There is palpable fear and anxiety in Calabar South local government area of Cross River state over the emergence of another Paramount Ruler-elect and Munene (King) of the Efuts, HRH Muri Maurice Okon Eyo, even as the government-recognized Paramount Ruler and Munene , HRM Prof Itam Hogan Itam still holds sway.
Our reporter gathered that the council area and by extension the Efut kingdom has not known peace since 2009 when the late Paramount Ruler and Munene, Ita Okokon Ebuka Ebuka, joined his ancestors.
Muri Efiong Okokon Mbukpa and Muri Prof Itam Hogan Itam had slugged it out with attendant litigations which mostly were decided in favour of Mbukpa, but in 2018, the State government officially recognized Prof Itam as the Munene(King of the Efut Kingdom) and Paramount Ruler of Calabar South and accordingly issued to him the staff of office.
Muri Maurice Eyo was believed to have played a significant role to ensure Prof Itam emerged victorious in the long drawn supremacy battle, but surprisingly, Muri Eyo decided to pitch tent with Mbukpa few months after Prof Itam got government’s nod.
However, after government had issued certificate and staff of office to Prof Itam, the faction loyal to Muri Efiong Mbukpa cried foul. Strengthened by the surprised return of Muri Maurice Eyo to the fold, the group swore never to recognize Prof Itam as Efut Monarch and Paramount Ruler, arguing that government erred in its decision over the contentious issues at stake.
In a press statement made available to Journalists by Efut Abua/Efut Ekondo Combined Council, dated 4th May 2020 and signed by Muri Maurice Eyo (addressed as Munene/Paramount Ruler-elect), Ndabu Godwin Bassey (addressed as Secretary General Efut Combined Assembly) Muri Joseph Okon Edem (addressed as Chairman) and eleven others, the group gave reasons why it would not recognize Prof Itam Hogan as their Munene and Paramount Ruler.
The group alleged that “Professor Itam has not satisfied the conditionalities of bearing the name ‘Munene’, in that he has not been capped by a sitting Munene in a general meeting; he is not an mgbe title holder. It is an undisputed truth that Prof Itam was not capped, now the big question is; which cap has been putting on as acclaimed Munene? The case of his disqualification is pending in court in Suit No. HC/304.19; HC.210/11 and HC.111/12 (consolidated).”
On the issue of paramount rulership, the group also alleged that “Prof Itam Hogan Itam is not a member of Calabar South Traditional Rulers Council, he is not a village/clan head in Calabar South, therefore he has nothing to do with Calabar South. On the 29th day of September, 2017, Prof Itam presided over Odukpani Traditional Rulers Council meeting as the Chairman but when he eventually contested the Paramount rulership, he failed.
“He then rushed back to contest that of Calabar South and was erroneously issued certificate of recognition as Muri Munene and Paramount Ruler of Calabar South. A court of competent jurisdiction cancelled the said certificate on the 15th day of March 2019. He had filed an appeal and should wait for the outcome of the appeal.”
The group further posited that Cross River state laws/edicts as regard the traditional institution also apply to Calabar South, adding that in line with set laws which mandate council areas to select one of their own to be the president of the traditional council, “on the 27th day of June 2012, Muri Maurice Okon Eyo emerged victorious, and was pronounced President of Calabar South Traditional Rulers Council.”
Throwing light on the above, the Secretary General of Efut Combined Assembly, Ndabu Godwin Bassey said Etubom Nyong Efiom Okon and others contested the position with Muri Maurice Okon, and that every contestant conceded and congratulated Muri Eyo after the event.
“The election was witnessed by the Chairman of Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council, the representative of the then Special Adviser on Chieftaincy Affairs, Surv Arop, and many other dignitaries.
“All those who attended the event, including then Chairman of Calabar South, Hon Ekeng Henshaw, congratulated Muri Eyo after he emerged victorious. As is done in other local government areas, President of the Traditional Rulers Council in a local government becomes the Paramount Ruler. Prof Itam cannot be a member of Odukpani Traditional Rulers Council and then become Paramount Ruler of Calabar South. It is never done,” Ndabu Bassey submitted.
On the alleged suspension of Ndabu Godwin Bassey and others by another group of Efut Abua/Efut Ekondo Combined Council, as published by Nigerian Chronicle of Friday, May 1, 2020, the statement described the said group as ‘fake.’
According to the statement, “the constitutional right of Efut Abua/Efut Ekondo Combined Council (otherwise known as Efut Combined Council) is rested on the Muri Munene (President), Chairman and Secretary General of the Combined Council,” adding that council members have lifetime tenure.