By Timothy Ekpo
The Akwa Ibom government has threatened to withdraw certificate of recognition from traditional rulers who engage in activities that would lead to a breach of peace in their domain and the state.
The deputy governor, Mr Moses Ekpo, stated this recently when he met with traditional rulers from Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo Local Government Area at Government House, Uyo.
Ekpo was reacting to the issue where the acting village head of Okopedi, Ete in Ikot Abasi Local Government, Chief Clement Rufus Udo, was alleged to have placed a traditional injunction on a parcel of land in Iwofe community in Eastern Obolo.
The deputy governor explained that no village or clan head has the power to institute an injunction on any land except on the directive of the paramount ruler who holds land in trust for the government that holds same facility in trust for God.
Ekpo frowned at the village head of Okopedi for taking laws into his hands by putting an injunction on the land at Iwofe community without due process of notifying the police, the council chairman and the paramount ruler of Ikot Abasi Local Government.
“How could you take action in your place and you don’t report to your paramount ruler? Any village head, any clan head that does not live for his people, but uses his position to breach the peace in his area, would have his certificate withdrawn by government,” the deputy governor warned.
The deputy governor directed the acting village head of Okopedi to go back and remove the injunction as such action was capable of breaching the existing peace between the people of Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo.
He noted that the action of the acting village head of Okopedi was illegal, saying government frowned at such misconduct that threatened the long lasting relationship between the two local government areas.
He warned traditional rulers against using their position to forment trouble in their domains on issues that ordinarily do not fall within their responsibility to handle.
The deputy governor further directed that work on the disputed land should be stopped to allow proper investigation to establish ownership, pointing out that under the present administration, government would not allow any community to forcefully take what does not belong to them.
He said injunctions were not meant to deprive the ownership to a property but to stay action capable of causing violence, adding that as soon as investigation was completed, the community would be allowed to take his property.
The deputy governor advised the people of Iwofe in Eastern Obolo and Okopedi in Ikot Abasi to remain calm and directed the paramount rulers of Ikot Abasi, HRM Udo Ntokobom and that of Eastern Obolo, Edidem Harry Etetor, to work out amicable ways of resolving the matter to ensure that the two communities live in peace.
In their responses, the paramount rulers of Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo commended the deputy governor in the way and manner he handled the problem which was never made known to them by their subjects.
Etetor said apart from the invitation from the Office of the Deputy Governor, no official report on the matter was made known to him by those who spearheaded the injunction and the Iwofe community.
He appealed to the deputy governor to come up with a seminar that would enable traditional rulers especially village heads in the state to be acquainted with their duties and responsibilities in their domains, stressing that if they were vested with proper knowledge of how the system works, there was no reason a village or clan head would take action without following due process.
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