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.