HEARING in the Otaru of Auchi, Edo State cheftaincy dispute was again stalled on Monday, following inability of the court bailiff to provide evidence that he had served the Idao (Momoh) Ruling House with documents relating to issues for determination and settlement from the claimants to defendants.
The trial judge had adjourned the case on January 16 to February 24 and 25 for definite hearing following the inability of the state government to file its processes consequential to the amended writ of summons by the claimants.
On Monday’s sitting, one of the plaintiffs, Mallam Mamudu Ikharo, had mounted the dock, ready to give evidence in the suit when Justice Dan Okungbowa of the Benin High Court adjourned hearing in the suit to March 18 and 21 following vehement protest by Mr. Daudu Momodu, counsel to the defendants.
Momodu told the court that he was not served the crucial documents, insisting that evidence from the bailiff needed to be shown to clarify whether his clients actually received the documents or not.
Counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Dan Okoh (SAN), who appeared alongside prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), however, countered, noting that he was ready to go on with the case as the defendants were duly served.
Taken aback by the J protest, justice Okungbowa ruled that the documents to be tendered were crucial to the case as they touch the heart of the case no matter how little they might be and consequently adjourned the case for hearing.
The suit by Ikharo and two other ruling houses is seeking for the enforcement of the report of the 1971 Odjiugo Commission of Inquiry into the Auchi Traditional Chieftaincy.
Two other ruling families, Omonofua/Igechi/Omomo and Abikhiele who were originally defendants had opted to be joined as co-claimants against the Idao (Momoh) who are co-defendants.
In suit No: B/329/2018 between the claimant: Mamudu Ikharo, Yahaya Ikharo against the Attorney-General of Edo State, permanent secretary, Ministry of Local Government Affairs; His Royal Majesty, Alhaji H.A. Momoh, the Otaru of Auchi. they are seeking a declaration that the selection, presentation and appointment and/or production of Otaru of Auchi is rotational, and each sub-ruling house of Ikelebe Ruling House of Auchi must take its turn in accordance with the customs and tradition of Auchi as enshrined in Section 3(2) and 14 (1) (c) of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law 1979.
The plaintiffs are also seeking a declaration that the Odjiugo Commission of Inquiry into the Otaru of Auchi Chieftaincy title as regards the number and identity of the ruling house and the order of rotation represents the true traditional, correct and customary position of Ikelebe title under Auchi Native Law and Custom.
The Odjiugo Report of 1971 had recommended on page 22-23 that the Otaruship should rotate between the two in the following order: Idao sub-ruling house and Ikharo sub-ruling house.
The report had also on page 23 recommended that since the Idao sub-ruling house had produced the last Otaru of Auchi as at 1979 when Otaru A.K. Momoh died, “it is now the turn of the Ikharo sub-ruling house to present a candidate to fill the current vacancy.”