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Anambra monarch sues Soludo, 4 others for N50m over withdrawal of his chieftaincy certificate

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By Chuks Eke

The traditional ruler of Umuona community in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra state, Igwe Humphrey Ejesieme has dragged Governor Chukwuma Soludo and four others to court claiming a sum of N50 million as punitive and aggravated damages against the 2nd to 5th defendants for misleading Soludo, the first defendant.

The 2nd to 5th defendants are Hon. Tony Collins Nwabunwanne, the state Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs; Chief Kenneth Okoli, President-General, Umuona Progressive Union, UPU; Engr. Anthony Muobike, Secretary-General, UPU and Chief Sunday Christopher Ikechukwu Ezeofor.

Specifically, the plaintiff, Igwe Ejesieme is demanding the N50 million punitive and aggravated damages from the 2nd to 5th defendants for misleading Governor Soludo, the 1st defendant into approving the withdrawal of Ejesieme’s certificate of recognition as the traditional ruler of Umuona.

In a statement of claim filed on his behalf at Aguata High Court Registry by his legal counsel, Chief Ikenna Egbuna SAN, the plaintiff is also seeking a declaration of the court that the selection of the 5th defendant, Ezeofor as the Igwe of Umuona is null and void and of no effect.

The plaintiff is also seeking an order of the court compelling the 1st defendant, Soludo to restore his Certificate of Recognition which was wrongly withdrawn by the state government, together with an injunction restraining the 1st defendant from granting a certificate of recognition to Ezeofor, the 5th defendant.

The plaintiff recalled that he was selected as the traditional ruler under the 1998 Constitution of Umuona community and presented to both the Aguata local and state governments which all recognized the choice of the community and then granted him a certificate of recognition, adding that a copy of the certificate of recognition granted him by former Governor Peter Obi in 2014 will be relied upon at the trial.

He contended that a letter from the 2nd defendant with reference No. MLGCCA/HC/2022/T/025/78 dated June 13, 2023 which contained the withdrawal of his chieftaincy certificate by the state government was made to mislead the people of Umuona and the general public, adding that his alleged removal did not follow due process and is therefore null and void.

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However, no date has been fixed for hearing of the civil suit but in a twist, the 5th defendant, Ezeofor who is currently having the chieftaincy certificate of the state government as the incumbent traditional ruler of Umuona, teamed up with the 3rd defendant, Chief Kenneth Okoli, the factional President-General of UPU with eight others and filed an application for the enforcement of their fundamental human rights, dignity of human person, personal liberty, fair hearing and freedom of movement.

The fundamental human rights suit No. AG/MISC.129/2023 was filed against Ejesieme, the plaintiff in the N50 million civil suit, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, the Assistant Inspector-General, AIG in charge of Zone 13, Ukpo, Anambra state and the state Commissioner of Police, CP.

The applicants are seeking an injunction restraining the 2nd to 4th respondents, IGP, AIG and the CP or their agents, servants, officers and privies from further threat to arresting, detaining, harassing, intimidating or coercing them in any form in respect of the matter.

The applicants are equally seeking an order of the court directing the respondents to pay them N50 million jointly and severally for violating their fundamental rights and any such further order (s) as the court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.

They further sought a declaration that the threat to arrest and their detention by the respondents is unconditional, null, void and above all a violation of their fundamental rights, adding that the actual invitation extended to them to appear in Abuja Force CID and threat to arrest them on their failure to appear is a violation of their fundamental rights to liberty over a matter pending at the High Court in South No. AG/109/22 between Nze Fabian Ezeofor vs the first respondent, Igwe Enesieme and two others.

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In a further twist, the police have arraigned tEjesieme before an Aguata Magistrate court sitting at Ekwulobia on a two-count charge of portraying himself as still the Igwe of Umuona and performing the traditional new yam (Iwa Ji) festival.

In the charge No. MAG/1C/2024, Commissioner of police Vs. Humphrey Enesieme, the police prosecutor, CSP A. A. Nwano stated that the accused person, Ejesieme, aged. 62 had between August 27 and December, 2023, at Umuona within the jurisdiction of the court, did intentionally held himself as as well as portray himself as the traditional ruler of Umuona when he knew that there had been a recognized traditional ruler in the person of HRH, Igwe. Ikechukwu Ezeofor who had certificate of recognition from Anambra state government.

The prosecution further alleged that Ejesieme had on the same date and venue, carried out Iwa Ji ceremony of Umuona community as traditional ruler when he knew that there had been a traditional ruler recognized by the state government in the person of Igwe Ezeofor who had the state government certificate of recognition.

The offences, according to the prosecution were contrary to Section 19 and 20 of Anambra state traditional ruler’s law, 2007.

When the case was mentioned, the defense counsel, Chief Ikenna Egbuna SAN, raised a preliminary objection, pointing to the fact that the two other cases relating to the Igweship problem at Umuona are already pending before various courts and as such all the cases should be harmonized as there would be no need reading the charges and taking plea since they are inter related.

However, the court turned down the request and insisted that charge must be read and plea taken before considering the harmonization request.

The charge was eventually read and Ejesieme pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of N300,000 with one surety within the jurisdiction of the court and who must produce a three-year tax receipt and three-month receipt iof EEDC electricity bills paid.

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