Home News Efut Throne Tussle: Combined Assembly Rejects Prof Itam’s Recognition, Says Case in...

Efut Throne Tussle: Combined Assembly Rejects Prof Itam’s Recognition, Says Case in Appeal Court

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By Magnus Effiong

Despite the recognition of Prof Itam Hogan Itam as Munene and Paramount Ruler of the Efut by the Cross River state government as contained in its press release dated February 29, 2024, the Efut Combined Assembly, the apex decision making body of the Efut people, has again rejected the Professor.

The Combined Assembly said the succession case involving Prof Itam was pending at the Appeal Court in Suit No.CA/C/46/2023 where Appeal and Stay of Execution had already been entered, and that the succession matter, which “came up on the 21st of February, 2024, was judiciously adjourned to 15th April, 2024,” submitting ” Government has no right whatsoever in the selection of the Muri Munene of the Efuts.”

Recall that the succession tussle had witnessed plethora of court cases and physical fights since 2009 when the last occupant of the throne, Munene Ita Okokon, joined his ancestors.

Few years ago, the Ben Ayade’s administration had given the Staff of Office to Professor Itam as Munene of Efuts and Paramount Ruler of Calabar South but the same government later deposed him over what was believed to be on political reasons. This however, caused the Professor to approach the court for redress.

Few days after Prof Itam was deposed, Muri Maurice Okon Eyo, Clan Head of Akwa Ikot Ekpe Clan, was presented to the Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council and inducted into the Council as Munene of the Efuts.

But, in a press statement signed by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Ogbeche, and dated February 29, 2024, Gov Otu directed the immediate reinstatement of Prof. Itam, explaining that the “decision is based on the ruling of the High Court of Cross River State in Suit No. HC/MSC/154/2022,” which reportedly ordered the reinstatement of the Professor.

However, the Efut Combined Assembly, which has equally obtained many court judgements in its favour and against the Professor, is crying foul over the Governor’s order.

Their position is contained in a press statement made available to our reporter and signed by twelve Muris of the Efut clans, some of who are: HRH Muri Edet Asuquo Okon, HRH Eyo Effiong Okon, HRH Muri Abraham Mkpa, HRH Muri Ekpe Efiong Efiok, HRH Archibong Ika, HRH Muri Bassey Eyamba, HRH Muri Akabom Edet, HRH Muri Ekpenyong Okon, HRH B. B. Ekpenyong, HRH Ndabu Godwin Bassey (Secretary-General, ECA) amongst others.

In the release, the Efut Combined Assembly said the “Court Judgment in Suit No. HC/MSC/154/2022, which ordered the re-instatement of Prof. Itam Hogan Itam as the Village Head of Obufa Obio Ukem, Clan Head of Efut Ukem Clan, Odukpani L.G.A, Muri Munene of the Efuts and Paramount Ruler of the Calabar South LGA, is in Appeal Court in Suit No.CA/C/46/2023, where Appeal and stay of execution was properly entered.”

According to the Combined Assembly, “the Press Release of 29th February, 2024 (government’s release), clearly contravenes the said Appeal and Stay of Execution and should, as a matter of urgency, be reversed in the interest of justice, even as someone else has been issued with certificate of recognition as Village/Clan Head of Efut Ukem, Odukpani L.G.A.”

The body argued that “Efuts, the Efiks and the Quas have a common traditional/customary affinity in that without capping, one cannot ascend the throne of the forefathers,” adding “Prof Itam has never been selected by Efut Combined Assembly nor capped by a sitting Muri Munene and therefore cannot ascend the throne of Muri Munene of the Efuts.

“It is worthy to note that this matter is being challenged in Suit No. HC/304/2010, HC/210/2011, HC/111/2012, (Consolidated) and tagged HC/111/2012 still pending before justice Benedict Ayade of the Calabar High Court. The matter came up on the 21st of February, 2024 and was judiciously adjourned to 15th April, 2024.

“This is a clear indication that the matter affecting the Muneneship of Professor Itam Hogan Itam is still pending in court. Government has no right whatsoever in the selection of the Muri Munene of the Efuts.”

The Assembly submitted further that the government’s order “constitutes imposition of Muri Munene on the Efuts,” adding “Suit No. HC/111/2012 should be duly determined before any other action.”

It submitted that “In the interest of peace, justice and fair play, the government of Cross River State should re-visit its position on this matter and call for interrogation of parties for proper enlightenment.”

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