Palace Watch

Edo restores Ogiamen Royal Stool after seven years legal battle

By Gabriel Omonhinmin

After seven years of protracted legal battle between Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku-Akpolokpolo Oba Ewuare II and the head of the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Utantan in the ancient city, His Imperial Majesty, Rich Arisco Osemwengie, Edo State Government made a move that took the public / Palace Watchers, and the litigants by surprise. On April 29, 2022, it decided to drop all charges initially filed against the head of the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty.

The charges were for allegedly violating the Edo State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law, when he was proclaimed the Ogiamien of Utantan Kingdom in Benin without recourse or approval of the Oba, which the latter till date still insist his people do not need to do. Mr Oluwole Iyamu SAN, the Attorney-General and Commissioner For Justice of Edo State, before doing a letter to the Registrar, Magistrate Court 4, Benin City, from the available evidence before Trumpet Newspaper, had met with the legal team of the head of the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin and the following conditions agreed upon: 1.

That you immediately revert to your official statutory position as Chief Ogiamen of Benin, as recognized under our Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law and legal notices issued thereto.

2. That you withdraw all pending civil claims and/or appeals against the Edo State Government, the Benin Traditional Council and or any other authority arising from or related to any claims of sovereignty or traditional authority outside of the position recognized by our laws.

3. In return, this office shall take necessary steps to terminate any withdrawal or any criminal actions instituted against you in relation to the subject matter under reference.

“It is the Governor’s hope and expectation that these magnanimous steps would, in return, give rise to a new spirit of harmony, peace and respect for our laws and traditions regarding Chieftaincy matters. “Whilst looking forward to your expeditious necessary actions in line with the content of this letter, we request that you kindly accept the assurance of our regards as always.”

The Edo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, thereafter sent a letter to the Registrar, Magistrate Court 4 Benin City.

“The action of the Edo State Government is as a result of the Ogiamen Family’s decision to withdraw all pending claims and/or any other authority arising from or related to any claim of sovereignty or traditional authority outside of the position recognized by the laws.

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As the decision to prosecute His Imperial Majesty, the Ogiamen of Utantan, in Charge No. MOR/148C/2015 for legal and administrative charges as a result of his actions and utterances at the time of traditional transition in the Benin Kingdom no longer exist.”

He stressed further, “As at the time the charges were filed by the Edo State Government, the Ogiamen’s actions were deemed to be in breach of the Edo State Government’s Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Laws and a clear and present danger to the peace and tranquillity of Benin and the entire Edo State then.”

The Edo State Government filed a ‘Nolle Prosequi,’ the Latin phrase for ‘I do not want to prosecute or I do not want to continue to prosecute,’ used in the temporary or total termination of criminal or civil cases before judgment in most of the countries that are within Common law jurisdiction to put this matter to rest once and for all. Trumpet Newspaper contacted Mr Oluwole Iyamu, SAN, who is the Edo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice to find out other reasons outside the already stated above, for the Edo State Government action.

Mr Oluwole Iyamu, SAN, responded as follows “Of what use is a case that is no longer of interest to the general public and the Edo State people in particular and this is a case that has been in court for seven years now gathering dust.

“The Edo State Government has dropped all the charges against His Imperial Majesty, Rich Arisco Osemwingie as the Ogiamen of Benin Kingdom following an amicable resolution of the dispute between the Oba of Benin and the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin City.

The Ogiamen has expressly stated that it has nothing against the Oba of Benin. What other point does anyone want the Ogiamen to make before they are left alone and allowed to be? “Recently, we had a Northerner in Benin City, who woke up one morning to proclaim himself as the ‘Sultan of Edo State’, he was not killed, the Edo State Government immediately arrested and arraigned him before a court of competent jurisdiction.

The man was made to retract his earlier claim, and also made to apologise verbally and in writing before he was let off the hook.” “I honestly do not want to be dragged into local traditional matters like this, as I’m simply doing my job as the Chief Law Officer of Edo State.

He added, His Imperial Majesty, Rich Arisco Osemwengie, in the first instance, was docked seven years ago, after he was proclaimed as the Ogiamen of Utantan Kingdom in Benin, during the run-up to the present Oba of Benin coronation on October 11, 2015. The Edo State Government has decided this time around to enter nolle prosequi following an agreement by Chief Ogiamen to revert to his official statutory title as Ogiamen of Utantan Kingdom in Benin, as recognized under the Government’s Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law and legal notices.”

When contacted the Oba of Benin Palace Secretary, Mr Frank Irabor, said contrary to the claims of the Edo State Government Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, there was never a time, the Oba of Benin Palace settled out of court with the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin City.

Secondly, up till the time, Trumpet contacted the Oba of Benin Palace over this matter, the Edo State Government has not deemed it fit, to officially notify the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare II, the reason(s) why it arrived at its decision to enter a nolle prosequi in the matter in question.

Mr Irabor said, “From the foregoing, the Oba of Benin palace will not react to the matter, it has only read it on the internet until the Edo State Government deemed it fit and necessary to do what is right.”

An elated High Chief Monday Wehere JP, who is the Director, Information and External Affairs of the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin Kingdom, in a press statement dated and signed on the 6th of June, 2022, entitled “Nolle Prosequi: Ogiamen Royal Dynasty Lauds Governor Obaseki, stressing that he is a man of peace.”

“The great Ogiamen Royal Dynasty is eternally grateful to the Executive Governor of Edo State, His Excel lency Godwin Obaseki, for entering Nolle Prosequi in the case with charge No. MOR/148C/2015.C.O.P vs Rich Arisco Osemwengie and Patrick Osabuohien. The Ogiamen Royal Dynasty said, from this singular act, Governor Obaseki, has further demonstrated that he is truly a man of peace, who means well for the Edo State people.

“We are therefore expressing our profound gratitude to Governor Obaseki for using his good office to resolve this long standing imbroglio between the Great Ogiamen Royal Dynasty and the Oba of Benin especially for entering into Nolle Prosequi in the case we earlier cited above.

“We are again using this opportunity to commend Governor Obaseki for restoring our original and official statutory position as the Ogiamen of Benin as recognized under the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law and Legal Notices issued thereto in Edict M.S.L.N No.37 of 1968 tied to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree, 1966 Chiefs Law (CAP 19) which cannot be repealed by a state government.

The press statement continued, “While the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin Kingdom, is looking forward to receiving all the paraphernalia attached to this irrepealable Edict M.S.L.N No. 37 of 1968, the Ogiamen Dynasty is again grateful for the wonderful efforts by the Edo State Governor so far, to restore peace between the Great Ogiamen Royal Dynasty and the Oba of Benin.

We promised to cooperate with the state government by this action to further enhance the development of Edo State and Nigeria in general in any way within our reach and powers.

Concerning the purported charges of criminal offence, preferred against His Imperial Majesty Rich Arisco Osemwengie and Patrick Osabuohien, who is the Traditional Prime Minister of the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin Kingdom, the statement made reference to the provisions of the Memorable Ekiokpaga Treaty, thus saying.

“The Great Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin never committed any criminal offence in the first instance, as they were just persecuted for doing no wrong. The statement further maintained, “For record purposes, the Ogiamen never breached any law of the land.

Stressing that the installation of the then Prince Rich Arisco Osemwengie JP as the 24th Ogiamen of Utantan Kingdom in Benin, which is the old Igodomigodo Kingdom of Edo State, is the sole prerogative of the Great Ogiamen Royal Dynasty, right from inception to date.

And as such, “The Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin, has never sought nor obtained permission from anywhere including the Benin Traditional Council then and now, other than the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty, to perform any of its traditional rites, including the installation of our King, who happens to be the head of the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin City whenever such a vacancy exists.

“Rather, it is the duty of any incoming Oba of Benin, as an Edaiken Uselu, who must perform some rites with the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin, before he could, this has been the practice and tradition for many centuries now.”

Emphasizing that, when the late Oba Erediauwa, the father to the present Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, wanted to ascend the throne of his ancestors, he had no option but to re-enact the age-long practice of signing the Ekiokpagha Treaty with the then Ogiamen Osarobo.

And to further buttress that there is no dispute whatsoever, about the Ogiamen stool, which is recognized by the then Mid-West Nigerian government as far back as 1968, the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty, was accorded all the respect accorded to any other traditional ruler in the old Bendel State, which was later split into Edo and Delta States up till 1979.

In view of the foregoing and to further emphasise that the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty is a much older throne and title, while the Oba of Benin and other kings in his category are using the titles of His Royal Majesty, the Ogiamen decided to settle for His Imperial Majesty.

“It will amount to a monumental cultural and traditional fraud, the attempt that was made in 1979 to fraudulent alter the long-existing Edict of 1968, which already recognized the Great Ogiamen Royal Stool as a distinct traditional ruler. This particular Edict of 1968 was tied to the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree, 1966 Chiefs Law (CAP 19).

“The later attempt to alter or repeal this law is not only bizarre but fraudulent in all particular manner. This altered Edict of 1979, tried unsuccessfully for it to be gazetted and to make the Ogiamen title a Chief under the Oba of Benin palace. This disgraceful act, the Ogiamen resisted and will continue to resist with the last drop of blood in their veins. “In an Appeal Court ruling in a case No. CA/B/99/2016 on this particular subject matter, the Ogiamen Royal Dynasty was once again vindicated.

In his judgment, Justice Jimi Olukayode Baba of the Appeal Court ruled on Wednesday the 16th day of November 2016 delivered a judgment, which partly reads as follows: – ‘it is my humble view that the Ogiamen of Benin Chieftaincy is one of the recognized instruments (M.S.L.N 37 of 1968)’.”

“In another vindication of our position, in a letter dated 15th March 2010 with reference BTC.A7/3/ VOL.1X/205, the late Oba Erediauwa sent the immediate past Ogiamen of Utantan, Pa Edwin Ogbomo, the content of that letter further vindicates the position of the Ogiamen, that we have never been an appendage to the Oba of Benin and its Palace.”

The Ogiamen Royal Dynasty of Benin is therefore seizing this opportunity to appeal to the Edo State Government and His Excellency, Governor Obaseki, in particular as a true son of Edo land, to now endeavour to enact a new Edo State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Laws or Chieftaincy Edict that will capture and take cognizance of all the latest developments and put the new positions of things in their true perspective.

Stating that that is the only way to forestall any possible attempt now and in the future, by anyone to again try to manipulate the Edo State Chieftaincy law and screw it to suit their whims and caprices.

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