22nd September, 2012
There is furore in Cross River state , in Nigeria’s South South following the dethronement of the paramount Ruler of Efuts in Calabar South Local Government Area of the state. The king deposed is Muri Munene Effiong Mbukpa and in his place, government claimed it has selected Professor Itam Hogan Itam, was approved by the state government.
But in a swift reaction, Muri Munene Mbukpa said that he remains the ruler and the selection of Professor Itam a nullity, not in sync with the tradition of the Efut land. He was not the only one holding on to this view: the Efut Combined Assembly claimed that by the tradition of the Efut, it was the assembly that had the right to conduct any selection of any Muri Munene.
According to the Assembly, there is no vacancy in the first place for anybody to contemplate filling any position as Muri Munene.
The Secretary of the Assembly, Mr Ndabo Godwin Bassey, explained that the embattled Muri Munene Effiong Mbukpa had been on the throne for about four years now and duly recognised by Governor Liyel Imoke.
He claimed that even when the governor visited the palace during his electioneering, he commended the Munene for maintaining the peace in this domain.
Bassey said that Mbukpa had performed all the traditional rites to mount the throne.
He said that by the tradition of the Efut, whoever performed the burial rites of the late monarch automatically succeeds the deceased. According to him, such rites have been “done many years ago except otherwise somebody wants to exhume the corpse’’.
“The only people who are qualified traditionally to vote or be voted for in the purported selection were the three Muris that did not come, the other five are not qualified. The two other persons there are challenging their suspension by the late Muri Munene in court and the court has pronounced that they cannot partake in selection.
“To start with, there is no vacancy there. It is the duty of the Efuts Combined Assembly to conduct selection where there is a vacancy. It is also the conclave of qualified accredited Muris of the ancestral clans that select Munene, this one was conducted by government. There has never been any place in the world where government conducts the selection of the traditional ruler.”
The Cross River State Government had, in a letter dated 18 September with the title, “Filling of the vacant stool of Muri Munene of the Efuts, signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. John Eyikwaje, directed that the purported vacant position of the Muri Munene be filled.
The letter which was addressed to the embattled monarch and seven other contestants directed that a new Muri Munene be selected forthwith.
“Please be informed that His Excellency, the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke has given approval for the filling of the vacant stool of Muri Munene of the Efuts in Calabar South Local Government Area.”
The selection traditionally should be conducted at the palace of the Muri Munene but it was gathered that it did not take place there as the palace had been locked up following the attack on Mbukpa by people suspected to be area boys.
The alleged filling of the “vacant stool’’ took place at the Calabar South Council secretariat instead of the palace and was supervised by Mr Charles Obo, the Secretary of Chieftaincy Affairs, Calabar South Local government area.
Others were the Special Adviser to the Governor and the Chairman of Calabar South, Mr. Ekeng Henshaw.
In his acceptance, Itam thanked the state government for undertaking what he described as thorough investigation before giving a go ahead for the selection.
Commenting on the exercise, the Attorney-General of the State and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Attah Ochinke said that the selection did not violate any court’s order.
According to him, no particular order of the court to the best of his knowledge was flouted.
Ochinke said because certain parties were in litigation, did not mean that the community should not go on, and did not also mean that the community should be in chaos.
The Attorney-General said that the selection process of Muri Munene was not organised by the government as it has its own procedure.
“What I can be specific about is that the government has not recognised any Muri Munene because there is a dispute. It is the recognition of government and certification that makes one a Muri Munene,’’ Ochinke said.