Edo State Government has slammed a one-year suspension on the Ojuromi of Uromi in Esan North-East Local Government Area of the state, His Royal Highness, Zaiki Edenojie II, for failing to apologise “within the stipulated period” to one Ms. Betty Okoebor, whom he allegedly assaulted.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Peter Okhiria, said the monarch’s suspension, which takes effect from Monday, was contained in a letter dated November 4, 2016, and signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere.
The Onojie was earlier suspended for seven days by the government, through the state executive council, for the failure to respond to a query and travelling outside the country without permission.
He had also been directed to apologise to the state government and the woman within the seven-day period or risk being dethroned.
The state government accused the Onojie of allegedly leaving his palace during the governorship election, moving from one polling booth to another, campaigning and trying to coerce voters to vote for his preferred party and candidate.
It alleged that the traditional ruler assaulted the woman when she refused to yield to his “threats,” adding that the matter, which was reported at the Uromi police station, was under investigation by the police as a criminal act.
It also noted that the State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, had observed that his (Edenojie II) activities since he was initially suspended from office as Ojuromi of Uromi had raised “issues that require further determination”.
The letter read in part, “You went to a polling booth which was not where you registered to vote and tried to compel others to vote for your preferred candidate. When one of the voters, Ms. Betty Okoebor, refused to yield to your threats, you assaulted her causing grievous bodily harm.
“Following from this, the government, viewing your conduct as utterly embarrassing, disgraceful and unbecoming of a traditional ruler, issued you with a query and directed that you reply within 72 hours.”
The state government alleged that Edenojie II “trivialised” the gravity of his misconduct in his apology letter dated October 28 by describing the September 28 incident as an “altercation” and a “family affair,” adding that he also organised a “forgiveness session” for the victim of the said assault to “ridicule” the government.
It explained, “To ridicule the Edo State Government and deride the directive that you apologised to Ms. Okoebor, you proceeded to organise a ‘forgiveness session’ in your palace, in your capacity as Ojuromi, wearing a crown even when you were still suspended from office, purporting to be ‘forgiving’ Ms. Okoebor.
“At the said ‘forgiveness session,’ you compelled the victim of your assault to apologise to you for the assault against her person, while on her knees and made to remain in same position while being interviewed by journalists.
“You had the embarrassing session videoed and aired repeatedly on television, subjecting Ms. Okoebor to double jeopardy and double disgrace by expanding the frontiers of her embarrassment to a global level, through the electronic and social media. This represents nothing short of a deliberate effort to further aggravate the pain and humiliation of your victim.
“You claimed in your letter that Ms. Okoebor had ‘reconciled herself to the throne,’ which conveys the impression that you still represented the throne from which you had been suspended, and further stated that she is your ‘subject’ and you had ‘forgiven’ her.
“This was in gross violation of the terms of your suspension from office as provided for in extant laws. The government of Edo State does not accept that there are ‘subjects’ in Nigeria but citizens of the federal republic.”
The state government further noted that it had received official security of alleged high-handedness against the Onojie, in addressing relations with operators of a cattle market in Uromi.
It listed the offences to include “unilaterally dissolving their association, appointing your preferred person to head the association, banishing their elected leader from Uromi” and “illegally taking over the cattle market and stalls that they built themselves”.
Others allegations, according to the state government, are “banning about eight butchers from doing business in the Uromi market and assigning the responsibility for collecting revenue for the local government council to your own preferred person, even without authority from the council” and laying “claim to ownership of the land, which was legally allocated to the cattle marketers in the year 2000, among other infractions”.
The statement added, “The government of Edo State has high regards for traditional institutions and for the values and customs of our people. However, the government, shall under no condition tolerate indiscipline, reckless abuse of traditional privileges, disrespect for its pronouncements, and flagrant humiliation of law-abiding citizens of the state.
“In view of the facts established above, taking cognisance of your letter of apology that falls short of the public apology expected from you within the stipulated time, and the earlier suspension letter which had specified dethronement after seven days, in exercise of its powers, the government of Edo State hereby commutes your dethronement to a one-year suspension from office as Ojuromi of Uromi, in accordance with Section 28(1) of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law (1979), with effect from November 7, 2016.
“During this period of suspension under extant laws, you are hereby stripped of all the privileges and rights of the Ojuromi of Uromi and barred from performing any duties whatsoever in that regard. By virtue of this suspension from office, your remuneration from the five per cent monthly FAC allocation to the local government shall be appropriated and donated to orphanages during this period.”