Special Report

May 11, 2024

Why Benin dukes are in court with Oba

Oba of Benin

Oba of Benin

By Ozioruva Aliu, BENIN CITY

It is believed, in Benin Kingdom, that once the Oba ascends the throne, he sees everybody including his siblings as his subjects who are subjected to the same conditions like every other person in the kingdom.

However, one of the highlights of the suit instituted by some suspended enigie (dukes) by Oba Ewuare II was actually his uncle, Professor Gregory Akenzua, a younger brother of Oba Erediauwa.

The crux of the issue is that the suspended dukes are challenging the authority of the Oba to suspend them as they claim that even though they are usually appointed on the recommendation of the Oba, it takes the state executive council to confirm them and therefore they cannot be suspended by the Oba without recourse to the state executive council.

The enigie were suspended at various times in 2023 for what they tagged orchestrated allegations.

But the real reasons behind their suspension, it was gathered in some quarters, were because of their support of the state government’s policy that now pays the five percent allocation for the traditional institutions directly to the local government areas that make up the Benin Kingdom unlike the previous practice where the monies were paid to the Oba who then disbursed to the enigie in the seven local government areas that make up the Benin Kingdom.

The suit

The state government claims its actions were in line with the Chieftaincy Matters Law of 1979 under the then Bendel State (now Edo and delta states).

The suit came up for hearing on Thursday and it attracted hundreds of palace chiefs, priests and priestesses, members of the royal family and Benin sons and daughters in the high court premises situated along Sapele Road. Several other courts could not sit because of the atmosphere and the presence of the huge number of people present.

The two suspended enigie, Professor Gregory Akenzua and Chief Edomwonyi Ogiegbaen dragged the Oba and the state government to court as defendants in the suit marked B/250os/2023 where they also claimed that they enjoy recognition by the Edo State Government and that they were duly registered under Section 25(2) of the Traditional Rulers and Chieftaincy Law.

They also relied on Section 28 of the same Traditional Rulers and Chieftaincy Law to state that only the State Executive Council may sanction them if they were found wanting; noting that the Oba had no right to usurp the powers conferred by law on the State Executive Council.

The judge

When the suit came for hearing Thursday in court six, the presiding judge, Justice Peter Akhihiero admitted the Benin Traditional Council, BTC as a party in a suit to become the 3rd defendant after the State Government and Oba Ewuare II.

The ruling was in response to an application filed by the 1st Defendant’s Counsels, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN, Prof. Edoba Omoregie (SAN) and his team that the BTC should be joined in the suit.

Justice Akhihiero directed parties in the suit, Edo State Government represented by the State Attorney General and State Commissioner for Justice, Oba Ewuare II, Prof. Gregory Akenzua and Edomwonyi Ogiegbaen, who were both represented by their Counsels led by Dr. Osagie Obayuwana who had objected to the motion through the Counsel of Oba Ewuare II, to amend their relevant documents in the case to reflect the decision.

While other parties in the suit aligned with the 1st Defendant’s counsel that the BTC be joined, the Claimants through their Counsel, Dr Obayuwana prayed the Court not to list the BTC as a party in the suit and urged the Court to award cost against Oba of Benin in favour of the Claimants.

But, Justice  Akhihiero, turned down the prayers and held that “The race is not for the swift, or the battle for the strong.

”If they were bringing in the Traditional Council as necessary, I don’t see this as a problem since you people have brought the Oba to court. I don’t think I can shut down any party. Let them come in and file their processes,” he said, and adjourned hearing in the case to 15th July 2024.

Edo government denies involvement

The Edo State government denied its involvement in the suit through a statement by the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare.

He said in a statement that ”The case with suit no B/29005/2023 is between His Royal Highness Prof. Gregory Idurobo Akenzua, the Enogie of Evbo-Obanosa/Abudu and His Royal Highness Edomwonyi Iduozee Ogiegbaen, the Enogie of Egbaen-Siluko against Oba Ewuare II, the Oba of Benin and the State Government, who are defendants in the suit.

“It is sad and painful that the matter which is essentially among brothers has degenerated to the point of litigation.

“The government hereby appeals to all parties in the matter, being blood relatives, to work together and withdraw the matter from the court and begin a process of dialogue towards the amicable resolution of the issues in the interest of the sanctity of our most respected traditional institution.

”Government is also open to working with all parties for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.”

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