Supreme Court dethrones Obong Of Calabar, orders fresh election
Calabar, the Cross River State capital, yesterday, was gripped with palpable shock, as the Supreme Court of Nigeria dethroned the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V, after 15 years of legal tussle.
However, the Supreme Court judgment written by Justice Amina Ahgid and read by Justice Akomoye Agim, yesterday, upheld the judgment of the Appeal Court, Calabar, and ordered for a fresh election, which the deposed Obong is still qualified to contest. This would the fourth time he had to step down for another election exercise.
That Etubom Anthony Ani and others in Suit No. HC/102/2008, filed by his lead counsel, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN), sued Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu and others in their capacities as members of the Etuboms’ 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.
High Court of Cross River State judgment of Justice Obojor A. Ogar had sacked Abasi-Otu as the Obong of Calabar on January 30, 2012 in favour of Anthony Ani and jettisoned the Appeal Court judgment that was in favour of the deposed Obong.
However, the Obong and others challenged the High Court judgment at the Appeal Court, Calabar and was sacked and a fresh election ordered.
Delivering judgment on June 4, 2013, the Lead Judge then, Justice Garba Lawal, who is now a Justice of the Supreme Court, ordered that “the first respondent, Etubom Ani, who admittedly was not 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, was not traditionally qualified and eligible to vote and be voted for as the Obong of Calabar under Exhibit 1/20.
“That the first appellant, 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”, hence the Appeal Court set aside the selection process that produced Ani as candidate and also set aside the March 31 proclamation of Etubom Abasi-Otu as Obong ordered by 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 and it “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 summary of the judgment made available to some newsmen in Calabar, immediately after it was delivered on January 13, 2023, stated that “fresh election will be held in accordance with the 2002 constitution of the palace, in line with equity and actual justice.”
At the palace of the Obong in his private residence at Adiabo, some of the Etubom (Heads of Houses) were ushered in for an emergency meeting with a song that “till tomorrow, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu will still win them till tomorrow”
The Palace of the Obong, yesterday, was however in festive mode on after hearing the judgment of the Supreme Court, which “qualifies the deposed Obong for a fresh nomination process as ordered. ”
The palace is confident of his return as the Obong.
At a briefing at the private residence and Palace of the Obong, the Chairman of Etubom traditional council in the Palace, Etubom Bassey Okor Bassey Duke, said that they were yet to get full brief of the apex court verdict but “so far so good, and we are confident that Obong of Calabar will remain and peace will continually prevail in the kingdom”