A Traditional ruler in Isiagu community in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra state, Igwe Austin Nwankwo, has dragged one of his subjects, Chief Ben Ifeatu, before a Magistrate Court 1,sitting in Awka for failure to recognize him as the traditional ruler.
Igwe Nwankwo is praying the court to compel Ifeatu to begin to address him properly as the traditional ruler of the kingdom.
He told the court on Wednesday, that Ifeatu had continued to address him as Chief Austin Nwankwo, instead of addressing him as His Royal Majesty Igwe Austine Nwankwo, and with that he had continued to incite other members of the community against him.
” Chief Ifeatu had continued to address me as Chief Austin Nwankwo, when he is aware I am his traditional ruler. When he started contending my position as traditional ruler of Isiagu ancient kingdom, I tendered my certificate of recognition in the court. Government of Anambra State gave me certificate as traditional ruler of Isiagu; I am also the chairman of Awka South Traditional Rulers Council. When I tendered the certificate in the High Court, none of Chief Ifeatu and his counsel, N.O Nwadinobi, raised any objection; yet, he had continued to address me as mere chief,” he said.
Ifeatu, in his response, told the court that he cannot recognize Austin Nwankwo, as the traditional ruler of Isiagu ancient kingdom in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
He said “I will not recognize him as my traditional ruler. Only he knows how and where he got the certificate of recognition. So, it behooves on him to prove to the court that he is the authentic traditional ruler,”
The defense counsel, Mr. N.O Nwadinobi, explained to the court that his client had refused to recognized Nwankwo as traditional ruler because, according to him, the traditional stool of the community was still subject to contention at the state High Court, Awka.
Counsel to the plaintiff, Igwe Nwankwo, Mr. E.E Ogbebe, told the court that his client, Igwe Austin Nwankwo, remained the traditional ruler of the community, having gotten his certificate of recognition from the Anambra State government.
According to him, since his certificate is from Anambra State government, therefore, he must be accorded respect and recognition as traditional ruler.
“He received certificate of recognition from the state government as the recognized traditional ruler of Isiagu ancient kingdom. He is also the chairman of Awka South Traditional Rulers Council. He attends meetings of traditional rulers in the state. All these prove the fact that he is a traditional ruler.
“The government that recognizes him as traditional ruler is still there. The defendant should feel free to seek clarification from the state. He can, as well, sue the state for issuing the certificate. He can also approach the police authorities to stop Igwe Nwankwo from parading himself as traditional ruler, if he feels aggrieved.
“But as long as Igwe Nwankwo remains the person in the possession of the staff of office or certificate of recognition, he has the legal right to function as traditional ruler. And he must be recognized by everyone, however aggrieved; until the status quo is changed by a court of competent jurisdiction,” he said.
In her ruling, the Chief Magistrate, Mrs O.N Ike, told counsel to the plaintiff to apply officially in writing so that the court will study the application and act accordingly.
“Let the truth be told: since he has tendered his certificate in court, which is deemed to have been issued by the state, it is proper to address him as Igwe; until it is proved otherwise by the court. However, I will advise counsel to the plaintiff to apply officially to enable the court act appropriately,” she said. The matter was adjourned till March 17, for continuation of hearing.