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Etuboms Fault Otu’s Proclamation, Say Ani Remains Legitimate Obong Of Calabar

By Frank Ulom

Members of the legitimate Etuboms Traditional Rulers’ Council have faulted the proclamation of Governor Bassey Otu to affirm Edidem Okpon Okon Abasi V as the valid Obong of Calabar, saying Etubom Anthony Asuquo Ani is the new and legitimate Obong of Calabar. The legitimate Etuboms are, HRH Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok (Chairman), HRH Etubom Micah Archibong VI (Secretary), HRH Etubom Edet Ironbar (Member) and HRH Etubom Etim Nsa (Member).

CONVERSEER reports that on 7 November 2023, Governor Otu via a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Emmanuel Ogbeche said he is not happy at the seemingly intractable dispute over the Kingship of the Efik Nation and the contention for the Stool of the Obong of Calabar since 2008, thereby affirming Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi V the Obong of Calabar.

In a press briefing on Wednesday 6 December 2023 in Calabar, the legitimate Etuboms Traditional Rulers’ Council said if Otu was familiar with the law, he could’ve known that there is a Supreme Court judgement and a selection process that selected Etubom Anthony Asuquo Ani as the Obong of Calabar, urging the Governor to take the judgement to a jurisdiction court for proper interpretation.

Reading the press statement signed by HRH Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok and HRH Etubom Micah Archibong VI, Chairman and Secretary of the legitimate Etuboms Traditional Rulers’ Council, HRH Etubom Efiok said the only recognised Traditional Council is the one headed by him, adding that, “If His Excellency wishes to reconsider his position in this matter, we suggest that he sets up and independent and unbiased body to handle the situation or he submits the Supreme Court’s Judgement to a court of competent jurisdiction to interpret the judgement for immediate implementation as we know that His Excellency lacks the power to set aside the Supreme Court’s Judgement.”

Etuboms Fault Otu's Proclamation, Say Ani Remains Legitimate Obong Of Calabar
HRH Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok, Chairman, Legitimate Etuboms Traditional Rulers’ Council

The Etuboms talked about the Governor’s press release, Supreme Court’s judgement, indictment of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu and waiver.

Read the full press statement below…

Media Briefing by the Etubom’s Traditional Rulers’ Council of the Palace of the Obong of Calabar held on Wednesday 6th December 2023 on the Governor’s Press Release on the tussle for the Obongship of Calabar

INTRODUCTION

Members of the legitimate Etuboms Traditional Rulers’ Council of the Palace of the Obong of Calabar, gentlemen of the press, ladies and gentlemen. We welcome you to this first Media Briefing.

We have decided to hold this media briefing today concerning the tussle for the stool of the Obong of Calabar, following the Press Release by His Excellency Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu, the Executive Governor of Cross River State of Nigeria Published on the 7th of November 2023.

I am HRH Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok, the Chairman of the legitimate Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council of the Obong of Calabar. We have seen the official position of the Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu regarding the traditional stool of the Obong of Calabar, as contained in a Press Release dated 7th of November 2023 and signed by Mr Emmanuel Ogbeche, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor.

As Etuboms and Custodians of the Efik Culture and Traditions, we have taken time to digest the said press release and find it pertinent to set the records straight and make our position known. Our motivation in making this statement, therefore, is not borne out of an obsession by any person or persons to possess the revered stool of the Obong of Calabar, On the contrary, we are motivated by a need to ensure that justice prevails and Royal Institutions are protected.

THE PRESS RELEASE

In appraising the said Press release, we cannot but note that the emphasis therein is in conveying the personal views of His Excellency, Governor Bassey Otu. Indeed, the statement indicates that the Governor has undertaken “A judicial review of the State High Court, and Supreme Court rulings, as well as the Constitution of the Obong’s Palace and interfaced with Royal Fathers”. Not being aware of any panel of Judicial or Administrative review, not having been invited to appear or testify before any such body and as “Royal Fathers” not having had any interface with the Governor on the matter only goes to reinforce our impression that this is the personal position of His Excellency, The Governor.

As Governor to all, we are understandably uncomfortable that His Excellency embarked on such a Judicial review and interfaced with other “Royal Fathers” without any reference to us.

As if the foregoing was not unsettling enough, in paragraph (iii) of the Press Release, the Governor refers to

“…The State High Court Judgement of September 25th, 2022…” And “…It’s binding effect on all Parties…” And further demands that all Parties must ensure the implementation of the Judgement cited in (iii) above to the latter”. (sic)

the implementation of the Judgement cited in (iii) above to the later”. (sic)

The said Judgement was actually dated 29th September 2022. It was in a suit no. HC/133/2019 between:

1. H.R.H. ETUBOM ELD. MICAH ARCHIBONG VI
2. CHIEF EKPENYONG OFFIONG EYAMBA
3. PRINCE EKPENYONG NSA ARCHIBONG

(For themselves, and as representing Central Calabar Traditional Rulers Council)

AND

1. H.R.H. ETUBOM BASSEY O.B. DUKE (Chairman Etubom Traditional Council, Palace of the Obong of Calabar)
2. ETINYIN EKPO O. ARCHIBONG (Secretary Etubom Traditional Council)
3. ETUBOM OTU EFA OTU (Chairman Western Calabar Traditional Council)
4. ARC. BASSEY EYO NDEM

This case has no relevance in the matter with the Supreme Court of Nigeria Judgement delivered on 13th January 2023 except to the fact that the four (4) respondents contemptuously disobeyed the orders of Hon. Justice Ukpai A. Ibitam, by voting in the so-called selection of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu as the Obong-elect of Calabar on the 18th of January 2023. In reality, the judgment of the High Court by Hon. 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.

We categorically state that there is absolutely no State High Court Judgement delivered on this subject matter on the 25th of September, 2022. An error such as this, is a natural consequence of the independent review embarked by His Excellency.

We refuse to be drawn into the tempting impression that, His Excellency The Governor, being from the same Efik family of Adiabo Principality, as Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu, has anything to do with His Excellency’s conclusions; but this again goes to emphasise how unsafe it was for our Governor to embark upon this journey unassisted.

READ ALSO | Before The Sun Sets On Bakassi

THE SUPREME COURT’S JUDGEMENTS

I and others seated here are named parties to the said Supreme Court of Nigeria Judgement in case no. SC 633/2013 BETWEEN the following persons and parties

1. ETUBOM (DR) ANTHONY ASUQUO ANI
2. ETINYIN OKON EFFIONG OFFIONG
3. CHIEF OFFIONG EYO OFFIONG
4. CHIEF EMMANUEL ENIANG OFFIONG
5. ANTHONY ENIANG OFFIONG

(For themselves and on behalf of Ufok/Ikot Nkpor Clan, Mbiabo Ikoneto, Odukpani Local Government Area)

AND

1. ETUBOM EKPO OKON ABASI OTU
2. ETUBOM OTU EFA OTU

(For themselves and representing the Esit Edik Traditional Council)

AND

3. ETUBOM ESSIEN EKPENYONG EFIOK
4. ETUBOM OKON ASUQUO
5. ETUBOM MICAH ARCHIBONG

(For themselves and representing Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council, Obong’s Palace)

The same persons and parties are also in case no. SC 634/2013 as stated above.

Be this as it may, we wish to point out that the Supreme Court of Nigeria Judgement of 13th January, 2023, set aside the selection of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi 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 judgement directed that the selection process be conducted afresh. The selection process can only be carried out by those who were in the Etuboms’ Council at that time and should be carried out according to the Constitution of Etuboms’ Traditional Council, 2002. There are only seven (7) of us alive as of the time of the said Supreme Court Judgement.

Without fully appreciating the import of the said Supreme Court Judgement, Etuboms who were not qualified to vote as of 31st March 2008 and who had been capped by an impostor hurriedly came together and purportedly re-selected Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu on January 18, 2023. This again was an avoidable and unnecessary fundamental flaw.

Pronouncement in case no. SC 633/2013 page 39, paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 reads as follows;

“As the Court of Appeal asked, in these circumstances, can the two sets of respondents in good conscience, claim and maintain that the first Appellant was afforded a fair hearing or that the selection process, which ended in the proclamation of the first respondent as the Obong of Calabar, did not breach the essential requirements of natural justice? The answer is that They Cannot. It is for this reason that | wholeheartedly agree with the Court of Appeal that the selection and proclamation of the first Respondent as the Obong-Elect, on 31/3/2008 must be set aside. But it is my view that the justice of this case demands that the Western Calabar Traditional Council, which was mandated to select an Etubom from amongst themselves, “who shall be the new Obong”, should go back to the drawing board, and start the process on a clean slate. This is because the way and manner in which the first Respondent was selected and proclaimed the Obong of Calabar, polluted the selection process, or should I say muddied the waters, so that there is no clear view of when and where to say this far and no more in the process of selecting the next Obong. In the circumstances, the best way to go is for the Western Council to conduct another process to select an Etubom, who shall be the new Obong of Calabar.”

Case no SC 634/2013 with same parties as case no. SC 633/2013 quoted above has pronouncement on page 36, paragraphs 1 and 2 which states

“Without doubt, the first Appellant, as the Court of Appeal held, was not afforded a fair hearing in the selection process conducted by the Western Council, who Chairman turned himself, not only into a candidate furtively, but was also spuriously screened by the council, which surreptitiously recommended him as the sole candidate suitable for the appointment and proclamation as the Obong of Calabar in a report that was sent to the Etuboms’ Council of the Obong’s palace, which in turn refused to hear the first respondent on his complaint about conflict of interests in the process by the (Fourth respondent). Thus, I agree that the selection and proclamation of the fourth Respondent as the Obong-elect on 31/3/2008 must be set aside”

The above goes down and agrees with the Judgement of SC 633/2013.

It is pertinent to note that when the High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Obojor Ogar gave its judgment in this matter in 2012, I was brought back as Chairman of the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council to preside over a fresh selection process and we selected Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu.

When the Appeal court headed by Justice Lawal Garba JCA gave its verdict on the same case matter in 2013 and set aside the selection and proclamation of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu as was the case in the High Court, I was once again brought back as the Chairman of the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council to conduct a fresh selection exercise as ordered by the appellate court.

It is only right and proper that after the Supreme Court had given its judgments, I and other named parties should be the rightful persons to conduct a fresh selection process as was the case in 2012 and 2013 but this time around using the 2002 Constitution and in strict adherence and compliance to other guidelines stipulated in the Supreme Court Judgments. This is what we have done and we state clearly that any other selection exercise carried out by persons unknown to the Supreme Court Judgments is a FRAUD!!!

INDICTMENT OF ETUBOM EKPO OKON ABASI OTU

Having indicted Etubom Abasi Otu in both Supreme Court judgements as clearly seen above, can it be said that he is still qualified to be Obong of Calabar when the CONDITIONS OF ELIGIBILITY of selecting an Obong in the 2002 Constitution of the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council Section 24 item (iii) clearly states that a candidate for the position of Obong “MUST be of REPUTABLE CHARACTER”???

WAIVER

Another important issue most people have not understood is the issue of WAIVER. In Case no SC633/2013 it was held by the Supreme Court of Nigeria (on page 24, paragraph 1) that;

“However, as the two (2) sets of Respondents submitted and rightly so, in my view, even if the requirements of qualification to view for the said office could be waived, the Western Council was not in a position to waive the requirement.”

Also, in SC634/2013 page 15, paragraph 1, lines 31-34

“As a provision of the Constitution of the Royal Court of the Obong of Calabar, even if it can be waived in law, the waiver must be by the Etuboms’ Council of the Obong’s Palace who may have the authority over it”

Mbiabo Ikoneto Traditional Rulers’ Council wrote to the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council on 19th May 2023 and it read in part as follows: “We most respectfully request that the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council as the highest traditional, administrative and sociopolitical authority in the Efik Kingdom, vested with the powers of interpreting all Efik norms, customs and traditions, waive for our candidate the ceremonial requirement of being inducted into Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council of the Obong’s Palace (Capping), so as to enable him participate in the conclave of Etuboms and this requirement was waived by the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council of the Obong’s Palace, at the start of the Conclave on the 22nd May 2023.

Accordingly, therefore, and in compliance with the Supreme Court judgement, we embarked on a fresh selection process. Unfortunately, however, Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu who was duly recommended by the Supreme Court that he could recontest the selection, refused to be part of it even though he was duly invited through the courier service to attend the exercise. In refusing 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 to us by the Western Calabar Traditional Rulers’ Council – Etubom Dr ‘Anthony Asuquo Ani. We found the said Etubom Anthony Asuquo Ani qualified, and have since selected and proclaimed him as the new Obong of Calabar.

In compliance with the law, we 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 His Excellency the Governor has rejected our request and has granted explicit recognition to Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Out 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 judgement 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 Etubom Anthony Asuquo Ani is the Obong of Calabar of the Efik nation and his Traditional coronation shall be carried out accordingly.

We would like those who may want to know that the selection of an Obong in Efik land is exclusively the responsibility of the Tradition which has nothing to do with politics.

Etuboms Fault Otu's Proclamation, Say Ani Remains Legitimate Obong Of Calabar
Legitimate Etuboms Traditional Rulers’ Council: HRH Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok (Chairman) (2nd Right), and HRH Etubom Micah Archibong VI (Secretary), HRH Etubom Edet Ironbar (Member) and HRH Etubom Etim Nsa (Member)

CONCLUSION

The Supreme Court said the following on page 40 of the judgement of case no SC633/2013;

“The end result of the foregoing is that this Appeal lacks merit and it is, hereby, dismissed. I affirm the decision of the Court of Appeal, particularly the order made setting aside the selection and proclamation of the first Respondent as the Obongelect by the Etuboms Conclave of the Palace of the Obong of Calabar.

I also order that the Western Calabar Traditional Rulers Council shall conduct another process to select an Etubom from amongst themselves, including the first Respondent, who shall be the next Obong of Calabar, in line with the provisions of the Constitution of Etuboms Council, Palace of the Obong of Calabar, January 2002, and in strict compliance with rules of natural justice.”

Members of the press, before we round up our submission on this subject matter, let me outline the decisions of the Supreme Court as they are contained in its judgements dated 13th January 2023.

1. That the selection and proclamation of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu as the Obong of Calabar on 31/3/2008 be set aside.

2. That the parties should return to the Drawing Board.

3. That the selection process be started “afresh”

4. That the selection should start on a clean slate.

5. That the 2002 Constitution of the Etubom’s Traditional Ruler’s Council be used for the selection.

6. That the following principles be applied:

(a) Natural Justice
(b) Fairness
(c) Equity

7. That it is only the Etuboms’ Traditional Rulers’ Council alone that has the power to grant the Waiver.

OUR PRAYERS

As far as we are concerned, the only legitimate and recognised Traditional Council is the one headed by me as the chairman.

However, if His Excellency wishes to reconsider his position in this matter, we suggest that he sets up an independent and unbiased body to handle the situation or he submits the Supreme Court’s Judgement to a court of competent jurisdiction to interpret the judgement for immediate implementation as we know that His Excellency lacks the power to set aside the Supreme Court’s Judgement.

I thank all of you for giving me your ears. You can now ask your questions.

Signed
HRH Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok
Chairman

Signed
HRH Etubom Micah Archibong VI
Secretary

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Frank Ulom
Frank Ulom
Frank Ulom is an experienced Journalist, Blogger and Writer with several years of experience. His stories are based on community development and have brought positive change across board.

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