… As royal father, town union leaders draw battle line over tenure
From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
A crisis is brewing at Nkpor, a town in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State over the leadership of the interim management committee (IMC) of the community.
There have been pockets of crisis in the community over the years, which led to the emergence of two factions of the town union in 2007.
In a bid to bring the community together, the two factions were harmonised in 2008. The government then appointed an interim management committee to be in charge of the affairs of the town union and to conduct election into the leadership of Nkpor Development Union (NDU) within three months.
The interim management committee, which was appointed since 2008, has been in power till date. The development has angered some community leaders and the traditional ruler of Nkpor. The royal father, who called for the appointment of a new interim management committee, said the committee’s tenure had since elapsed.
The traditional ruler, Igwe C. A. Ibegbunam II, told journalists in his palace that the action of the interim management committee was condemnable for refusing to give account of stewardship of its leadership over the years.
Igwe Ibegbunam alleged that the community had written a letter to the state government to appoint another interim management committee for the town union and had submitted an 11-man committee list to the government for confirmation. But he said that had not been done since December 29, 2015 after the government suspended the town union elections earlier slated for December 30, 2015.
Said the royal father: “We also learnt that the same Raphael Nnabuife, who has overstayed his term, also submitted a list of those to be appointed into the new interim management committee to the government. That action will not be acceptable by the Igwe-in-Council and the community.
“It is the duty of the community, through the Igwe, to submit a list of those to be appointed to oversee the activities of the town union and government can only endorse it or advise otherwise. And government cannot appoint or impose people on the community because the government does not know the people.
“We warn that if government in any way refuses to accept or endorse the list of the community submitted by the Igwe and approve another list from anywhere, the Igwe in-Council and the community will not accept it. We don’t want crisis anymore in our community and government should not support illegality that can trigger off a crisis in the community.
“The former IMC members have stayed for eight years and the secretary of the committee and a member has stepped aside because of the way it is being run. We want a new IMC that will conduct an election into the leadership of Nkpor Development Union (NDU).”
Already, the traditional ruler has issued a public notice personally signed by him in which he notified the public that Nnabuife was no longer holding any official position in Nkpor Community.
But Chief Raphael Nnabuife, in his reaction, said that the action of the Igwe and some people from the community was a call to anarchy. He said the government still recognised the leadership of the IMC since another one was yet to be appointed by the government.
“In the first place, why should I be mentioned because we have a President-General, who should be in charge? This is the way to anarchy because they are going against the government. The state government still recognises us.
“They have written a letter to the government to appoint another interim management committee, which has not been done. They should wait till the government appoints another interim committee and should not take the law into their hands.
“If you are truly the Igwe and an elder, and government said we would look into your matter, you said no, that you could not wait, it means you want to set the community on fire. Well, Igwe should know the implication of what he is doing, but we cannot allow land speculators to paint the image of the community black. We cannot allow some people to go to another community to acquire their lands and sell.
“We don’t sell land, we don’t own land, individuals own land and they have all sold their lands and some still have their own lands, Nkpor doesn’t have land in common anymore. I have never sold any land that belongs to the community. Nkpor as a community that is close to the commercial nerve centre is supposed to give us some advantage. But instead, it gives us bad image through the land speculators who extort money from unsuspecting individuals. But Governor Obiano’s activities have forced some of the criminals to run away from the community. So, if government appointed us as the interim management committee, no matter the time, if it is one year, two years or 20 years, until the same government dissolves us, we will continue to do our job legitimately.”
He said he was also tired of the position but noted that he would have to remain in office until a new management committee was appointed.
President-General of the IMC, Sir Ngozi Anyakora said members of the committee were appointed by the government. He said the committee had not been dissolved, adding that the IMC had a right to collect market levies but had no power to sell land.
“We know our duty and we have not exceeded our boundary. We don’t sell land because it is purely under the jurisdiction of the Igwe but we have the right to collect market levies meant for the community. That is the duty of the town union.”
The state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Chief Greg Obi, said that Section 15 (1) a-n of the law establishing the traditional institution in the state stipulated the duties of the traditional ruler, which did not include the appointment of town union leaders or interim committee members.
Said he: “Is it the traditional ruler that appoints the interim committee or the government? Who says that when the traditional ruler submits a list of those to be appointed, the government will act on the list? We are trying to carry traditional rulers along by consulting them when appointing interim committees for the town union for peace not because it is their right.
“We will soon appoint the unbiased interim committee that will conduct election into the leadership of the town union. The election would have been conducted in December last year if not that the community couldn’t agree on the date. Government has the power to look at the list to harmonise it or can appoint anybody it deems fit; somebody that has no questionable character. We have been trying to quell the crisis in the community over the years.”
On the tenure of the IMC, Obi said that the current interim committee had not been dissolved to avoid a vacuum, which might result in anarchy. He said the current IMC would be in place until a new committee was constituted. He urged the traditional ruler and the community to be patient with the government in its efforts to make the state crisis-free.