FeaturesLife & StyleSupreme Court Dethrones Obong of Calabar

Supreme Court Dethrones Obong of Calabar

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By Adesina Soyooye

For the first time in history, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, has dethroned the Obong of Calabar.

Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V, was dethroned on Friday, January 13, 2023.

The Apex Court ordered a new selection process.

He was enthroned to the revered and very high profile throne on April 6, 2008.

The battle to dethrone him started almost immediately, and has lasted for 15 years. Four times, he had been removed  by lower Courts but was back to office.

In the judgement read by the Honourable Justice Akomoye Agim, on Friday, the deposed Obong was cleared to take part again in a new selection process. The judgement was written by the Honourable Justice Amina Augie.

The deposed Obong has had a long disagreement with some Traditional Council members over the processes which led to his installation.

The apex court upheld the judgment of the Appeal Court, Calabar, and ordered a fresh election.

The apex Court ordered the kingmakers and Traditional Rulers’ Council to convoke a fresh selection process to produce another Obong of Calabar in accordance with the 2002 constitution of the Palace.

The suit which removed the Obong was instituted by a former Minister of Finance under late Head of State  General Sani Abacha’s  regime, Etubom Anthony Ani, and others in Suit No. HC/102/2008, filed by his lead counsel, Mr. Joe Agi, SAN.

They had sued him  and others in their capacities as members of the Etuboms’ Traditional Council for not adhering to the screening process of the Western Calabar.

On January 30, 2012, a Cross River High Court, in a judgement by  Justice Obojor A. Ogar, first sacked Abasi Otu as the Obong of Calabar in favour of Etubom Anthony Ani.

The sacked Obong and others challenged the High Court judgement at the Appeal Court, Calabar, and was again sacked by the court on June 4, 2023, and a fresh election ordered.

The lead Judge, Justice Garba Lawal, now a Justice of the Supreme Court, ordered that:

“That the 1st 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 Etubom 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.”

Meanwhile, there is jubilation in Calabar, even at the Palace of the dethroned Obong, since he was given a leeway to take part in a new process. The fear among his supporters was that he could be barred from the process.

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