By Ene Asuquo
The Supreme Court has delivered a judgement on a protracted tussle on Obongship stool of Calabar involving Etubom Anthony Ani, former Minister for finance in Sani Abacha’s regime and the incumbent, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu v.
Delivering the judgement of a15 year tussle, the supreme court upheld the decision of the appeal court which was filled by Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu v on June 4th, 2013 which says that Etubom Anthony Ani was not qualified traditionally because he was not capped and inducted into the palace by the Obong as at the time, therefore can not vote and be voted for, while the 1st appellant the (Obong of calabar) was traditionally qualified and eligible to vote and be voted for
The supreme court then called for a fresh nomination, disqualified Etubom Ani from participating in the selection, while asking that the incumbent be included in the selection
It would be recalled that Etubom Anthony A. Ani, M.O.N and others in Suit No. HC/102/2008, filed by his lead counsel, Mr. Joe Agi, SAN, sued Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu and others in their capacities as members of the Etuborns’ Traditional Council for jettisoning the screening process of the Western Calabar under the then Chairman, Etubom Abasi-Otu, now the Obong of Calabar that had screened and selected Etubom Ani as their sole candidate
Etubom Ani had instituted the suit immediately after the Etuboms’ Conclave met and declared Etubom Abasi Otu as the Obong elect, not after he had been crowned the Obong of Calabar as is presently misunderstood at some quarters.
The suit was before Justice Obojor A. Ogar at the High Court of Cross River state and after about four years of legal tussle, judgement was given in favour of Etubom Ani and Etubom Abasi-Otu who had subsequently ascended the throne as Obong of Calabar was sacked by the court.
The Judge declared that “the presentation and or selection of the 4th defendant (Etubom Abasi Otu), who was Chairman of the Screening Committee for the selection of a candidate for the stool of Obong of Calabar, as a candidate for the Obong Of Calabar throne or purported selection of the 4th defendant as the Obong of Calabar elect is contrary to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
“That the purported selection of the 4th defendant as the Obong of Calabar-elect, who is from Adiabo is contrary to the decision of the Western Calabar Traditional Rulers Council that Ikoneto has the exclusive right to produce the next Obong of Calabar. A declaration that the 1st – 5th defendants are estopped from reneging from the decision that it is the turn of Western Calabar and Ikoneto in particular to produce the next Obong of Calabar” .
The Judge further declared that “the 4th defendant (Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu) is not qualified to be selected and/or appointed, the Obong of Calabar and accordingly his purported selection / screening / election and appointment as Obong of Calabar are hereby set aside”.
The Judge therefore instituted an injunction “restraining the Ist -5th defendants from selecting or purporting to select any person as Obong of Calabar, contrary to the agreement that it is the turn of Ikoneto to produce the Obong. An injunction restraining the Etubom Traditional council either by themselves, their servants, hirelings, agents, privies or however from carrying out any contest for the selection of a new Obong of Calabar without the participation of Ikoneto or its candidate (the 1st Claimant).
“The 4th defendant is hereby restrained either by himself, his servants, agents or privies from representing or further representing himself to the general public as Obong of Calabar”.
However an appeal by Etubom Abasi Otu (1st appellant) and Etubom Otu Efa Otu (For themselves and representing the Efik Iboku Esit Edik Traditional Council) was filed at the Calabar Division of the Court of Appeal against Etubom Ani (1st respondent) and others.
Delivering judgment on June 4, 2013, the Lead Judge then, Justice Garba Lawal who is now a Justice of the Supreme Court, ordered that “the 1st Respondent (Etubom Ani) who admittedly was not capped/inducted into the Etuboms’ Council of the Palace of the Obong by the Obong at the time of the selection process of the Obong of Calabar, was not traditionally qualified and eligible to vote and be voted for as the Obong of Calabar under Exhibit 1/20.
“That the 1st Appellant was traditionally qualified and eligible to vote and be voted for as the Obong of Calabar under Exhibit 1/20 at the time of the selection process”.
The court set aside the selection process that produced Etubom Ani as candidate and also set aside the March 31 proclamation of Etubom Abasi Otu as Obong Ordered the Etuboms’ Conclave of the Palace of the Obong of Calabar, whose mandate it is under Article 5(a) (ii) (iv) of Exhibit 1/20, to do so, “to conduct another process of selecting a new Obong of Calabar, in accordance with the provisions of Exhibit 1/20 and in strict compliance with the rules of natural justice”.
Meanwhile, there is a wide spread celebration in the Efik kingdom over what some of them described as a judgement that has finally brought peace to the kingdom
In a brief interaction with the press, the chairman, Etubom council said, “though they have not seen a copy of that judgement, but they are all very happy about the outcome of it”
This will bring to an end of the more than 14years tussle, though we have not seen a copy of the judgement but for what we have heard, we have reasons to rejoice” he maintained.