Deposed Anambra monarch sues Soludo, demands N50m damages

Chukwuma Soludo

The deposed traditional ruler of Umuona community in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, Igwe Humphrey Ejesieme, has dragged the Anambra State governor, Chukwuma Soludo and four others to court over the withdrawal of his “Igweship” certificate.

Ejesieme is also claiming a sum of N50m as “punitive and aggravated damages” against the four others, regarded as the second to fifth defendants for misleading the first defendant, Soludo.

The second to fifth defendants are the state Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Tony Collins Nwabunwanne; President-General, Umuona Progressive Union, Chief Kenneth Okoli; Secretary-General, UPU, Anthony Muobike; and the current monarch, Chief Sunday Ezeofor.

Specifically, the plaintiff, Ejesieme, is demanding the sum of N50m as punitive and aggravated damages from the second to fifth defendants for allegedly misleading Soludo, the first defendant, into approving the withdrawal of his certificate of recognition as the traditional ruler of Umuona.

In a statement of claim filed on his behalf at the Aguata High Court Registry by his counsel, Chief Ikenna Egbuna SAN, on Thursday, the plaintiff (Ejesieme) is also seeking a declaration of the court that the selection of the fifth defendant, Ezeofor, as the current traditional ruler of Umuona is null and void and of no effect.

The plaintiff is also seeking an order of the court compelling the first defendant, Soludo, to restore his Certificate of Recognition which he claimed was wrongly withdrawn by the state government, together with an injunction restraining the first defendant from granting the same certificate to Ezeofor, the fifth defendant.

The plaintiff recalled that he was selected as the traditional ruler under the 1998 Constitution of Umuona community and presented to both the state government and Aguata LGA which all recognised the choice of the community and then granted him a certificate of recognition, adding that a copy of the certificate granted him by former Governor Peter Obi in 2014 would be relied upon at the trial.

He contended that a letter from the second defendant with reference No. MLGCCA/HC/2022/T/025/78 dated June 13, 2023 which contained the withdrawal of his chieftaincy certificate by the state government was made to mislead the people of Umuona and the general public, adding that his removal did not follow due process and is therefore null and void.

However, no date has been fixed for hearing of the civil suit but in a twist, the fifth defendant, Ezeofor, who is currently having the chieftaincy certificate of the state government as the incumbent traditional ruler of Umuona, in collaboration with the third defendant, the factional President-General of UPU, Kenneth Okoli, with eight others have filed an application for the enforcement of their fundamental human rights, dignity of human person, personal liberty, fair hearing and freedom of movement.

The fundamental human rights suit No. AG/MISC.129/2023 was filed against Ejesieme, the plaintiff in the N50m civil suit, the Inspector-General of Police, the Assistant Inspector-General in charge of Zone 13, Ukpo, Anambra State and the state Commissioner of Police.

The applicants are seeking an injunction restraining the second to fourth respondents, IGP, AIG and the CP or their agents, servants, officers and privies from further threat to arresting, detaining, harassing, intimidating or coercing them in any form in respect of the matter.

The applicants are equally seeking an order of the court directing the respondents to pay them N50m jointly and severally for violating their fundamental rights and any such further order(s) as the court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.

They further sought a declaration that the threat to arrest and their detention by the respondents is unconditional, null, void and above all a violation of their fundamental rights, adding that the actual invitation extended to them to appear in Abuja Force CID and threat to arrest them on their failure to appear is a violation of their fundamental rights to liberty over a matter pending at the High Court in South No. AG/109/22 between Nze Fabian Ezeofor vs the first respondent, Igwe Ejesieme and two others.

In a further twist, the police have arraigned Ejesieme before an Aguata Magistrate court sitting at Ekwulobia on a two-count charge of portraying himself as still the Igwe of Umuona and performing the traditional New Yam festival.

In charge No. MAG/1C/2024, Commissioner of Police Vs. Humphrey Ejesieme, the police prosecutor, CSP A.A. Nwano, stated that the accused person, Ejesieme, aged 62, had between August 27 and December, 2023, at Umuona within the jurisdiction of the court, did intentionally held himself as well as portrayed himself as the traditional ruler of Umuona when he knew that there had been a recognised traditional ruler in the person of HRH Igwe Ikechukwu Ezeofor, who had certificate of recognition from Anambra State government.

The prosecution further alleged that Ejesieme had on the same date and venue, carried out New Yam festival ceremony of Umuona community as traditional ruler when he knew that there had been a traditional ruler recognised by the state government in the person of Igwe Ezeofor who had the state government certificate of recognition.

The offences, according to the prosecution, were contrary to Section 19 and 20 of Anambra State Traditional Rulers’ Law, 2007.

When the case was mentioned, the defence counsel, Ikenna Egbuna SAN, raised a preliminary objection, pointing to the fact that the two other cases relating to the Igweship problem at Umuona are already pending before various courts and as such there would be no need reading the charges and taking plea since they are inter-related.

However, the court turned down the request and insisted that the charge must be read and a plea taken before considering the harmonisation request.

The charge was eventually read and Ejesieme pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of N300, 000 with one surety within the jurisdiction of the court and who must produce a three-year tax receipt and three-month receipt of EEDC electricity bills paid.