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Tension in C’River as Traditional Rulers’ Chairman Physically Confronts Gov Otu’s SA on Chieftaincy Affairs

In a recent turn of events in Cross River, tension has escalated following a clash between Chief Frank Edet, the Special Adviser to Governor Bassey Otu on Chieftaincy Affairs, and the Chairman of the Cross River State Traditional Rulers’ Council (TRC), Etinyin Etim Okon Edet.

According to NEGROIDHAVEN, the confrontation, which occurred on 22nd March, has sparked controversy and raised concerns about governance and traditional authority in the State.

According to eyewitnesses and insiders familiar with the incident, the altercation stemmed from longstanding grievances and power tussles predating the appointment of a new SA, within the Chieftaincy Affairs department.

A source quite intimate with the unfortunate development, in detailing the events, revealed that the TRC chairman, who had maintained his position over an unprecedented 10 years, contrary to the customary two-year tenure limit, physically confronted the governor’s aide in the company of three other Paramount Rulers and some unknown persons.

Reports suggest that tensions reached a boiling point when the TRC chairman attempted to assert dominance over Chief Edet, prompting a heated verbal and physical attack in the latter’s office.

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Witnesses recounted scenes of chaos as the TRC chairman, accompanied by some known and unknown persons, forcibly removed Chief Edet from his office. The incident, which culminated in Chief Edet being barred from entering his workplace, has raised questions about the rule of law and governance in the state.

The whole fracas started on a Tuesday when Etinyin Okon Etim Edet is said to have sent for the Special Adviser to the governor and said he would be having a meeting with some clan heads and that he would like the Special Adviser to be in attendance, a development deemed to be laughable as the Chair of TRC is subordinate to the SA on Chieftaincy Affairs. “Etinyin Okon Edet doesn’t have any right to summon the SA to a meeting he was not even originally invited to. For the sake of courtesy, the SA went there and sat down beside him”.

He said to the clan heads, “This is our new SA on Chieftaincy Affairs. He has been sent to come and work under us here. The clan heads that were there were mostly from Akpabuyo and Bakassi.

“A few days later, the Chairman TRC sent for the SA Chieftaincy Affairs to attend another meeting but the SA respectfully declined, informing the TRC chair’s messenger that His Excellency had assigned some responsibilities to be done, reason why he could not make it. The next thing we knew was that one of our staff ran into the office saying ‘oga chairman is coming to our office o’ in a scared manner.’

“Before you could say, Jack Robinson, Etinyin had opened the SA’s office and walked in like Mussolini of Italy. The SA stood up in surprise but before he could say anything the TRC chair allegedly started shouting at him querying thus: ‘Who are you? Who do you think you are? Are you king? Are you God? I have worked with other SA’s nobody insulted me or went against my instructions. Since you came here you don’t have any respect for me. You don’t take instructions. You don’t do what I ask you to do. I will not work with you in this office because I cannot control you. I work with those I control.

“The next thing, some of his boys came and held the SA’s suit and tried to drag him out of the office. We said to them not to drag the SA that way, rather we pleaded that it is better for the SA to leave the office quietly since he was not born in that office and obviously shouldn’t be killed there. Three paramount rulers were there with him. Other clan heads were there too and the other persons he brought to come and push the SA out of the office. You can imagine the effrontery to remove and push out a representative of the governor from his office. The SA wasn’t even wearing his shoes because the place was hot, so he had to remove them. In fact, I’ve never seen such a thing. The SA after being manhandled just asked if he could be allowed to take his shoes and they mockingly allowed him to go back and retrieve his shoes. Etinyin and the Paramount Ruler of Calabar South were standing there and shouting at him until he walked away after which the unknown persons warned him never to come back to the office.”

The report further stated that the embattled SA drove to the governor’s office with some workers who accompanied him and he met with the Chief of Staff, whom he told all that happened. The chief of staff is said to have been really shocked.

“Meanwhile, before the SA got to the governor’s office, the TRC chairman was alleged to have called the SA and was overhead asking him to tell whoever sent him that he could not work with him. And that he has who he wants to work with. The workers were baffled as it seems he is now challenging His Excellency.”

They went further to say that the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Anthony Owan-Enoh was also aware of the very primitive and embarrassing display.

“After the incident happened on Friday, on Monday the TRC chair summoned another meeting of paramount rulers from the 18 Local Government Areas. Out of the 18, 13 paramount rulers attended the meeting and he briefed them about what happened, how the SA insulted him, how the SA was not subservient to him, how the SA was very insulting and all of that. He even lied against the SA, saying that the SA claimed all the staff in the office are from “atam” while only one person is from Efik. That’s a big lie. The TRC chair is trying to play the tribal sentiment card so that the non-Efik paramount rulers will support him. Ironically, the paramount rulers who physically stormed the SA’s office are all from the Southern Senatorial zone.

“They even wrote a petition that the governor should replace the SA Chieftaincy Affairs. 12 of the Paramount Rulers signed the petition while one from Biase refused to sign because he said he didn’t see anything wrong that the Special Adviser has done. He said the SA’s refusal to attend a meeting for introduction wasn’t enough reason to call for a removal. Those paramount rulers he invited for the emergency meeting he allegedly gave each of them some stipend.”

Meanwhile, efforts to reach the Chairman of the Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet, to hear his own side, via repeated phone calls, SMS and WhatsApp messages have all proven abortive as he has not taken his calls, or responded to SMS and WhatsApp messages.

After days of trying, our reporter ran into the SA Chieftaincy Affairs to confirm the development but, he consistently refrained from answering our questions or addressing the press on the explanation that he does not have the authorisation from his principal the governor to do so.

“I cannot deny or affirm your questions”, Otuekong Frank Edet said.

Our source further noted that “The challenge they all seem to have is a situation where there are two captains on a boat and they are confused about whose instructions to obey. For now, it seems the law of the jungle has won as the group who deal in violence have kept the SA out of his office and their boys keep coming around and promising to deal with him if he tries to re-enter the office.

“Tribal sentiments are also brewing as citizens are saying it appears the Chairmanship of TRC has been captured by the powerful Paramount Ruler of Bakassi, supported by his Southern counterparts, and unlike in the past when it was rotational, no other zone can sit there.”

From our deeper investigation, the office of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Chieftaincy Affairs has its mandate and responsibility.

There are about 7 or 8 units working under the Chieftaincy Affairs department. They have the administration that the Special Adviser oversees. There is a state council of chiefs, they are under the administration unit overseen by the SA. They have planning, research and statistics units still under the purview of the SA. They have the unit for certification – issuing certificates to village heads. They have conflict management. They have the registry and the accounts unit. At the apex of the department is the Special Adviser, assisted by the permanent secretary; and the department has a deputy director of administration, an assistant director and a chief executive officer and a full complement of support staff who appear well motivated and willing to work. On paper, they are not supposed to work under the Chairman of TRC but rather report to the Governor through his Special Adviser.

Editorial Team
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