The Supreme Court has dethroned the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, and has ordered the kingmakers and Traditional Rulers’ Council to convoke a fresh selection process to produce Otu’s replacement.
This was according to a judgement delivered by Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba of the Supreme Court on Friday, January 13, 2023.
The court held that the fresh selection should be held in accordance with the 2002 constitution of the Palace.
The judgment, which climaxed 15 years of legal tussles, was written by Justice Amina Ahgid and read by Justice Akomoye Agim of the apex court.
It upheld the earlier judgment of the Appeal Court, Calabar. This will be the fourth time the Obong will be removed for another selection exercise.
In Suit No. HC/102/2008, filed by lead counsel Joe Agi, SAN, on behalf of former Minister of Finance, Anthony Ani and others in their capacities as members of the Etuboms’ Traditional Council, Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu and others were sued for jettisoning the screening process of the Western Calabar.
Earlier, the High Court of Cross River State Judgement of Justice Obojor A. Ogar had sacked Abasi Otu as the Obong of Calabar on January 30, 2012, in favour of Etubom Anthony Ani.
However, the Obong and others challenged the High Court Judgement at the Appeal Court, Calabar. Delivering judgment on June 4, 2013, the then lead judge, Justice Garba Lawal who is now a justice of the Supreme Court, ordered that “the 1st Respondent (Etubom Ani) who admittedly was not capped/inducted into the Etuboms’ Council of the Palace of the Obong by the Obong at the time of the selection process of the Obong of Calabar, was not traditionally qualified and eligible to vote and be voted for as the Obong of Calabar under Exhibit 1/20.
He held that “the 1st Appellant (Abasi Otu) was traditionally qualified and eligible to vote and be voted for as the Obong of Calabar under Exhibit 1/20 at the time of the selection process.”.
Hence, the Appeal Court had set aside the selection process that produced Etubom Ani as candidate and also set aside the March 31 proclamation of Etubom Abasi Otu as Obong by the Etuboms’ Conclave of the Palace of the Obong of Calabar, whose mandate it is under Article 5(a) (ii) (iv) of Exhibit 1/20, to do so and mandated the “conduct [of] another process of selecting a new Obong of Calabar, in accordance with the provisions of Exhibit 1/20 and in strict compliance with the rules of natural justice.”