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Supreme Court sacks Obong of Calabar, orders fresh election

The Supreme Court of Nigeria has dethroned the Obong of Calabar, Édidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V after years of legal tussle.

But the judgment written by Justice Amina Augie and read by Justice Akomoye Agim upheld the judgment of the Appeal Court, Calabar and ordered for a fresh election which the deposed Obong is still qualified to contest and this will be the fourth time the Obong had to step down for another selection exercise.

That Etubom Anthony Ani, M.O.N 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 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.

Contrary to speculations, Etubom Ani had instituted the suit immediately after the Etuboms’ Conclave met and declared Etubom Abasi Otu as the Obong elect, not after he had been crowned the Obong of Calabar.

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High Court of Cross River state Judgement of Justice Obojor A. Ogar had sacked Abasi Otu as the Obong of Calabar on January 30, 2012 in favour of Etubom Anthony Ani and jettison the Appeal court judgement that was in favour of the deposed Obong.

However, the Obong and others challenged the High Court Judgement 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 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, 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 (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.”

The summary of the judgment made available to some newsmen in Calabar immediately after it was delivered on January 13, 2023, states 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 Etuboms were ushered in for an emergency meeting with a song that “till tomorrow Edidem Ekpo Okon will still win them till tomorrow”

This is the first time in the history of the throne that the apex court will dethrone an Obong.