Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Crisis is brewing in Abonnema Community in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State following the purported suspension of the monarch of the community, the Amayanabo of Abonnema, King Disrael Gbobo Bobmanuel, as the Chairman, Council of Chiefs by some chiefs led by former Minister of Aviation, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas.
The community and the Abonnema Council of Chiefs have subsequently announced the suspension of the â€œrenegadeâ€ chiefs Graham Douglas, Chief Enoch Granville, Chief Edmund Young Jack, Chief Beremabo Pedro, Alabo Anthony Oweredaba and Chief A. B. Ajumogobia for allegedly embarrassing the throne and people of Abonnema by their purported suspension of the monarch.
The suspended chiefs had in a suspension letter, dated November 20, 2017, served on Bobmanuel, accused the monarch of refusing to adhere to the directives of the Council of Chiefs and the Ekine Sekiapu Society of Abonnema, to embark on self-cleansing so as to prove that he was innocent of an allegation of witchcraft levelled against him.
The chiefs, under the aegis of United Founding Fathers of Abonnema, said instead of abiding by the directives to embark on self-cleansing, Bobmanuel went to the Rivers State High Court in Degema to enforce his fundamental human rights.
â€œWe, the undersigned chiefs, as incumbents/representatives of the founding War Canoe Chieftaincy Houses of Abonnema, have viewed with dismay, discontent and abject disappointment the narratives surrounding the allegation of witchcraft against you (Bobmanuel), who incidentally is the head of Owukori House of Abonnema and for which reason you presided over the affairs of the Abonnema Council of Chiefs as Amayanabo of Abonnema,â€ they had alleged.
They announced the appointment of High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs as Regent /Chairman Abonnema Council of Chiefs to oversee the affairs of the Abonnema Council of Chiefs until the issues surrounding the allegations were â€œfully and finally resolvedâ€.
But reacting to the alleged suspension of the monarch, the Abonnema Council of Chiefs held an emergency meeting at the Abonnema Town Hall on Wednesday where members dissociated themselves from the letter of suspension sent to the monarch and advertorials to that effect.
In a statement signed by the Amayanabo and 52 other chiefs, the council stated that there was no group or body known in Abonnema as â€œUnited Founding Fathers of Abonnemaâ€.
â€œConsequent upon this mischief, the Abonnema Council of Chiefs at its emergency meeting of Wednesday, November 22, 2017 held at the Abonnema Town hall unequivocally dissociates itself from the said advertorial as the same was published without the knowledge, consent or authorisation of the Abonnema Council of Chiefs,â€ the statement said.
The chiefs declared, â€œHRM Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel (II), Owukori (IX) has not been suspended by the Abonnema Council of Chiefs, and therefore remains the Amayanabo of Abonnema and chairman of the Abonnema Council of Chiefs.â€
They maintained that the Abonnmema Council of Chiefs is the apex customary administrative and adjudicatory body in the area and also the custodian and enforcer of native law and custom in the community, adding that it is only the council that is vested with the power under Kalabari custom to suspend its chairman.
â€œNo other individual or group of individuals in Abonnema has such power,â€ they insisted.
On the allegations of witchcraft against the monarch, the chiefs said, â€œThe false allegations of witchcraft solely sponsored by Precious Elekima is still pending in Suit No: PHC/203/2017 in the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, and the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt.â€
They also stated that Chief Lulu-Briggs was not qualified under Kalabari custom to be appointed regent as he is not the paramount head of Oruwari Briggs group of houses who are to act in the absence of an Amayanabo.
â€œThe purported appointment of Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs as the regent of Abonnema/Chairman of Abonnem, a Council of Chiefs is therefore intended to embarrass and ridicule the Abonnema Council of Chiefs and to cause crisis in Abonnema community, especially given his current condition,â€ the statement said.
The Amayanabo and the 52 chiefs therefore stated: â€œThe six signatories to the said advertorial who are members of the Abonnema Council of Chiefs, namely Alabo T. O Graham Douglas, Chief Enoch Granville, Chief Edmund Young Jack, Chief Beremabo Pedro, Alabo Anthony Oweredaba and Chief A. B. Ajumogobia be and are hereby suspended indefinitely with immediate effect.â€
They also called on the Rivers State Government and relevant security agencies to call Lulu-Briggs and the suspended chiefs to order in the interest of peace in the community.