May 29, 2024

Exclusive: How Money, Politics, Lust Led to The ‘Coup’ to Overthrow Oba Ewuare II

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Gov Obaseki flanked by suspended Enogie Prof Akenzua, Enogie Ogbaen and other dissenters

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By Igbinosun Osabuohien

The current legal challenges faced by the Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare II was well planned and perfectly executed to cause insurrection and dilute the authority of the revered Oba, over his refusal to let go of the control of Benin Artifacts.

Trouble started in 2022 during the period the fight ~between Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki and Oba Ewuare had picked to disturbing concern.

Letter from Edo State Attorney General to the Chairman National Assembly Petition Committee
Letter from Edo State Attorney General to the Chairman National Assembly Petition Committee
Letter from Edo State Attorney General to the Chairman National Assembly Petition Committee

So on the 11th November, 2022 Prof Gregory Akenzua along with 93 other Enigie, wrote a letter to Governor Obaseki to “…utilize his prerogative under the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law of Bendel State as applicable in Edo State, and as amended, to establish Traditional Councils in the 7 Local Govemment Areas that make up Edo South Senatorial District, as permitted by law.”

The Gazette that ceded Ownership of Benin Artifacts to Benin Palace, is at the centre of the current legal crisis between some Enigies and the palace

The main reason put forward by Prof Akenzua and others, in their request to Obaseki was the money met for the Benin Traditional Council under the control of Benin Palace.

They complained that the BTC gives them a paltry sum and pleaded with Obaseki to use his position to create an alternative parallel council for them.

The two Claimants agreed that the titles were conferred on them by the palace only in “pursuant to Section 25(2)of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law, even though the conferment of the tiles of Enogie on the 2nd Claimant and I, was done by the Oba of Benin, as a matter of law, it is the registration of the conferment by the appropriate agency of the Edo State Govermment that gave our titles validity.”

They went ahead to accuse Oba, the Chairman of the Benin Traditional Councll has been running the affairs of the BTC “as if he was a Sole Administrator.”

According to paragraph 15 of Prof Akenzua’s Affidavit in support of Originating Summons, signed on behalf of the 2nd Claimant, Edomwonyi lduozee Ogiegbaen, the suspended Enogie of Egbaen along Siluko, they both prayed that: “That all the monies allocated by the Edo State Government for administration of the affairs of the Benin Traditional Council, and stipends for registered Traditional Chiefs have not been distributed to the recipients which includes the 2nd Claimant and l.

The 1979 Edict that classified Enegies as ‘Traditional7 Chiefs

“That the domain that constitutes the dukedom over which the 2nd Claimant and I preside as Enigie, along with vitually all the dukedoms in rural Edo South Senatorial District, have been a sorry sight, with underdevelopment, lack of amenities, rural to urban migration and security challenges.”

Prof Akenzua went ahead to assure Obaseki that they contribute to the development of their various local government areas.

“That having taken a look at the statutory functions of Local Traditional Councils, we the Enigie in Edo South Senatorial District believe that we can contribute our quota to bring about needed improvements.”

They also told the court that: “On 11th November, 2022, the 2nd Claimant (Ogiegbean) and I (Akenzua) along with 93 other Enigie, wrote a letter to the Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki to utilize his prerogative under the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law of Bendel State as applicable in Edo State, and as amended, to establish Traditional Councils in the 7 Local Govemment Areas that make up Edo South Senatorial District, as permitted by law.

Letter requesting for Gov Obaseki’s assistance

The Claimants went on to explain that their action was seen by the Defendant (Oba) as a “treasonable ploy to divide and balkanize Benin Kingdom”, even before Obaseki could consider their request.

Midwest Herald investigation revealed that, Govenor Obaseki had initially hesitated to support the renegade chiefs as a bargain for the Benin Artifacts, which the Benin monarch flatly rejected.

Matters eventually hastened after the former President Muhammadu Buhari on March 28, 2023, Gazzeted the ownership and custody and management of Benin Artifacts to the Benin Palace.

In quick succession, the Edo State Ministry of Justice resurrected the request made by Prof Akenzua and co in November 2022 and fast tracked the bill for secret passage by the House of Assembly.

Added to this, the state government through the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, withheld the statutory allocation due to BTC, shortly after Buhari Gazzeted the Artifacts to Oba Ewuare II, until the parallel local government traditional council law was signed in 2023.

The funds were later shared by the Ministry of Local Government to the BTC and the new traditional heads of the 7 LGAs.

The sharing formula has since remained in place.

During the course of investigating this report, it was discovered by Midwest Herald that the law cited by Prof Akenzua and Ogiegbaen does not recognize Enigie as traditional ruler. Rather, they fall under the generic title of ‘Chiefs’.

The position of law was confirmed by the Claimants (Akenzua and Ogiegbaen) in their statement. They stated: “That the 2nd Claimant and l are hereditary chieftaincy title holders, whose tiles were not created by the present Oba of Benin…

“That while the title of Enogie of Egbaen, which title the 2nd Claimant presently occupies was created on 15th February, 1942, and registered as Number TC/OV/80/17 in the name of his father lduozee Izevbigie on the 6th of November, 1980, my title as Enogie of Evbo-Obanosa was created on 1st January, 1988 and registered on 3d of April 1990.

“That the tiles held by the 2nd Claimant and I are registered as belonging to ‘Traditional Chiefs’ under Part lll of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law (1979) as amended. My Registration Number is TC/OH/90/35. Attached hereto and marked Exhibit A is a Certiied True Copy of my Certiicate of Registration.”

The acceptance of the legal fact that both Prof Akenzua and Ogiegbaen are Chiefs and not ‘Traditional Rulers’, confirm the argument that Enegies are appointees of the Oba. As a matter of fact, Enigies are not recognised by the law pleaded by the Claimants as ‘Traditional Rulers’ but ‘Traditional Chiefs’.

Meanwhile, when different groups were demonstrating against the passage of the bill and urged Governor Obaseki not to sign the bill into law, and despite the protest and petitions, Obaseki gave his accent on August 23, 2023, to formerly establish the Edo State Local Government Traditional Council in Edo South.

The Attorney General of Edo State, Mr. Oluwole Uzzi confirmed this development in his letter to the National Assembly Petition Committee.

“I wish to respectfully point out also that it wil be almost impossible for me to present the Edo State Government’s position or response to the petition when the contents of the said Petition have not been drawn to our attention.

“Only the first or cover page of the Petition was attached to the summons and this does not seam to contain suficient information for the State Government to react comprehensively.”

Uzzi thereafter informed the National Assembly Petition Committee that in fact, their intervention came too late as Governor Obaseki has indeed Gazetted the law and the Enegies have settled into their new roles.

“We are also duty bound to further inform this Honourable Committee that the Govenor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obascki has since 9th August 2023 created Traditional Councils in each of the 7 Local Govemment Areas that constitute Edo South Scnatorial Zone, namely, Oredo, Orhionwmon, Uhunmwonde, Ikpoba-Okha, Egor, Ovia North-East, and Ovia South-West.

“These have operated without let or hindrance for more than 7 Months, alongside with the Benin Traditional Council and the Edo State Traditional Council, both of which have the revered Oba of Benin as permanent Chairman.

“The power of the Governor is therefore clear and unequivocally acting on the statutory authority duly donated to him by an established law of the Edo State House of Assembly.

“Nedless to add that the Traditional Councile have been established bave been functioning effectively and were welcomed and well received by the vast majority of the citizens and residents alike in the affected local govemment Areas, side by side with the Benin Traditional Council.

“There has been no breakdown of law and order or serious threat of any breach of the peace arising there from.

“The establishmemt was not intended to, nor does it in any way balkanize or divide the Benin Kingdom as alleged.

“In view of the foregoing, we humbly urge this Committee to dismiss this petition for lacking in merit and for want of jurisdiction tonentertain it as it is beyond its merit.

The Edo State Attorney General went ahead to plead with the National Assembly members to send the petitioners back to Benin City.

Oba Ewuare II

“The Petitioners should be well advised to retum home and work with the constituted authorities to ensure peace and order and refrain from saying or doing anything that may constinute a threat or breach of the pcace.” Uzzi wrote.

The summary of Prof Akenzua and Ogiegbaen’s claim is that they are not answerable to the Oba; that they were suspended because they requested for new traditional councils in Edo South; that their suspension was not gazetted by the state government; and that they were not given fair hearing before being suspended.

They only included the Attorney General of the State just to give the impression that they are also challenging government.

This fact is as a result that, throughout their claim, they did not seek any order against the state government.

They true position is that they had no basis for their suit, but to act a role, or at best, work from question to answer.

First, they are appointees of the Oba. By the powers possessed under customary law by the Oba which is affirmed by delegated authority expressly vested on the Oba, the Oba can suspend any ‘Traditional Chief, over which he has prescribed authority.

This is expressly stated in the Delegation of Power of 1979 Edict.

All Enigie in Edo South are ‘Traditional Chiefs’ within the meaning of that term or title in the Traditional Rulers and Chief Law, 1979.

The law does not place any restriction in the power of the Oba to suspend ‘Traditional Chiefs’ under him or gave the state government power to suspend or sack them.

Consequently, the entire suit was calculated to undermine and irritate the Benin Monarchy and Traditional Institution with a view to bring it to disrepute and if possible cause a revolt that was possible to overthrow the institution.

It is just another phase in the determination of Gov Obaseki to get his pound of flesh from the Oba after the latter correctly made it impossible for Gov Obaseki to gain control and ownership of the stolen Benin Artefacts.

The latest event revealed that Obaseki, has initiated a “peace-building process to resolve the issue between His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolopkolo, Oba Ewuare II, the Oba of Benin, and some suspended Enigie.

The troubled governor was sighted at the residence of Prof Akenzua earlier today where he met with somevthe renegade Enegies, obviously to faction a soft-landing for himself and throw the protesting Chiefs under the bus.

Obaseki was quoted to have said that the meeting was “aimed at understanding the issues at stake with a view to brokering peace and ensuring reconciliation of the aggrieved parties.”

He added that the move was intended to “facilitate the withdrawal of the existing court case so as to promote peace in Edo South.”

It is however left to be seen how Obaseki that is part and parcel of the crisis and had gone ahead to create a parallel traditional council for Edo South can midwife a settlement that will be acceptable to Edo people.

Will Obaseki disassemble the council he has created? Will he be able to prevail on Oba Ewuare II to allow balkanization of his kingdom? Only time will tell.

Read Also: Breaking: Enigies Drag Obaseki to Court Over Creation of Local Government Traditional Councils

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