Otaru stool: Litigation stalled over govt’s failure to file processes

LEGAL fireworks in Auchi, Edo State chieftaincy dispute were stalled following the inability of the state government to file its process consequential to the amended writ of summons by the claimants.

The suit by the Ikharo and two other ruling houses is seeking for the enforcement of the report of the 1971 Odjiugo Commission of Enquiry into the Auchi Traditional Chieftaincy.

Justice  Dan Okungbowa of Benin High Court adjourned the case last weekend to February 24 and 25 for definite hearing when counsel for the plaintiff, Mr. Dan Okoh (SAN), informed the court of the inability by the state government to file its processes.

Shocked by the revelation, Justice Okungbowa insisted that the case must continue and promptly adjourned the suit after conferring with counsels to both parties.

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, the claimants: Mamudu Ikharo, Yahaya Ikharo versus the Attorney General, Edo State; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government Affairs; His Royal Majesty, Alhaji H.A. Momoh, the Otaru of Auchi, 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 custom 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 Enquiry into the Otaru of Auchi Chieftaincy Title as regards the number and identities of the ruling houses and the order of rotation, represents the true traditional, correct and customary position of Ikelebe title under Auchi Native Law and Customs.

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 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.”

The plaintiffs lamented: “Despite the recommendation, the then military governor of Mid-West State, Brigadier  Samuel Ogbemudia (retd) issued a letter to Alhaji A.G. Momoh from Idao sub-ruling house to the surprise of many and dissatisfaction from the Ikharo sub-ruling house.”

Going down memory lane, they explained that the Otaru of Auchi traditional institution started with Ikelebe Osimhe’s ascension to the throne in the 19th Century, noting that before Momoh 1, the throne was rotational among the sub-ruling houses within the ruling house.

They said: “However, since the death of Otaru Momoh Idao, there has been a ploy by the Momoh family to monopolise the throne, to the exclusion of Ikharo sub-ruling house and other families within the Idao sub-ruling house.”

The defendants said that when Ikharo died in 1919, Momoh Idao who had been understudying him was generally accepted as an easy choice to rule as Otaru after his uncle’s death.

The Momohs however countered in their statement of defence by their counsel, Mr. Daud Momodu, insisting that one of Ikharo’s children vied for the stool but was not  invited to occupy the throne because there was no practice of rotation of the stool among the Ikelebes.

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