By Jude Atupulazi
At long last, the eleven year legal tussle between Umueze (plaintiff) and Agbelu (defendant) finally ended on Monday, December 21, 2020, when an Aguata High Court presided over by Justice B.A. Ogbuli, gave judgement in favour of Agbelu Village, thus ending the crisis over the headship of the community between Agbelu and Umueze Villages in Akpo, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.
The court also awarded N200, 000 cost against Umueze, the plaintiff.
Agbelu, Fides gathered, is the eldest Village in Akpo, with all the past traditional rulers coming from Agbelu, until the demise of the last one, HRH, Igwe B.O. Umeuzuegbu, when Akpo Town decided to rotate the Igweship stool.
Agbelu, in order to relinquish the stool for rotation, demanded among other things, that an Ancestral Home be built in Agbelu Village as a monument to show generations yet unborn that Agbelu was the eldest village from where the rotation started.
The umbrella body, Akpo Development Association, agreed to the demand and wrote Agbelu Village to present a site for erecting the monument which they changed its name to Central Palace in their letter to Agbelu.
However, Umueze then began to claim that she was the eldest village in Akpo and therefore, the Ancestral Home should be built on her land. But Agbelu Village continued pressing that the monument be erected before a new Igwe would be coronated.
Umueze then sued Agbelu Village in 2009, claiming that she was the eldest village before Agbelu and Uhuala allegedly connived and usurped the headship from her in favour of Agbelu.
But the court judgement of December 21, recognised Agbelu as the eldest village, putting to rest, any other claim to headship by other villages.
It upheld Chief Sebastian Okpala (Obi of Akpo) as the first Paramount ruler of Akpo, who after his demise, was replaced by HRH Ben Umeuzuegbu (from Agbelu) who was coronated the Igwe Nnamoshimiri 1 of Akpo.
The court ruled that after his demise, Uhuala Village (the 2nd village in order of seniority) produced the next Igwe. Umueze supported the coronation and received titles from the Igwe, as well as one of them serving as the palace secretary, without agitating for the position they were claiming.
On Umueze’s claim to have been the eldest village, the court discovered that Umueze currently occupied the 4th position in Akpo.
The court relied on the 1991 Akpo Constitution tendered by Agbelu which recognizes Agbelu as the eldest village in Akpo.
The court also relied on the outing brochure of Ifedioramma Age Grade, Akpo, which listed the order of seniority in Akpo, with Agbelu being number one.
When contacted on their next line of action, Ichie Ernest Ozue, a plaintiff on the case, said he had nothing to say as it was not a personal matter.
‘The community will take a decision on the matter when they are ready. I can only advise. It is the community to say that, so I will advise when we come back for Christmas, Ozue said.