Tussle for Obong of Calabar Throne:  Supreme Court to Deliver Judgement January 13

Bassey Inyang in Calabar

The Supreme Court would on January 13 deliver judgment on the protracted litigation that commenced in 2008 over who should be the rightful occupant of the throne of the Obong of Calabar, and grand patriarch of the Efik.  

The plaintiff in the matter before the Supreme Court, Mr. Etubom Anthony A. Ani, had appealed the judgment of the Court of Appeal on June 4, 2013, wherein in the lead judgment that was read by Justice Garba Lawal (now a Justice of the Supreme Court), which 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 in 2008, 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, Etubom Abasi Otu, 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 of Appeal, therefore, set aside the selection process that produced Etubom Ani as candidate and also set aside the March 31, 2008 proclamation of Etubom Abasi Otu as Obong, and 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.”

The judgment of the Appeal Court was informed by an appeal filed by Etubom Abasi Otu (1st appellant), and Etubom Etubom Otu Efa Otu (For themselves and representing the Efik Iboku Esit Edik Traditional Council) filed at the Calabar Division of the Court of Appeal against Etubom Ani (1st respondent) and others challenging an earlier judgment of the Cross River State High Court delivered by Justice Obojor A. Ogar in Suit No. HC/102/2008.

Etubom Ani had instituted that the suit some days 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.

In the original suit filed by Etubom Ani’s Lead Counsel, Mr. Joe Agi, (SAN), the plaintiff had 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.

Delivering judgment on the matter, Justice Obojor A. Ogar 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 1st -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.”

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