The traditional ruler of Isiagu ancient kingdom in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State, Igwe Austin Nwankwo, has dragged one of his subjects, Chief Ben Ifeatu to Magistrate Court I sitting in Awka for failing to recognize and properly address him as His Royal Majesty.
He told the court on Wednesday, that Chief Ifeatu had not only insisted on addressing him as Chief Austin Nwankwo, but had continued to incite other community members against him.
He said, “When he started challenging my position as traditional ruler of Isiagu ancient kingdom, I tendered my certificate of recognition in court. Anambra state Government 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, neither Chief Ifeatu nor his counsel, N.O Nwadinobi, raised objection; yet, he had continued to address me as mere chief when he is aware I am his traditional ruler.”
Responding, the accused told the court that his failure to recognize the complainant as the traditional ruler of Isiagu ancient kingdom followed the contention surrounding the igweship stool of the community.
“I will not recognize him as my traditional ruler. Only him 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,” he said.
On his part, the defense counsel, Mr. N.O Nwadinobi, explained to the court that his client had refused to recognize Nwankwo as traditional ruler because the traditional stool of the community was still subject to contention in the Anambra State High Court.
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 got his certificate of recognition from the state government, and must be accorded respect and recognition as traditional ruler.
He said, “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 also sue the state for issuing the certificate or 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.”
In her ruling, the Chief Magistrate, Mrs O.N Ike, told counsel to the plaintiff to apply officially in written address to enable her 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, 2021 for hearing.