chief Ebubechukwu Etudo disputed the choice of Igwe Nick Moudum Obi and protested. In 2006, in suit number: HID/16/2006 filed before the Ogidi High Court of Anambra State between the Registered Trustees of Nnobi Welfare Organization & Chief Ebubechukwu Lota Etudo, an order was made by the presiding judge, Hon Justice J.C. Iguh, restraining him from parading or addressing himself as Igwe-elect of Nnobi. His effort to set aside the order at the Enugu Appeal Court was unsuccessful. He also accused, reportedly, the Awuda quarters of opting for an autonomous community; which he reportedly said made them lose right of claims to the Igweship of Nnobi.
But the Awuda quarters denied the accusation and their position was later strengthened by the Enugu Court of Appeal judgment of July 19, 2011 in Government of Anambra State v Anambra State Association of Autonomous Communities, which ruled against the existence and recognition of autonomous communities in Anambra State of Nigeria. Though another legal proceeding has reportedly been initiated challenging the presentation of the staff of office by the Government of Anambra State to the present Igwe, His Royal Highness, Nick Moudum Obi, but no superior court judgment is in force or obtained setting aside the status quo till date.
Roles of the Government of Anambra State: Following the said claims and counter claims associated with the traditional stool of Nnobi Community, the Government of Anambra State opted to mediate in the dispute. The State Government also took a long time (2006 to 2011) to carefully study the issues arising from the dispute bearing in mind the provisions of the Anambra State Traditional Rulers' Law of 1981 including its Section 20 (powers, rights and privileges of a recognized traditional ruler). On 4th July 2011, the Executive Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, issued a certificate of recognition to His Royal Highness, Igwe Nick Moudum Obi as Igwe Omenyili of Nnobi and presented him with a staff of office. The State Government had earlier on 27th September 2006, through the office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government & Chieftaincy Matters, recognized the Nnobi Welfare Organization (NWO) as the official
umbrella community organization for the Community. The Nnobi Welfare Organization has been in existence since 1943.
Recent threats on Law & Order in Nnobi Community: The violence of unprecedented magnitude that would have eclipsed the 2014 Asha-Olu or New Yam Festival in Nnobi Community was miraculously averted owing to civilized crisis handling style applied by the leadership of the present Igwe of Nnobi and his Nnobi Welfare Organization (NWO). Despite several public notices and security alert letters issued or addressed to the relevant security agencies and the State Government by the Nnobi Welfare Organization and the Igwe-in-council, security lapses were allowed leading to issuance of counter public notices for a parallel Asha-Olu festival by Chief Ebubechukwu Etudo culminating in erection of canopies for a parallel event at Afor-Nnobi Market square in contravention of Sections 19 & 20 of the Anambra State Traditional Rulers' Law of 1981.
In all the letters under reference, the present Divisional Police Officer, Supol Abdullahi of the Nnobi Division of the Nigeria Police Force was at the center of the storm. He was heavily accused of compromising the public security of the Community during the festival by taking sides with Chief Ebubechukwu Etudo in defiance of several government directives and recognition conferred on the present Igwe of Nnobi by the Government of Anambra State. The 2014 Asha-Olu festival took place between 24th and 27th September 2014.
Condemned action of the Police: Security lapses allowed or influenced by relevant police agencies particularly the Divisional Police Officer of the Nnobi Police Station are out-rightly condemned. We have also observed that indiscriminate police invitations to members of the Nnobi ruling royal and civil status quo have continued to rent the air. These amount to psychological harassment and triggers of self help dispute methodology. The indiscriminate police invitations under reference are also extortionist or money making in nature.
For instance, on Monday, November 3rd, 2014, the President General of the Nnobi Welfare Organization (NWO), Prof Eddy Akusoba (77 years old) and five other notable officials of the Community's umbrella organization were put behind the counter where they were held for hours, at the instance of the Awka Area Commander, one ACP Yusuf. They were later granted bail with a reported payment of N120, 000 illegal bail fees. The information received from the Igwe palace indicates that N100,000 was paid cash before the bail was granted to them on Monday, 3rd November 2014 and the balance of N20,000 was handed down to the office of the Area Commander on Monday, 10th November 2014 when they reported as directed.
Calls: We call upon your good public offices to ensure that peace and security are maintained in Nnobi Community at all times. Enforcement of law and order in the Community should be ensured at all times as well. Also Sections 19 & 20 of the Anambra State Traditional Rulers' Law of 1981 forbid those not recognized as traditional rulers from addressing or parading themselves as if they are. They are also barred from holding or sponsoring or participating in community activities under whatever names called in parallel with or outside the consent or knowledge of the Community's recognized chiefs or traditional rulers.
Contravention of the provisions of these sections attracts on conviction two years imprisonment without option of fine. We call upon your good offices to enforce these provisions to the letter. Constitutional protection of lives and properties in Nnobi Community including those of the disputants (whether the disputants are real or pretentious) is very fundamental to the safety and securitization duties of your good offices.
The idea of using or converting the dispute in the said Community into money making venture by way of indiscriminate and seeming frivolous police invitation or arrest and detention must be avoided. Police invitations and arrests/detentions should only be based strictly on reasonable commission or suspicion of commission of crimes of legal records or serious involvement in acts capable of breaking law and order in Nnobi Community. The roles of the Nnobi DPO, Supol Abdullahi in the entire episode should be thoroughly and punitively investigated. He should also be called to order henceforth. Also the N100,000 extorted from the PG of Nnobi Community and co at the Awka Area Command on Monday, 3rd November, 2014, as well as the remainder (N20,000) given to the office of the Area Commander on Monday, 10th of November 2014, should be investigated and refunded inexcusably and unconditionally.
The need by your good offices to maintain or protect the status quo until the contrary is established must be applied to the letter. That is to say that since no superior court of records has set aside the issuance of certificate of recognition & staff of office by the Government of Anambra State to Igwe Nick Moudum Obi as well as recognition of the Nnobi Welfare Organization (NWO) by the same Government, these government pronouncements must be protected and enforced by your good offices at all times until the contrary is established or otherwise.
Note: For matters of further investigation, questioning, enquiry or action, they should be channeled to the following respected members of the Nnobi ruling royal & civil status quo, namely 1. His Royal Highness, Igwe Nick Moudum Obi (Igwe Omenyili). 2. President General (PG) of Nnobi Welfare Organization, Prof Eddy Akusoba 08034344107. 3. Palace Secretary, Ichie Ezeobi Ajaghaku (former PG) 08037421569. 4. Cabinet Secretary, Ichie Basil Eruchalu 08037148661. 5. Secretary General of Nnobi Welfare Organization, Barr Isaac Ezenwelu 08037459016. Also, protocols are lowered here so as to copy relevant junior police formations under your good offices.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Emeka Umeagbalasi (Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies), Board Chairman
Barr Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Barr Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Barr Obianuju Igboeli, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
1. His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Anambra State
2. The Hon Speaker, Anambra State House of Assembly
3. The Inspector General of Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja
4. Attorney General of Anambra State & Commissioner for Justice
5. The Secretary to the State Government
6. Special Adviser to the Governor on Security
7. Special Adviser to the Governor on Chieftaincy & Town Union Matters
8. Director of State Security Services, Anambra State
9. The Executive Chairman of Idemmili South LGA
10. Chairman, Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council
11. President, Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU)
12. Hon Ebele Obi, Member Representing Idemmili South Constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly
13. The Area Commander, Awka Area Command
14. The Divisional Police Officer, Awka Central Police Station
15. The Divisional Police Officer, Nnobi Police Station