Tuesday, November 15, 2016
ENUGU— Palpable fear and tension enveloped parts of Enugu state at the weekend following the protest that erupted from Igga Community, Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state over the alleged imposition of a traditional ruler on the community by the state government.
Chief Herbert Ukuta was recently issued a certificate of recognition and staff of office as the traditional ruler of Igga community, by the Enugu state Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters, Mr. Fide Ani, about 20 years ago after the demise of the last traditional ruler of the community.
However, hundreds of members of the community comprising of elderly men, women and youths at the weekend besieged the Enugu state government house in protest over the recognition of Igwe Ukuta by the state government, insisting that the process of picking Ukuta defiled the constitution of their community. But when contacted by our sources, Igwe Ukuta dismissed the protesters as “impostors,” saying their mission was illegal and unknown to the community.
The protesters, who displayed placards with various inscriptions such as “No to imposition of Mr. Herbert Ukuta as Igwe of Igga community,” “On Enugu State laws on Igwes we stand,” “Our case is in court, this injustice will not stand,” “We will resist Ukuta with the last drop of blood in us,” amongst others, threatened to withdraw their support from Governor Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi should he fail to relieve his Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters, Ani, who hails from the same council, of his duties.
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In a strong-worded protest letter made available to Biafra Writers which they handed over to Governor Ugwuanyi and signed by 17 leaders of the community, they stated that the traditional ruler stool in Igga community had been in contention since 1995, following the death of His Highness F .C Ukuta.
According to the protest letter, the constitution clearly provided for rotation of the traditional rulership stool among the four villages making up the community starting with Asadu, through Akwulo, Ogboche and ending with Ejulo, alleging that it was the turn of Asadu village to produce the next traditional ruler since the last occupant of the stool was from Ogboche village.
The letter also revealed that the intrigues, manipulations and failed attempts to get the Ukuta family abide by the constitution of the community led to the suit filed at the Enugu State Federal High Court, Nsukka Division, adding that while the suit had not been decided and disposed of, they were shocked to see the Commissioner of Chieftaincy Matters issue certificate of recognition and staff of office to Mr. Herbert Ukuta.
Part of the protest letter read; “We view this as an action antithetical to the rule of law and a culpable neglect of due process. We appeal to His Excellency to kindly reverse the approval and direct the Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters to withdraw the instruments of authority issued to Mr. Herbert Ukuta in the interest of peace, fairplay and the rule of law.
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“The Igga community has a valid and authentic constitution, adopted and signed into law in 2001 by the eldest persons and representatives of the four villages in the community as well as the Secretary of the Council of elders, Secretary and President General of the Igga Progressive Union, among other stakeholders.
“There has not been any selection or election of any Igwe by Igga people and the recognised President General of Igga community did not at any time present Mr. Herbert Ukuta to the Ministry of Chieftaincy Matters for recognition as provided for in the relevant state laws. Mr Herbert Ukuta’s recognition is an act of fraud and impunity by the Ukuta family on the unsuspecting good people of Igga community,” it added.
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However, Governor Ugwuanyi, who received the protesters appealed for calm, promising that he would look into their complaints with a view to finding a lasting solution to it.
He stated that his government was interested in peace and progress of communities in the state, stressing that development had always eluded any community without peace and urged the leaders to ensure that the situation did not degenerate.
By Chukwuemeka Chimerue
Published By Chijindu Benjamin Ukah
For Biafra Writers