By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Supreme Court, yesterday, resolved the kingship dispute that has rocked the Ogwashi-Uku kingdom in Delta State for 13 years.
The apex court, in a unanimous judgement that was delivered by a five-man panel of justices, declared Chief Mike Nwaukoni as the validly selected and installed Iyasei (traditional Prime Minister) of Ogwashi-Uku kingdom.
Justice Sidi Bage who gave the lead judgment, held that an appeal that was lodged by three members of two royal families in the kingdom, to challenge Nwaukoni’s selection, lacked merit.
“The amended statement of claim was found to be defective. This appeal is hereby struck out. Parties are to bear their respective costs,” Justice Bage held.
Other members of the apex court panel who agreed that the appeal deserved to be struck out were Justices Dattijo Mohammed, Bayaang Akaas, Paul Galinje and Amina Augie.
Specifically, the appellants—Mr. Augustine Arueze, Okonkwo Iyase and Chief Colins Afuwah—had on behalf of the Umu-Uti family of Agidiase Quarters of Ogwashi-Uku, approached the Supreme Court, begging it to set-aside a judgement the Court of Appeal in Benin delivered on July 12, 2010, which upheld Nwaukoni’s installation as the 13th Iyasei of the kingdom.
They contended that the appellate court was wrong to have okayed the selection and installation of Nwaukoni who is not a member of two royal families from where all the past traditional Prime Ministers of the kingdom were selected. While praying the Supreme Court to allow the appeal, the appellants insisted that only Ugbekide of Chami Lineage and Umu Uti of Jogwa lineage of Agidiase, Ogwashi Uku of Aniocha South LGA Delta State, could produce an Iyasei.
They urged the apex court panel to overrule the Court of Appeal and reinstate the judgement of an Ogwashi-Uku High Court, which on March 20, 2008, faulted Nwaukoni’s selection by the council of elders known as the Obi, to head the kingdom.
The high court had granted reliefs in a suit the appellants filed in 2005 to stop Nwaukoni from assuming office as the Iyasei.
Meanwhile, Nwaukoni, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Chioma Okwuanyi, queried the competence of the appeal, even as he adduced sufficient evidence to prove that he was validly nominated to take over the Iyasei traditional stool.