CHIEFS’ ACTING APPOINTMENTS AND THE RULE OF LAW.

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By Otse Otokpa

When I read the post by an anonymous Agila man on Facebook that His Royal Majesty, Agaba-Idu Elias Ikoyi Obekpa, Och’Idoma IV, had cancelled the Acting Appointment of District/Ward Heads, carried out penultimate week in Ado Local Government Area, by His Royal Highness, Engr. George Aboh Edeh, Oche Enone (First Class Chief of Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo Intermediate Area Traditional Council), I took it as the normal unverified stories that is the lot of social media.
I was taken aback to come across a copy of the letter from the office of Och’Idoma confirming the story.
With utmost respect to the revered Och’Idoma institution, Agaba-Idu has no powers to interfere with any appointment made in compliance with the provisions of Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Council law of 2016.
The appointment of Acting District/Ward Heads made by His Royal Highness, Engr. George Aboh Edeh, Oche Enone, in Ado LGA, was in accordance with the provisions of the law. Section 21(6)(a) of the law provides that: “When the position of the District/Ward Head becomes vacant, the First Class Chief shall appoint an Acting District/Ward Head from among the Kindred/Clan Heads in the District Area.”
In addition to this, HRM, Agaba-Idu Och’Idoma, himself, in a Traditional Council Meeting that he convened in his palace, formally declared the traditional stools that were vacant in his domain. He followed the declaration of the vacant stools up with a letter to that effect to the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Makurdi, to which the Bureau replied in a letter with reference number: BLGCA/5/LHC/18/T. 11/99, dated 29th July, 2020.
The Bureau complied with his request and drew a timetable for the exercise. Unfortunately, His Majesty, Och’Idoma, wrote to the office that he was not ready. He later informed the Bureau of his own timetable and directed that the selection for “Beaded District, Ward and Clan Heads” must take place in his palace, while all others can take place anywhere. The Bureau replied him that, not just that relevant law has no provision for beaded District, Ward or Clan Head, but that it provides in Section 21(6)(bii) that the selection exercise should hold at the headquarter of relevant areas.
That was the point at which HRH, Engr. George Edeh, Oche Enone, has to make the appointments.
The exercise had been carried out successfully in Okpokwu Local Government Area. The affected Acting Chiefs were paid their salary for the month of May. Why should that in Ado Local Government Area be different? What personal interest is anybody in a vantage position trying to pursue, in defiance to the subsisting law?
Special Adviser in the Bureau should be mindful of some of his staff whose personal interests may override their official responsibilities. This can embarrass the State in an event of litigation. The activities of some of them in handling Chieftaincy matters, particularly in Ado Local Government Area, leave much to be desired.
All Local Government Council Chairmen in the State should emulate Hon. Chairperson of Okpokwu, Mrs. Amina Audu, and endeavour to seek clarification from the Bureau, where necessary, in handling chieftaincy matters.
It is time that a Legal Officer be provided to the Och’Idoma office for relevant advice. If such is already in place then the person must be professional in discharging the responsibility.
The Och’Idoma institution must be protected. The rule of law must be preserved.

FROM:
OTSE OTOKPA

17/06/2021.

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