….. Anambra Governments maintains stand
As the tussle for the monarchical stool of Nawfia, a community in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, continues, allegedly deposed monarch, Igwe Chijioke Nwankwo, has insisted that he remains the monarch of the community, insisting that his rival, Igwe Dan Obelle, does not exist. This comes amid the state government’s insistence that Nawfia is without a traditional ruler as of now, pending the determination of subsisting court cases, report Jude Atupulazi and Ikeugonna Eleke.
According to the Anambra State Government which spoke through the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Hon TonyCollins Nwabunwanne, the subsisting court cases involve both Igwe Nwankwo and Igwe Obelle, and until their determination, no one between them could claim to be the monarch of the town.
According to the letter given to Fides by Nwabunwanne, following the suspension of Igwe Nwankwo and eleven other traditional rulers by the state government under Dr Willie Obiano, for going to Abuja to see former President Muhammadu Buhari without consultation, Nwankwo had filed a suit against the state government in Suit no: A/53/2021 before a High Court in Awka, challenging the legality of his suspension and subsequent withdrawal of his certificate of recognition as the monarch of Nawfia.
But while the matter was still in court, the state government issued a certificate of recognition to Igwe Dan Obelle; but after considering an application by Nwankwo to set aside the certificate of recognition given to Obelle, the court, via an interlocutory ruling, set aside the certificate of recognition issued to Igwe Obelle.
According to that document, Obelle, who was not party to the suit at the High Court, applied for leave as an interested party at the Appeal Court in Awka which was granted. However, there was no order for stay of execution of the earlier High Court ruling setting aside Igwe Obelle’s certificate of recognition.
The document stated that the matter at the High Court filed by Igwe Nwankwo is still pending at the High Court; just as the appeal filed by Igwe Obelle is also still pending at the Court of Appeal, with neither case not determined yet.
It is in the light of the above that the state government insists that it is appropriate for both parties to await the decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Thus, the legal implication today, Nwabunwanne explained, is that there is no traditional ruler in Nawfia as the High Court has not yet determined whether the withdrawal of the certificate of recognition of Nwankwo is valid or not.
He said that by this, the state government’s withdrawal of Nwankwo’s certificate is still subsisting.
Nwabunwanne said that conversely, the High Court order setting aside the certificate of Obelle is also subsisting until set aside by the Court of Appeal; or a stay of execution against the order is granted.
But Igwe Nwankwo who granted an interview to Fides in his palace said he did not know how anyone else could claim to be the Igwe, except himself.
His words, ‘My father died on February 15, 2000. Thereafter the whole cabinet sat together and the chairman of the cabinet stepped down and they made me the regent. On November 5, 2001, the whole town came together and said I was the Igwe. The local government chairman then presented me to the governor, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, and my certificate was given to me in November 15, 2002. From that time till 2020 when we went to Abuja with other monarchs, I had no problem as monarch.
‘As for the Abuja trip, let me say that I was the person Arthur Eze called about that Abuja trip. We went to Abuja for our five percent statutory stipend, which is embedded in the Anambra Traditional Rulers’ Law 2007, Section 34. We didn’t go to beg for any money; we went to get paid according to law. While in Abuja, we were suspended. 13 of us came back, and some went to beg the governor.
‘The reason I refused to go to beg the governor was because I felt I hadn’t done anything wrong, whether in law or morality. I went to Abuja on a mission and people went from my town to complain to the governor. So, I decided to go to court to fight my battle.
‘On 8 September 2020, I went to court and from that day till today, I have been the Igwe because I have always had one injunction or the other that has kept me as the Igwe. On March 1, 2021, we filed an interlocutory injunction, A/286M/2021. Before the court could hear the motion, they went and gave certificate, and you know it is a settled law that once a case is in court, you don’t preempt the court, and that is not arguable.’
Igwe Nwankwo said the certificate was hurriedly given to Igwe Obelle on 11 March, just six days before Obiano’s departure as governor, in violation of a court sitting.
‘We now filled another motion, A/405M/2022, to set aside that certificate and the court duly set it aside on June 21, 2022. Till this moment I’m talking to you, no higher or lower court has set that ruling aside. An appeal which Dan Obelle did is not stay of execution. I have been in court a lot to know this, and I have been in court in America. It is high time you warned some people because very soon I will pick up my sledge hammer, and I don’t care who is involved. If somebody anywhere writes what is wrong, I will file a form 48.
On the claims that he was only made a regent by the town and never a monarch, Nwankwo said, ‘Assuming they were right, since 20 years of being a monarch, why are they coming to challenge it now? They are already statute barred, without going into the case. You can ask any lawyer. They are just wasting my money and everybody’s time. They are already status barred. I just told you that Nawfia people made me the Igwe. I have this in video, and I don’t want to show anybody for now, because it is not a subject matter jurisdiction.
‘We are in court and what we are trying in court is whether the government of Obiano, subject to Anambra Traditional Rulers’ Law, Section 10 and 16, should have removed me. I know the law myself, I don’t have to talk to any lawyer. We are not even talking about whether anyone else is Igwe or not. What court is determining is the legality of my removal or not.
‘Obiano’s government suspended me, and pursuant to fundamental human rights 36. 1. Go and review it when you get home and see. It is explanatory; whether I’m right or wrong. There must be due process, somebody must be tried before he is convicted, whether crime or civil case. It is called due process and nobody did in the case of the suspended traditional rulers.
‘Section 16 of Anambra Traditional Rulers’ Law says that they must call a commission of enquiry, notwithstanding Section 10, and try you. If the commission of enquiry finds you guilty, they now send it to the state House of Assembly, to get two third before dethroning you. Was that followed?
‘After 20 years, you wake up from slumber and say you are conducting Igwe election. This town, Nawfia, made me Igwe by vote, and I have the video, but I won’t give anybody because that is not the subject matter. I can give it to you people to watch it, so that you see it for yourselves.
‘How could they have waited for 20 years if they think I was only made a regent and not Igwe? Even in civil matters, statute of limitation kicks in from eight to nine years.
‘Is it because I kept quiet? We know where they are going and how they are spending money. Sooner or later, I will let loose, and what I will say will be the truth and nothing but the truth.’
Speaking on the claim by his rival that he was being supported by the entire community, Nwankwo said: ‘Let me tell you; if you guys had been here on 15 September when I had my new yam festival, you will know who is popular. He is just buying people. For me, I am not buying anyone. I did not print invitation and this place was jam-packed with people. It is the so-called elites that are responsible for selling our land, which I stopped as Igwe. They are the people supporting him.
‘Go into the town and ask them who is the Igwe, you will know what they will tell you. This is a cabal. I want nothing from being Igwe. I made my money in the US and they will pay me from now till I die. I’m not extravagant, so I know what I’m looking for. What matters is that tomorrow, I will still defeat them. Let me tell you; there was no election for Igwe. What they committed was fraud and people are supposed to be in jail right now. On the 25th March, 2021, Anambra State Government, with Greg Obi as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, through a letter, told them not to hold any election for Igwe. I am in possession of the letter.
‘You know that my own, I don’t talk, but I keep documents and facts. Even the election they held, I have the video. I’m a trained investigator. Most of the things they’re telling you are lies. I have the videos in my possession, but I think it is not necessary in court because that is not what we are discussing in court. What the court is determining is whether my removal was lawful, and not whether Dan Obelle is Igwe. I’m still the Igwe and I will give you copies of the ruling of the court Judgement.
‘Government told them not to hold any Igwe election, and they went ahead and held election and two Igwes emerged. Did the government at any time write or monitor that election? How can the government give certificate without being presented to Njikoka as enshrined in Section 7 of Anambra Traditional Rulers’ Law? Even the local government chairman has to read the law and follow the steps.
‘I have kept quiet for too long. There is a process; once your town crowns you as Igwe, you become Igwe-elect, and then you go to the local government who in turn does the investigation and presents you to the governor. That is what the Anambra State Traditional Rulers’ Law, 2007, states in Section Seven. I have a copy here.
‘He is lying that everyone in Nawfia is supporting him. Let me enter my vehicle now and let’s go into the town and let’s know who the people recognize as their Igwe. The people are what matter to me. If the elites are supporting him, they are the people being used to syphon our money. This must stop.
‘I’m about to disgrace those so-called elites who indulge in illegal activities. I have the records. Let them be warned because I will soon start releasing information about them. I know what I will release about him and he will keep quiet.’
When confronted with the Anambra State Government’s position that none of them was recognized as the Igwe, Nwankwo said: ‘Government didn’t say that. Go and read that press release very well. He (Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters) rather said that he was aware that the matter was in court. What the court said was that status quo be maintained. The court even went further to explain what status quo means. What the court meant was that we should go back to where we were before 2020 when I was suspended. Read what the commissioner said very carefully, the commissioner cannot stop the court.
‘I didn’t commit any offence, you cannot remove somebody because he went to Abuja. There is no law stopping me from going to Abuja. The court has said what it said, and they are bound to obey it. As for the Nawfia Constitution he is talking about, it is a subject of litigation as I speak to you. I have opened up to you people. You know I usually don’t talk; I just wait for people in court, but I needed to explain this to you.
‘The court is not talking about whether the other man is Igwe or not. What the court is talking about is me and the Anambra State Government and the process of my removal; whether it was right or wrong. We are not talking about whether the other man is Igwe or not. He is not and the court is not talking about that.’