June 18, 2015

40 royal fathers drag Okorocha to court

By Chidi Nkwopara & Chinonso Alozie

OWERRI – Tension is brewing across the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State, following the resolve of 40 traditional rulers to resist the attempt by Governor  Rochas  Okorocha  to  intimidate and suspend them for joining the former chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, HRH Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, to welcome former  President  Goodluck  Jonathan  to Imo State in March this year, when he (Jonathan) was still in office.

Eze Ilomuanya had, however, been restored to his position as Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers by the Supreme Court.

Governor Okorocha had through Eze  Samuel  Ohiri,  in contravention of several court judgments, set up a panel to investigate over 50 monarchs, accusing them of indulging in partisan politics, when  they participated in the reception of the sitting President, Dr. Goodluck  Jonathan,  during his official visit to Imo State.

Vanguard recalls that the state government had earlier suspended four monarchs, including the traditional ruler of Owerri, Eze Emmanuel Njemanze and went ahead to invite 50 others to face what it called “Fact Finding Panel”.

However, in a bid to assert their right and  avert  what they called ambush by Governor Okorocha’s administration, 40 monarchs have headed for  an  Owerri  High Court, accusing Governor  Okorocha  of surreptitiously witch-hunting and intimidating Imo  taditional rulers through the setting up of an illegitimate Council of Traditional Rulers headed by his stooge. 

They contended that the council headed by  Ohiri  was an unlawful and illegal body and thus, had no powers to function in any capacity, pointing out that even the purported Fact Finding Panel was itself an illegal  and unlawful entity.

They vowed to resist the governor’s intimidation tactics, insisting that enough was enough.

In an affidavit deposed by HRH  Eze  Donald  Nnabue  on behalf of 39 other monarchs in Suit  No: HOW/313/2015, the monarchs stated that over 400 traditional rulers in Imo State welcomed both former  President  Goodluck  Jonathan and  Muhammadu  Buhari  (now President) when they both visited the state in March, 2015.

They wondered why the state government now singled out about 50 of  them for vendetta using, “an illegal body headed by  Eze  Ohiri  which was constituted unlawfully in contravention of the extant provisions of Law No. 6 of 2006 (Imo State of Nigeria Traditional Rulers Autonomous Communities and Allied Matters Law)”

According to the monarchs, for the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers to  “effectually and validly perform any lawful act, it should be constituted in strict compliance with the provision of Section 2 (2) of Imo State of Nigeria Traditional Rulers,  Autonomous Communities and Allied Matters Law No. 6 of 2006 (as amended).

“The averred  that  27 members, all of who  wereappointed by the governor  make up the Council  instead of 54 members  which the Law mandatorily stipulated, positing that in view of the breach of the law establishing the  Council, “the Imo State Council of  Ndi-Eze  set up by Governor  Okorocha  is an illegal body having not been properly constituted as required by law and thus cannot function in the  stead of the valid Imo State Council of Ndi-Eze.”

They  insisted that the panel was a Kangaroo body which lacked the legal powers to invite any monarch to appear before it.

Consequently, the  aggrieved monarchs sought a declaration from the court that the “purported Imo State Council of  Ndi-Eze  as presently constituted by only 27 members appointed by Okorocha, being an illegal body, is null and void and  should  be dissolved  by the Court, likewise the  Fact Finding Panel  set up by the illegitimate  Council  and an order of perpetual injunction restraining  Okorocha  and other defendants from investiga- ting them, stopping their allowances and tampering with their  functions as  traditional rulers or withdrawing their Certifica tes ofRecognition/Staff of Office.”

Joined in the suit as defendants are Governor  Rochas  Okorocha, the Attorney General of Imo State, Imo State Council of  Ndi Eze,  Eze  Samuel  Ohiri,  Eze  Chidume  Okoro,  Eze  EdwinOrisakwe,  Eze  (Barr)  Chijioke  Okwara,  Eze  G.  Ejiogu,  Eze  Ben  Igwilo  and the Fact Finding Panel chaired by  Eze  Chidume  Okoro.

Meanwhile,  a mild drama of sorts played out at the Secretariat of Imo State Council of  Ndieze on All Seasons Hotel road, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, as the Court bailiff stormed the Secretariat to effect service of court summons on  Eze  Sam  Ohiri and members of the contentious Fact Finding Panel.

The matter comes up on Tuesday  June 23, 2015.