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Supreme Court removes Obong of Calabar from power
After years of legal wrangling, the Supreme Court deposed Édidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V as the Obong of Calabar on Friday.
The court confirmed the decision of the Appeal Court, Calabar, in the ruling authored by Justice Amina Augie and read by Justice Akomaye Agim, and it mandated a new election.
The deposed Obong is still eligible to run for office, and this will be the fourth time he has been forced to withdraw for a selection process.
That Etubom Anthony Ani and others, in a lawsuit brought by his lead attorney, Mr. Joe Agi(SAN), sued Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu and others in their capacities as members of the Etuborns’ Traditional Council for abandoning the screening procedure of the Western Calabar under the then Chairman, Etubom Abasi-Otu, now the Obong of Calabar, that had screened and selected Etubom An
Instead of waiting until he had been formally installed as the Obong of Calabar, Etubom Ani had brought the lawsuit as soon as the Etuboms’ Conclave convened and named Etubom Abasi Otu as the Obong-elect.
In a ruling issued by Justice Obojor A. Ogar of the High Court of Cross River State on January 30, 2012, Abasi Otu was removed as the Obong of Calabar in favor of Etubom Anthony Ani, overturning the decision of the Appeal Court that had favored the ousted Obong.
However, the Obong and others appealed the High Court decision to the Appeal Court in Calabar, where they lost again, and the court ordered a new election.
Justice Garba Lawal, who was the Lead Judge at the time and is now a Justice of the Supreme Court, issued the following ruling on June 4, 2013:
“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 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, ordered 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.
The court ordered it “to conduct 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.”
The summary of the judgment made available to newsmen in Calabar immediately after it was delivered on January 13, 2023, states that fresh election will be held in accordance with the 2002 constitution of the Palace, in line with equity and actual justice.
At private residence of the Obong at Adiabo, some of the Etuboms who gathered there in for an emergency meeting sang a song that “till tomorrow Edidem Ekpo Okon will still win them till tomorrow”.
This is the first time in the history of the throne that the apex court will dethrone an Obong.