The Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar Thursday nullified the selection and proclamation of Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu as theObong of Calabar and ordered for another selection process to be conducted.
Otu was announced as the Obong of Calabar on March 31, 2008.
The judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Garba, who was assisted by Justices Uzo Ndukwe-Anyawu and Onyekachi Otisi, upheld an earlier judgment of the lower court that due process was not followed and that the selection of the incumbent was null and void.
The judgment was sequel to an appeal filed by Etubom Essien Ekpenyony Efiok, Etubom Okon Asuquo and Etubom Micah Archibongappealing against the lower court’s judgment.
A Calabar High Court presided over by Justice Obojor Ogar had delivered a judgment restraining Otu from participating in the selection process and also from parading himself as the Obong ofCalabar until proper election was done, in suit, HC/102/2008 filed by the first respondent, Etubom Anthony Ani, a former minister of finance on January 30, 2012.
The lower court also declared the process that brought the Obongto the throne as null and void and restrained Otu from participating in any selection for that purpose. It also restrained the EtubomTraditional Council from excluding Ani and Mbiabo Ikoneto from any election or selection of an Obong.
The Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday that “the selection and proclamation of the 6th respondent as the Obong-elect of Calabarby the Etubom Conclave of the Palace of the Obong on March 31, 2008 is hereby set aside.”
“The conclave is hereby ordered to conduct another process of selecting a new Obong of Calabar in which all qualified candidates including the 6th respondent will be given the opportunity to participate,” the court also ruled.
The court stressed that the process of selecting a new Obong of Calabar should be done in strict compliance with the rules of natural justice.
It held that Ani’s right to fair hearing was breached during the selection process conducted by the appellants.
In reaction to the judgment, Ani said he would assess its full meaning and that he might go to the Supreme Court if he is not satisfied. He however expressed satisfaction with the aspect of the ruling declaring the Obong’s seat vacant.
“I was not in court and my lawyer just briefed me. So far, I see the ruling as 50-50 affair. I will look at it, see how it affects me and maybe appeal the judgment. However, one thing we are sure of for now is that there is no Obong of Calabar because the judgment today has nullified the entire processes,” he said.
Counsel to Out, A.A Archi said that the judgment was “a vindication that capping is a fundamental requirement for a candidate to be eligible to contest for selection, election or appointment to theObong of Calabar throne.”
“The judgment also upheld our view that a learned trial judge, with all due respect, sought to perpetually alter the standing andrecognised customs of Efik people which would have affected the lives and people of the community. It is also a vindication that the6th respondent was eligible to be selected and appointed as Obongalthough the court nullified the processes,” he said.