By Goddy Achebe
There is apparent confusion in the minds of observers of events in Nawfia, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State with regards to who is the authentic Traditional Ruler of our ancient town. This is due to the fact that there are presumably three (3) claimants to the throne. They are Chijioke Nwankwo, Dan Obelle and Dr. S.C Moguluwa. However, it is clear that one of the personalities falsely lays claim to the throne having not passed through due processes of enthronement while another’s illegal Certificate of Recognition has been withdrawn by a competent law court in Anambra State.
After an extensive research in the Archives, interviews with personalities, review of court documents, appraisal of processes involved in the selection of the town’s traditional ruler, and records of meetings of the town union executives and those of Board of Trustees, I can assert without any fear of contradiction that the legal and authentic situation of the traditional rulership in Nawfia is as follows;
Nawfia is one of the communities that comprise Umunri clan in Njikoka Local Government Area in Anambra State. The others are Agu Ukwu Nri, Enugwu Ukwu and Enugwu Agidi. Each Community in the Clan has its own traditional ruler before and immediately after the Nigerian Civil War in 1970. They were the late Okeke Oguno in Nawfia, the late Tabansi Udene in Agu Ukwu Nri, the late S.O.N Okafor, later D.O Ikeanyi in Enugwu Agidi and the late Osita Agwuna in Enugwu Ukwu. This was the situation in each of the communities until 1976 when the State Government under the supervision of Prof. Godwin Odenigwe as Commissioner for Local Government introduced a new bye-law stipulating that every community in the State should select a traditional ruler to be recognized and issued certificate of recognition by the Anambra State Government.
Nawfia Community, following due process of selection and endorsement by all the sections of the town presented a well-known business man and politician Chief F.F.B.C Nwankwo to the State Government for recognition as its traditional ruler and the State Government acted accordingly. Igwe F.F.B.C Nwankwo was well loved and appreciated by Nawfia people as a peaceful and development oriented Igwe.
However tragedy struck on February 15th, 2000 when Igwe Nwankwo was brutally assassinated in his residence. His death left a huge vacuum in the town and he was deeply mourned.
Soon after the Igwe’s final rites of passage (last Ofala), one of his sons, Chijioke (not the first son) started parading himself as the new Igwe of Nawfia. The good people of Nawfia did not take any notice of his pretension and activities apparently in deference to his late father and the manner of his brutal assassination. The community was organizing its activities peacefully and unhindered by any irritant claimant as the Igwe of the town until the year 2019 when the leadership of the town union organized its triennial Mass Return, a Home coming for Nawfia people all over the world every three years.
Chijioke Nwankwo challenged the event and filed a suit at Anambra State High Court, Neni claiming that the event did not have his authorization as the Igwe (traditional ruler of Nawfia). Significantly his suit No. NN/136/2019 was on 8th October, 2020, struck out by the court presided over by Hon. Justice Onyinye Anumonye and cost of N600,000 was awarded against him to be paid to the leadership of Nawfia Progressive Union he sued as defendants. Certified True Copy (CTC) of the court judgment on this suit is attached. It is therefore obvious that Nawfia people never selected, elected or installed him as lgwe or traditional ruler of Nawfia. It was after this court judgment against him on 8th October, 2020, that Nawfia people commenced and concluded the process of election of their present traditional ruler, lgwe Sir Dr. Shadrach Chinwuba Moguluwa.
Interestingly, Daniel Ogochukwu Obelle who now claims to also be the traditional ruler of Nawfia, and 4 others were aspirants at the screening stage of the Igwe selection process but failed the screening and never progressed to the stage of contesting the election as candidates. Only Dr. Shadrach Chinwuba Moguluwa and Sir Nnonyelu Okoye passed the screening stage and contested the election. Records of this activity are readily available.
Igwe Moguluwa has been presented to and was well received by the former Local Government Chairman of Njikoka Local Government Council as the authentic traditional ruler of Nawfia. He is widely accepted, respected and honoured by Nawfia people. He has been discharging his traditional duties in line with the Constitution of Nawfia Town and the native laws and customs of Nawfia Community. He has taken both the oath of office and subscribed to the customary code of conduct as required by the Constitution of Nawfia Town, 2013.
It is important to add that a so-called Caretaker Committee for Nawfia Town was set up by the Anambra State Government under former Governor Willie Obiano, to replace the democratically elected officers of Nawfia Progressive Union, who enthroned Igwe Moguluwa.
It is our observation that on Tuesday, 29th June, 2021, the Court of Appeal sitting in Awka, in the case of ANAMBRA STATE GOVERNMENT AND ANOTHER V. CHIEF UZOMA IGBONWA AND 6 OTHERS reported in (2021) 13 N.W.L.R. (part 1794) 475, held that the provisions of section 26 of the Fund for Rural Development Law, Chapter 54, Laws of Anambra State, 1991 (which empowered the Commissioner in charge of Rural Development to dissolve Town Union in Anambra State under certain situations), is in conflict with sections 36 subsection (1) and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and therefore unconstitutional, null and void and is accordingly struck down. The facts of that case show that the said section 26 of the Fund for Rural Development Law was used by Government to dissolve the Alor Peoples Convention and a caretaker committee was set up in its place, hence Aĺor people successfully challenged the unlawful action of the Government.
Unfortunately, and in disdainful attitude to the said Court of Appeal judgment delivered since 29th June, 2021, the same voided and nullified section 26 of the Fund for Rural Development Law, was relied upon by the Government of Anambra State, through a letter dated 2nd February, 2022,and signed by Greg l. Obi, the then Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, to purportedly dissolve the elected leadership of Nawfia Progressive Union, and by another letter dated 3rd February, 2022, and signed by the same Greg l. Obi, he stated that the dissolved elected leadership of Nawfia Progressive Union had been replaced by a Government appointed Caretaker Committee headed by Chike Nwegbe.
Naturally, the elected leadership of Nawfia Progressive Union were aggrieved by the said unlawful actions of the Government, and instituted a legal action in the High Court of Anambra State, Awka, by writ of summons filed on 18th February, 2022, seeking reliefs which include a declaration that the dissolution of the elected leadership of Nawfia Progressive Union and the setting up of a Caretaker Committee to run the affairs of N.P.U, is unconstitutional, null, and void.
The elected leadership of Nawfia Progressive Union who are the Plaintiffs in the suit together with the Electoral Committee of N.P.U, also filed a motion on notice on 2nd March, 2022, for orders of interlocutory injunction to restrain the illegal Caretaker Committee from doing anything including holding any Town Union election or appointing their stooge to the stool of Igwe of Nawfia, pending the determination of the case. However, in defiance of the pending suit and motion, the Caretaker Committee purportedly appointed one Daniel Ogochukwu Obelle, as lgwe of Nawfia, and held an illegal town Union election on 23rd July, 2022.
Subsequently, the High Court of Anambra State, sitting in Awka in suit No. A/53/2021 on 21st June, 2022 set aside the purported appointment of Daniel Ogochukwu Obelle as Igwe of Nawfia and cancelled the certificate of recognition unlawfully issued to him by the Governor of Anambra State 5 days to the end of his tenure of office. The court also granted the application of Igwe Dr. S.C Moguluwa of Nawfia to be joined in Chiojioke Nwankwo suit as a defendant in the case. Hearing in the matter has been fixed for 19th and 20th October, 2022. The CTC of the said court proceedings on that day is attached. This case will finally determine who is the traditional ruler of Nawfia that underwent all legal processes accepted by the people.
Meanwhile, Iqwe Dr. Shadrach Chinwuba Moguluwa remains the rightful person duly elected by Nawfia people on 26th March, 2021, in a keenly contested election to the stool of lgwe of Nawfia. His election was in strict compliance with the extant Constitution of Nawfia Town, 2013, and his co-contestant was Sir Nnonyelu Okoye, the former President-General of Nawfia Progressive Union. Igwe Moguluwa defeated Sir Okoye by scoring 111 votes against 102 votes scored by Sir Okoye, to emerge as the duly elected lgwe of Nawfia on 26th March, 2021. He was installed on 2nd April, 2021, and has been issued with both certificates of return and of installation as lgwe of Nawfia by Nawfia people who are entitled to select the person to be their traditional ruler. As its common knowledge, it is the Town or Community that has the right to select or elect and install their traditional ruler and not the Government. The good people of Nawfia recognize and appreciate Igwe Dr. S.C Moguluwa as their traditional ruler. He remains so until directed otherwise in accordance with the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Goddy Achebe, the Secretary, Board of Trustees, Nawfia Progressive Union (NPU) wrote in from Nawfia.