The Arts

June 24, 2024

Ozah’s new book documenting pre-colonial Ukwuani justice admin system

Ozah’s new book documenting pre-colonial Ukwuani justice admin system

By Prisca Sam-Duru

The book, ‘Ukwuani Justice Administration System’ is Ozah Michael Ozah’s literary addition to his numerous works documenting histories and traditions of the Ukwuani people.

Published by Proudly Ukwuani Ventures, Amazing Grace House, Ogun State, the book documents every aspect of Ukwuani justice administration- administration of justice, police system, criminal law regime, the penal regime, the civil and criminal procedure, the court system and system of enforcement, existing prior to colonial intrusion.

In 58 pages arranged under seven chapters, the book examines the ancient traditional justice system of the Ukwuani nation alongside modern influences, especially those occasioned by colonialism.

Ozah, a lawyer of Onicha-Ukwuani extraction is renowned not just for his legal profession, but also, as a prolific writer who has authored many books that flaunt the rich cultural backgrounds and heritages of the Ukwuani people. His passion for the preservation of Ukwuani history, language, culture and arts, continue to reverberate in his many publications.

Considering that the Ukwuani justice system is based on morality, the author posits that “The rich jurisprudence of justice distribution of the Ukwuani reveals that her legal system is by no means inferior to any European system and is indicative that African societies had developed their indigenous jurisprudence long before colonialism came to them.”

He posits further in the preface that, “While modern Nigerian laws like the constitution may have rendered much of the Ukwuani justice administration system null, void and of no effect, there is no denying the fact that the latter was more efficient than the former in maintaining social order. The fewer number and less severe crimes of the pre-colonial era attest to this claim.”

 ‘Justice Administration in Ukwuani’ opens the discussion. This opening chapter discusses the traditional system of administration of justice which ensured social order, peace and stability. The author maintains in this chapter one, that the justice administration system of Ukwuani society guaranteed justice and liberty as well as secured lives and properties in traditional Ukwuani society before the colonists entered with their western standards.

Ozah records further how the colonial intrusion into Ukwuani land with the accompanying imposition of English law, dealt a devastating blow on Ukwuani traditional jurisprudence, thereby relegating her rich cultural values.

Chapter four of the book subtitled, ‘The Penal Regime’, discusses different penalties for those who broke the laws of the land. Worthy to note that it is only the Okpala-uku, the Onotu-uku in council and the general assembly of the village that have power to impose severe penalties such as banishment, death penalty, ostracism and  enslavement.

This chapter goes further to discuss diverse penal options; Death penalty, banishment, fine and restitution, enslavement, cleansing, public shaming, public beating etc.

In Chapter five, the author pens down procedure in tackling a civil or criminal case. He describes the process adopted in instituting an action, hearing a case or giving a verdict as well as enforcement, as criminal or civil procedure. And the council of elders comprising the Okpal-uku, Okpalas of the other component villages, and the Ndeokwa, met every four or eight days to handle judicial matters.

For conflict resolution as documented in chapter six, Ozah lists some informal institutions that make up the court system. They include, the Family (Umu), the Kindred (Imusu), Women’s Groups (Umu ada and Ndiom Onusa). And for formal institutions, Age groups, Special societies (Out-emenjo, Ageko & Oshikonko), Society of titled men (Inotu), the Community’s Umuada, The Village Council (Okwa), The Village Assembly, The Clan Council, and Deities and Oracles, make the list.

The author did justice to his calling as a legal practitioner in ‘Ukwuani Justice Administration System’ as evident in his comprehensive research findings and conclusions. And readers will find the book important for preservation of disappearing histories.