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Opinion

Proper procedures for a valid nomination to fill the vacant stool of Attah and consequences of failure to follow the Law

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By J.S. OKUTEPA, SAN

1.0. In 2015, Capt. Idris Ichalla Wada, the then Governor of Kogi State, signed into law, Igala Area Traditional Council (Modification of Native Law and Custom) Order, 2015. The law is titled Procedure and Regulation for selection and Ascension to the Stool of Attah Igala.

2.0. In this write up I shall attempt to set out the proper procedures to be followed as set out in that law and the consequences of failure to follow the law in the quest to fill the vacant stool of Attah Igala, created by the unfortunate journey of no-return of his Royal Majesty, Attah Michael Idakwo Ameh Oboni II.

3.0. The schedule to the law in paragraph 1, thereof set out the rotational orders of ascension to the throne. There are four Ruling Houses from which Attah Igala can be appointed. These are Aju-Ame-acho, Aju-Akogu, Aju-Akwu and Aju-Ocholi Ruling Houses in that rotational order. From the law, it is now the turn of Aju-Ame-Acho to produce the next Attah Igala to the exclusion of the other three Ruling Houses. This is because the law has narrowed down the choice to Aju-Ame-Acho. The intention of this law is to accord the age long rotational orders enjoyed by our fore-fathers in the time past which appears to have been disregarded in the recent past.

4.0. Paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6,7, 8, 9 and 10 set out the procedures to be followed. For proper appreciation of the points I wish to draw the attention of the relevant authorities, I wish to quote these paragraphs in extenso. It reads as follows:

Upon the demise of an incumbent Attah and after the completion of all traditional burial rites, and period of observation, the Achadu Attah, shall, request and or demand the traditional Igalamela Kingmakers to consider setting in motion, the process of selecting a successor to the throne of Attah Igala.
Upon the occurrence of a vacant stool, application for the vacant stool shall be received from eligible person(s) (within the confine of the definition in (1) above) whose turn it is, to produce the next Attah Igala.

The method of nomination by such a ruling house, shall be an exercise under the headship of the eldest person in the ruling house, who, shall, in consultation with principal members of the Ruling House, screen, interview and nominate the rightful person to the throne.

The Ruling House whose turn it is to produce the next Attah, shall, then present the person so nominated, to the other three Ruling Houses for purposes of maintaining the bond of unity and fraternity only.
The four Ruling Houses, shall, thereafter, jointly forward the name of the person so nominated to the Traditional Igalamela Kingmakers for consideration.

The Igalamela Traditional Kingmakers shall meet, consider and appoint the person so nominated as the Attah Igala.

Upon the completion of the selection of an Attah, the Igalamela Kingmakers shall inform in writing, the Achadu Attah Igala, who shall in turn forward, the name of the appointee to the Igala Area Traditional Council.

The Igala Area Traditional Council shall forward the name of Attah-Designate to the State Council of Chiefs which body will in turn forward same to the Governor-in-Council for approval.

5.0. As can be seen from paragraph 5 of the schedule to the law, it is clear that the method of nomination by a ruling house, shall be an exercise under the headship of the eldest person in the ruling house, who, shall, in consultation with principal members of the Ruling House, screen, interview and nominate the rightful person to the throne.

6.0. The duty to screen, interview and nominate the rightful person to the throne shall be performed by the Ruling House whose turn it is to produce the Attah. That duty is not vested in any other person than the Ruling House whose turn is to produce the Attah under the Headship of the eldest person in the family who shall screen, interview and nominate the rightful person to the throne, in consultation with the principal members of the family.

7.0. Therefore, under the law, the Igalamela Traditional Kingmakers cannot and has no jurisdiction to screen, interview and nominate the rightful person to the throne. Under the law the duties and responsibilities of Igalamela Traditional Kingmakers are set out in paragraphs 3, 7, 8 and 9 thereof. Those paragraphs have been set out above. But let me summarize it. First under paragraph 3, Achadu Attah shall request or demand the Traditional Igalamela Kingmakers to consider setting in motion the process of selecting a successor to the throne of Attah, upon the demised of Attah and after all the traditional burial rites and period of observation are done.

8.0. When the process is set in motion, then applications to fill the vacant stool shall be received from eligible candidates from within the Ruling House whose turn it is to produce the Attah. Under the present dispensation only those from Aju-Ame-Acho are eligible to apply. No person or persons from the other three Ruling Houses is/are eligible to apply. The Application is restricted to Aju-Ame-Acho.

9.0. From the provisions of this Law, there must be Applications from the eligible persons which are to be received. From the clear provision of the law, the applications are to be made to the eldest person in Aju-Ame-Acho Ruling House. See paragraph 1 of the schedule to the Law 2015, which set out the order of rotation among the four Ruling Houses, beginning, from Aju-Ame-Acho, then Aju-Akogu, then Aju-Akwu and Aju-Ocholi Houses (in that Order). Under paragraph 5 of the law, the method of nomination by a ruling house, shall be an exercise under the headship of the eldest person in the ruling house, who, shall, in consultation with principal members of the Ruling House, screen, interview and nominate the rightful person to the throne.

10.0. The power to screen, interview and nominate the rightful person to the throne, is vested therefore in the Ruling House whose turn it is to produce the Attah and this shall be done under the headship of the eldest person of the family. Any other process other than this is a non-starter. After the screening, interview and nomination is done by the Ruling House, then paragraph 6 of the schedule to the law will be invoked. It is provided therein that: The Ruling House whose turn it is to produce the next Attah, shall, then present the person so nominated, to the other three Ruling Houses for purposes of maintaining the bond of unity and fraternity only.

11.0. The next step will be for the four Ruling Houses to jointly forward the name of the person nominated to the Traditional Igalamela Kingmakers for consideration. After the name is forwarded as aforesaid, the Traditional Igalamela Kingmakers shall meet, consider and appoint the person so nominated as the Attah Igala. Upon the conclusion of the selection of an Attah, the Traditional Igalamela Kingmakers shall inform the Achadu in writing and the Achadu shall in turn forward the name of the appointee to the Igala Area Traditional Council. Thereafter the Igala Area Traditional Council shall forward the name of Attah -Designate to the State Council of Chiefs. It is then the duty of the State Council of Chiefs to forward the name to the Governor in Council for approval.

12.0. These procedures outlined above must be strictly followed. Failure to follow these processes will have far reaching consequences. The Traditional Igelamela Kingmakers have no power and jurisdiction to screen, interview and nominate person to be Attah Igala. That duty and jurisdiction by the 2015 law is in the Ruling House whose turn is to produce Attah. The paragraphs of the schedule to the law have all been set out earlier. The particular method of selecting Attah Igala has been set out in the law.

13.0. Again, time frame has been set within which applications to fill the vacant Stools in Kogi State, including the vacant stool of Attah Igala has to be processed to conclusion at each level of the layers set out in the law such as the 2015 law. Section 5 of Chiefs (Appointment, Deposition and Establishment of Traditional Councils in Kogi State) Law 2006, applicable in the appointment of Attah Igala provides that: In all appointment to any Chieftaincy stool under this law, the period for processing the application at each level shall not exceed a period of 30 days. The delay in filling the vacant stool of Attah Igala must worry all right thinking Igala sons and daughters. These laws are there to guide the appropriate authorities.

14.0. The law has provided the method to select the next Attah. It must be that method that should be followed. Not the old method. The law has also provided time frame to process application in each level set out under the 2015 law. Those responsible for the processes of appointing Attah Igala must be guided by the provisions of these laws to avoid engaging in exercise of futility.

15.0. Now the law is well settled that where a statute provides for a particular procedure or method for performing any act, no other method or procedure can be employed. In MEGA progressive peoples Party vs. INEC (2015) LPELR-25706 (SC), the Supreme Court succinctly put it this way: Certainly, when a law provides a particular way/method of doing a thing, and unless such a law is altered or amended by legitimate authority, then whatever is done in contravention, it amounts to nullity. See also NNPC vs Famfa Oil Ltd LPELR-7812 (SC) (Consolidated); University of Calabar Teaching Hospital vs Bassey (2005) LPELR-8553 (CA).

16.0. There should be no controversy in the selection of Attah. It starts from the family or the Ruling House. The chieftaincy throne of Attah is not to be occupied by a neophyte. Any person who aspires to the office of Attah must be of good character, and well versed in Igala cultures and values. He must demonstrate fidelity with the norms and values of the Igala people. He must not be a stranger to his people and his father land. That is why the screen, interview and nomination of the person has to be done by his Ruling House to be headed by the eldest person in the family in consultations with the principal members of that family. The Aju-Ame-Acho family must do what it needs to do to follow the law and the tradition and produce a candidate that we must all be proud of. There is no room for mediocre or any neophyte to be foisted on the people in breach of the procedures set out above. To do so will produce consequences that will be too grievous to be contemplated by reasonable Igala sons and daughters. I pray that wisdom prevails in the selection of the next Attah Igala.

Read Also:  HRH Idakwo Ameh Oboni II: Kogi paramount ruler laid to rest two months after demise

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