Ini Billie, Uyo
The Akwa Ibom State Government has refused to interfere in the ongoing traditional rulers’ crisis, saying it would remain neutral.
The government who urged the Royal Fathers to sort out their differences as it was awaiting their decisions on the crisis, however, frowned at the provocative statements, threats, and attacks on officials of government.
In a release signed by the Commissioner for Information, Mr Ini Ememobong and made available to journalists on Monday in Uyo following a protest on the recent amendment of The Traditional Rulers Law CAP 155, it urged all parties to desist from the use of provocative words and actions.
On September 14, 2023, the Deputy Leader of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr Otobong Bob, had presented a Bill seeking to amend the Traditional rulers Law CAP 155 Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2022 (as amended).
The bill, which was committed to the Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs was later subjected to public hearing with the observation that: “The amendment of the Traditional Rulers Law, Cap 155 Laws of Akwa Ibom State 2022 will; Place the heads of our traditional institutions in equal rank with other reputable Chiefs in the country; Dignify and sustain the integrity of traditional institutions in Akwa Ibom State.
“Will give a class and distinct identity to the Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers in the state. That all the chiefs were in acceptance of the Bill; however, the opinion of the Annang and Oro Nation is that at the exit of the President General, the office should be rotated amongst the three (3) ethnic groups for the sake of peaceful co-existence. That the Chairmanship of Traditional Rulers Council should be rotational annually”.
The committee headed by Rt Hon Mfon Idung Chairman, House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and member representing Etim Ekpo/Ika State Constituency in a report presented to the House held that: “The Tenure of the President-General shall be for life and on his demise, he shall be succeeded by the Vice President I while the Vice President II becomes the Vice President I in rotational system among the major 3 ethnic groups in the state”.
“The Vice President I and II shall be the highest-ranking chiefs from the other two larger ethnic groups in the state other than that of the President-General of the Council”.
Unfortunately, the amendment did not augur well with the Royal Fathers of Annang and Oro ethnic groups leading to a protest rejecting the Bill.
Speaking on behalf of the Annang and Oro ethnic group respectively, Paramount Ruler of Etim Ekpo, Prof Amanam Udo and his Urue-Offong Oruko counterpart, HRM Edidem Umanawo, described the bill as discriminatory and insulting, and called for its withdrawal.
Giving further insight on the matter, the state government explained, “In September 2021, the House of Assembly passed a law creating the Akwa Ibom State Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers, which fittingly made the Oku Ibom Ibibio the President.
“In May 2023, their Royal Majesties, in a meeting attended by all of them, with the immediate past governor and the incumbent governor, agreed without any dissension, to all the contents of the current law, which strangely is now the subject of the protest.
“The bill sent to the House of Assembly for the amendment of the already existing law, was an exact reflection of the final agreement of the Paramount Rulers at the meeting of May 2023.
“The provisions of the law as passed by the House of Assembly are not in any way strange, unenforceable, or discriminative. Similar provisions are currently also extant in many, if not all the states of the federation, including our mother state, Cross River.
“The state government, being responsive and responsible, has heard the wordings of the protest and also being perceptive, is aware of the political underpinnings thereto; assures the protesters that their opposition is noted and advises them to use only peaceful and legal means in search of an amicable resolution on this issue.
“The peace of our state is paramount and the government led by His Excellency, Pastor Umo Eno, will not abandon this responsibility for any reason.
“We respectfully urge our royal fathers to dialogue among themselves in their council, within the shortest possible time, reach a decision on the matter, and communicate the same to the state government. The government maintains its longstanding disposition of non-interference in traditional matters. “All citizens are assured that this matter, like others in the past, will be peacefully resolved,” Ememobong stated.