By Nsan Ndoma-Neji, Calabar

The tussle over who is the authentic Obong of Calabar has continued to gain momentum as factional Etubom Traditional Rulers Council from Palace of the Obong of Calabar have again ran to court asking for an order to declare former Finance Minister during the reign of late Nigeria military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Etubom Anthony Ani, as the authentic Obong of Calabar and Treaty King of Efik kingdom.

The agitation is about a year after the Supreme Court of Nigeria ordered for fresh election and selection of the Obong of Calabar.

The stool has been under dispute for over fifteen years, untill the Supreme Court on Friday, January 13, 2023 ordered for a fresh election to select a new Obong.

In a judgement written by Justice Amina Ahgid and read by Justice Akomoye Agim, the apex court upheld the judgement of the Appeal Court, Calabar, sacking Ekpo Abasi Otu and ordered for a fresh election in accordance with the 2002 constitution of the palace, taking into consideration equity and actual justice.
And on January 13, the Etubom Conclave of Efik kingdom again re-selected and proclaimed His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V as the Obong.

Not satisfied with the selection processes, a faction of kingmakers, who referred to themselves as the ‘legitimate’ and loyal to Etubom Anthony Ani, had sought a redress in court seeking for a partial injunction restraining Abasi Otu from parading himself as the Obong of Calabar.

In suit No.HC/278/2023, dated December 12, 2023, with Etuboms Essien Ekpenyong Efiok, Okon Asuquo and Mocha Archibong, as claimants and Etuboms Abasi Otu, Edem Offiong Effiwat and Edem Ita Essien Ededem, government of Cross River State and Attorney General of Cross River State as defendants, sought a declaration that “Etubom Ani has emerged as the winner in the election conducted by Etubom Council of the Obong of Calabar palace on May 22, 2023 and therefore that he, and not Etubom Abasi Otu, is entitled to be conferred with the Obong of Calabar title.

The claimants counsel, Eric Ifere, Esq, of Klearly Legal and Partners, further sought “an order directing the government of Cross River State to issue certificate of recognition to Etubom Ani as the Obong of Calabar.

The claimants further sought for “A declaration that the election or selection of Etubom Abasi Otu as the Obong by the factional Etubom Traditional Council conclave, which does not conform with with the provisions of the Etubom Traditional Council 2002 constitution and Supreme Court judgment of January 13, 2023 is defective, null and void.

“A declaration that the purported appointment and recognition of the candidature of the Etubom Abasi Otu as the Obong-elect by the second to the fifth defendants is irregular, illogical, uncustomary, invalid, null and void and of no effect whatsoever

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants by themselves or through their servants, agents, or privies or otherwise howsoever from taking any steps or actions about or in furtherance of the purported appointment of Abasi Otu as the Obong Elect.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining Abasi Otu from further presenting or parading himself or holding out himself or allowing himself to be a held out as the Obong-elect and from exercising any right or performing any functions ascribed to an Obong-elect.”

But in a counter claim, filed by the counsel to first, second and third defendants/respondents (Etuboms Otu, Effiwat and Ededem, Mrs Nella Andem-Ewa Rabana, SAN, and dated March 5, 2024, “denied each and every allegations of the facts contained in the plaintiff’s statement and claim as if each were set out traverseriatim.”

The defendants maintained that “the first claimant, Etubom Essien Ekpenyong Efiok, was then an Etubom from the Nsa Efiom Ekpo clan, Western Calabar and was not the chairman of Etuboms Council at all times material to this selection,” adding that “he ceased to be chairman with the demise of the then Obong, His Eminence Elijah Nta Henshaw, sometime in February 2008 and the emergence (coronation and proclamation) of the next Obong of Calabar, His Eminence Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V.”

The defendants’ argument is that “Abasi Otu could not have remained as chairman being an Etubom and eligible contestant from Western Calabar, the royal house/bloc from where the new Obong would eventually emerge,” explaining that “the current and subsisting chairman of the Etuboms Council is Etubom Bob Bassey Duke of central Calabar as the constitution of Etuboms Traditional Councils requires as the Obong and chairman of ETC cannot come from the same bloc as to ensure rotation.

“The order of the Court of Appeal was complied with as Ekpo Abasi Otu emerged unanimously and was proclaimed the Obong of Calabar through due process.”

They added,”His Eminence Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi V was selected in compliance with Supreme and Appeal Court judgments of January 13, 2023 and July 4, 2013 respectively, just as they complied with the free, fair, credible and lawful selection and election processes which led to the emergence and further reemergence of Abasi Ekpo Okon as Obong of Calabar.”

They further argued that there is nothing like “legitimate” or “factional ETC as at the time of reselection exercise.

The matter is being presided over by Hon. Justice Elias O. Abua and the case has been adjourned to Thursday, March 28,2024.


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