Cletus Ikechukwu Ilomuanya stands removed from office
As the controversy over Governor Rochas Okorocha’s alleged refusal to obey the Court of Appeal judgment and advice of Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice that His Royal Highness Eze Cletus Ikechukwu Ilomuanya be reinstated as the Obi of Obinugwu and Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers rages, the Palace Watch had this interview with Sam Onwuemeodo, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Rochas Okorocha.
What would you say is the problem between your principal, Governor Rochas Okorocha and His Royal Highness Eze Cletus Ilomuanya?
The former Obi of Obinugwu, Cletus Ilomuanya became Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers during the administration of former Governor Achike Udenwa. When Ikedi Ohakim became Governor, he ensured that Eze Ilomuanya was re-elected as the Chairman of the body. During 2011 politics, Eze Ilomuanya threw caution overboard and became an active member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as he never believed that Owelle Okorocha would ever become governor of Imo State. This came as a surprise to all political watchers in Imo State. He was cautioned, but he wouldn’t heed any advice, so he was left alone until after the election. According to the law establishing traditional rulers and institutions in Imo State, traditional rulers are not expected to be actively partisan in any election, as they are expected to be fathers to all. In spite of this law, Eze Ilomuanya became almost the campaign manager to Ohakim in 2011.
When Owelle Okorocha eventually emerged the state governor, one would ordinarily have expected ilomuanya to be sober and have a rethink immediately, but that was not the case. Even when former Governor Ohakim was in court, Eze Ilomuanya continued with all his propaganda in favour of Ohakim. So, with his conducts, Owelle Okorocha was forced to dissolve the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers. The constitution and law establishing the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers permit this act of Governor Okorocha as the sitting governor of Imo State.
As at then, the man was still to remain as an Eze and Obi of Obinugwu Autonomous Community of Imo State. Surprisingly, Eze Ilomouanya relocated to Abuja and would not attend any meeting of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers. Rather, he went about causing a lot of problems. It got to the point Owelle could no longer stomach all he was doing; so, he had to depose him as an Eze. In his place, a new Eze was installed and given staff of office. Under the law, Owelle has the constitutional right ab initio. It was the Governor of Imo State that gave Eze Ilomuanya the staff of Office, which made him the Obi of Obinugwu. So, the Governor also has the right to withdraw such recognition any time he deems right.
Are you saying that Governor Okorocha took that action without due recognition of the existing Law No.6 of 2006, entitled the “Imo State Traditional Rulers and Chieftaincy Law,” which does not give him the kind of power he exercised?
If you so desire, I will get the amended law sent to you. The law you are referring to has been amended several times. You do not expect Okorocha to be operating with a valid Law. No, that is impossible. You see, what former Eze Ilomuanya and his people have been doing is to quote the part of that law that favours them. Let them give you the comprehensive law, and you will see that Governor Okorocha has acted within his powers as the Imo State Governor.
As we speak now, members of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers have passed a vote of no confidence and removed him as their chairman.
The Court of Appeal has given judgment asking Imo State Government to reinstate Eze Ilomuanya, not only as Obi of Obinugwu, but also as the Chairman of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers. The AGF has also advised that your Governor should obey the court ruling. Why has Governor Okorocha refused to respond to this judgment, considering the fact that we are in a democracy, where court pronouncements shouldn’t be ignored?
We are in Nigeria. We all know the people who have powers over issues affecting the traditional institutions and their rulers. It is the state local government council chairmen and state governors. With all due respect to the AGF as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, he has no right to intervene in this matter.
Let us situates this matter properly. By virtue of the tenure of that position as the Chairman of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Ilomanya’s tenure expired in 2013. At some point, the so-called Eze wrote the Imo State Government that all his entitlements be paid to him. I am aware that we have not yet paid him.
What about the payment in respect of his house that was vandalised by agents of Imo State government? Eze Ilomuanya went to court and the court awarded him N10m against Imo State Government. Why has he not been paid this money?
This is not correct. Please ask Eze Ilomuanya to show you the documents that awarded him that money. Or he should show you the picture of the house or the number of the so-called house that was vandalised by government agents, so that everyone can see. When some of our people greet you good morning, you need to go out and check whether or not it is truly morning.
So, What is the way out of this crisis?
With regards to the removal of Eze Ilomuanya, as far as I know, no court has ruled on that. Let us wait for court ruling on the matter. No court has said, ‘reinstate him as Eze.’ The matter, as far as we are concerned, is still in court. So, in view of this, he remains removed as Ohaneze. One fact that must not be lost is that Ilomuanya became Chairman of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers by virtue of the fact that he was an eze. He would not have become chairman, if he were not an Eze. So, removing him as an Eze automatically removes him as the chairman of that body. His tenure has long expired, so what is the issue in this case? The only thing he can demand now is the payment of his entitlements, while he was an Eze and Chairman of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers.
The Obiguwu Autonomous Community is saying they do not know the man newly installed in the place of Eze Ilomuanya. Why is the state government trying to push this down the throat of the people of this community? Will such not lead to a revolt?
I would simply ask you to ignore what Ilomuanya and his co-travellers are saying. In the first instance, the man, Eze Stanley Nwangwu now on the throne as the Eze of Obinugwu, is the right and proper man traditionally and otherwise to be on the throne. It was because Ilomuanya has more money than the man that he chased and ran him out of town and imposed himself as the Obi of Obinugwu. And though Nwangwu went to court, but Ilomuanya did not allow him get judgment in court. It was after his dethronement that the Governor sent people to go and bring the rightful man and installed him as the Obi of Obinugwu. The people of that Autonomous Community are happy today over this action.
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