In what seems the first of its kind in history, the Supreme Court, on Friday, 13 January, 2023, dethroned the Obong of Calabar, Édidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V.
The action comes after years of legal tussle.
The deposed monarch has been at loggerheads with some members of the traditional council over the processes leading to his installation.
In the judgment written by Justice Amina Augie and read by Justice Akomaye Agim, the Apex Court upheld the judgment of the Appeal Court, Calabar, and ordered for a fresh election.
The deposed Obong is still qualified to contest and this will be the fourth time he had to step down for selection exercise.
The Supreme Court ordered the kingmakers and Traditional Rulers’ Council to immediately convoke a fresh selection process to produce another Obong of Calabar in accordance with the 2002 constitution of the Palace.
Former Minister of Finance under late Gen Sani Abacha regime, Etubom Anthony Ani, and others in Suit No. HC/102/2008, filed by his lead counsel, Mr. Joe Agi, SAN, had sued Otu and others in their capacities as members of the Etuboms’ Traditional Council for jettisoning the screening process of the Western Calabar.
High Court of Cross River state judgement of Justice Obojor A. Ogar had sacked Abasi Otu as the Obong of Calabar on January 30, 2012 in favour of Etubom Anthony Ani and jettisoned the Appeal Court’s judgement that was in favour of the deposed Obong.
However, the Obong and others challenged the High Court judgement at the Appeal Court, Calabar, and was again sacked by the court and a fresh election ordered.
Delivering judgment on June 4, 2013, the Lead Judge then, Justice Garba Lawal, who is now a Justice of the Supreme Court, ordered that:
“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 and 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, and the deposed Obong is still qualified to participate in the selection processes and may still be voted for.
This is the first time in the history of the throne that the Apex Court will dethrone an Obong.