NIGERIA: Obong of Calabar Tussle Shifts to Supreme Court

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The battle for the stool of Obong of Calabar has shifted to the Supreme Court, as one of the contenders to the throne and former Minister of Finance in the late General Sani Abacha’s administration, Chief Anthony Ani, wants the apex court to have the final say on the tussle.

Five litigants including Ani are challenging the July 4 Appeal Court judgment, which nullified the selection of Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Out as the Obong of Calabar, ordered for a fresh selection process and cleared Otu to re-contest but barred Ani because he was yet to be capped an Etubom.

Counsel to Ani, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN), in a stay of execution filed, wants a halt to the execution of the judgment in the appeal No. CA/C/97A/2012, so that all the parties maintain status quo pending the determination of the appeal.

He submitted that if the Appeal Court  judgment is not put on hold “the appellants’ right of appeal against the said judgment, it would be infringed upon (and) if the appeal succeeds, it will create a situation of helplessness and make the judgment of the appellate court nugatory.”

Agi predicated the appeal on four grounds. First, that “the learned justices of the Court of Appeal misdirected themselves in law when they attempted to draw distinction between eligibility and qualification and consequently found that the sixth respondent (Otu) in the court below was of agnate decent thus reaching a perverse conclusion when they held and relied on exhibit 11 which was the genealogical chart tendered by the first respondent (Ani) as evidence of the agnate decent of the sixth respondent.

“Second, the counsel argued that the Court of Appeal judges misdirected themselves in law when they found and held that Otu was qualified to vie for the stool of the Obong of Calabar and be voted for at the time the selection of candidate for the stool was carried out and based on the 1970 Accord and “the evidence before the trial court remains that the sixth respondent (fourth respondent herein) is of cognate decent and not agnate decent remains incontroverted.”

On the third ground of appeal, Agi said the Appeal Court justices misdirected themselves in law when they held that “the first respondent was not qualified to vie for the position of the Obong of Calabar as he was not a capped Etubom (whereas) the appellant was invited by the kingmakers to appear for screening as candidate for the
stool of Obong of Calabar in spite of the provision of capping by the Chairman of the Etuboms Conclave.

Fourthly, he argued that the Court of Appeal judgment “is against the weight of evidence” and therefore sought “an order setting aside the finding as to the non-qualification of the appellant, an order setting aside the finding as to the qualification of the sixth respondent and affirming the findings and orders of the High Court as contained in its judgment delivered on January 1, 2012 by Justice Obojor Ogar.”

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