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Efut Kingdom protests monarch imposition by Governor Otu

By Our Reporter

Efut Combined Assembly, the apex decision-making body of the Efuts in the Southern Senatorial District of Cross River State has rejected the imposition of Prof. Itam Hogan Itam as the Muri Munene and Paramount ruler of Efut by the State Government.

The position of the monarchs is contained in a press release signed by 13 Muris of Efut Ancestral Clans and the Secretary General of the body made available to newsmen in Calabar on Friday, 8 March 2024.

Recall that the State Governor, Senator Bassey Otu had in a press release signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Emmanuel Ogbeche upheld a Court Order restoring Prof. Itam as the Muri Munene and Paramount Ruler of Efut and directed his immediate restoration as the Village Head of Obufa Obio Ukem, Clan Head of Efut Ukem, Muri Munene and Paramount Ruler of Efut.

Reacting to the press release, Efut Combined Assembly drew the attention of the governor to the fact that the said court judgement with Suit No: HC/MSC/154/2002, in which it relied on in directing the reinstatement of Prof. Itam as Paramount Ruler, is in the Appeal Court with Suit No: CA/C/46/2023, where Appeal and Stay of execution was properly entered and status quo must be maintained.

The apex decision-making body of the Efuts averred that Prof. Itam had at no time been selected by Efut Combined Assembly nor capped by a sitting Muri Munene, a traditional rite he has not fulfilled and, therefore, can not ascend the throne of Muri Munene of the Efuts.

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The body noted that the matter being challenged in Siut NOs: HC/304/2010, HC/210/2011, HC/111/2012, (consolidated) and tagged HC/111/2012 is still pending before Justice Benedict Ayade of the Calabar High Court and even came up on the 21st February 2024, and was judiciously adjourned to 15 April 2024.

Consequently, the monarchs said it is a clear indication that the matter affecting the Muneneship of Prof. Itam is still pending in court and, therefore, the government has no right whatsoever in the selection of the Muri Munene of the Efuts.

According to the body, the press release on the matter by the government is unnecessary as it constitutes the imposition of Muri Munene of the Efuts.

“In the interest of justice and fairness, we demand that Suit No: HC/111/2012, should be duly determined before any other action.

“It is also worthy to note that the former governor of the state, Prof. Ben Ayade issued a certificate of recognition to Prof. Itam as Muri Munene of Efut and Paramount Ruler of Calabar South Local Government Area but the High Court judgement in Suit No: HC/442/2018 cancelled the said certificate. Prof Itam filed an appeal for release of the said certificate which is still pending in Appeal Court. Since then on certificate of recognition has been re-issued to him.

“Now the question is which certificate is to be restored? The one cancelled by the court or the one pending in the Appeal Court? Prof Itam cannot be restored as Paramount ruler. He is at liberty to hasten his case in the Court of Appeal so as to know the way forward, and if the case favours him, then he can only be restored as Paramount ruler of Calabar South local government area,” the press release read.

The Traditional Rulers emphasised that the Palace of Efut Combined Assembly which was built in 1993 through community and individual efforts solely belong to Efut Combined Assembly, consequently, the High Court of Calabar had in Suit No: HC/102/2020 warned Prof. Itam Hogan Itam and his Council of Efut Nation not to interfere with the affairs of Efut Combined Assembly and not to do anything inconsistent with the rights of Efut Combined Assembly (judgement upheld).

They pointed out that the Efut Combined Assembly is enshrined in the Muri Munene Constitution of 1974 and as such it is the apex decision-making body that determines the affairs of the Efut kingdom.

“Prof Itam did not contribute to the building of the said Palace and, therefore, cannot benefit from it until the court case he instituted against the Efut Combined Assembly is accordingly determined (refer Suit No: HC/161/2022 pending before Justice Ibitam).

The Assembly recalled that the State Governor has just taken decision in a similar case concerning the Efik kingdom as it concerns non-capping and also rejected the idea of waver in the selection of a traditional ruler, adding that, in the case of Prof. Itam there was no waver because he bluntly refused to be capped on mere reason that the Muri Munene on the throne was not academically educated to his class.

“What is good for the goose is also good for the gander,” they said.

The monarchs contended that the court judgement in Suit No: HC/156/2020 dismissed the Muri Muneneship of Prof. Itam Hogan Itam and he has not appealed against the judgement hence upheld, and he cannot be Muri Munene of the Efuts given the subsisting court judgement.

They, therefore, prayed that in the interest of peace, justice and fair play, the government of Cross River State should revisit its position on the matter and call for interrogation of parties for proper enlightenment.

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