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Ukpo: Abba Community Treading On Falsehood!

By C. C. Ozumba

PREAMBLE: Ukpo Community is dazed, perplexed and bewildered on how Abba Community has assiduously and unremittingly beavered/laboured so hard to misinform her unsuspecting sympathizers with regard to the erstwhile land dispute between Ukpo and Ukwulu (both are communities in Dunukofia L.G.A Anambra State) against Abba Community (A community in Njikoka L.G.A Anambra State).  How dare they (Abba Community) turn facts on its head, in an attempt to undermine and sabotage the immutability of truth, the forthrightness of history and the inviolable/revered place of facts in the matter of the present discuss!

Ukpo Community asks: Why should Abba community be allowed to dispossess and deny us the benefits of the court judgments?

Wonder not we say to ourselves like one recalling the reminiscence era, we recollected that Abba community is negatively combative, truculent, obstreperous, aggressive, loudmouthed, confrontational, cantankerous and fractious.  In that Community, deception or spuriousness is ingrained in their culture and are by nature querulous, thereby affirming the saying “that you cannot stop a man whose heritage is mendacious from lying”.

It is germane however, to note that recently through the 15th February, 2019 judgment of the Supreme Court and the latest Judgment of the High Court Neni delivered on the 19th May, 2020, the erstwhile land dispute herein discussed has been put to final rest and accorded a befitting burial. But instead of abiding by the orders of the highest court in the land, some unscrupulous and Machiavellian leaders of Abba (feeding fat from continuous levy shouldered by the poor indigenes of Abba most of whom are women) have taken recourse to brigandage, propaganda and deception with a view to stirring further conflict and possible bloodshed. God forbid!

ORIGIN OF ABBA PEOPLE (ABRIDGED)

Abba people came from Ichida in present day Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State – see the brochure of Igwe Abba’s Ofala 2018.  To buttress these revered facts, Chief Anayo Ejem (Ichie Nnabuenyi) has this to say:

“The existence of Abba as a community is a consequence of ancient inter-communal wars, when its progenitor, Ichinambubor, a mercenary from far away Ichida Town in today’s Anaocha Local Government Area, fought on the side of enemies of Ukpo and his brother, Ifite. Ichinambubor was captured as a war prisoner. But instead of putting a sword through his heart as was the norm in those days, his life was spared. An expert in wine tapping, Ichinambubor was, again contrary to what was obtained in those ancient time, settled in Ukpo and Ifite-Dunu lands, where he was engaged in palm-wine tapping (you could argue that Ukpo and Ifite-Dunu loved the booze!!). Being a virtual slave, Ukpo and Ifite-Dunu refused to grant Ichinambubor a wife, so he ventured afar to Abagana to take a wife. His first son was named Abamulu, meaning that Abagana made it possible.  The present-day Abba is thus descendant from Ichinambubor and his son, Abamulu. That Abba community is now rising up to challenge Ukpo, the original settlers and their benefactor, to a land dispute is testament to Ukpo’s magnanimity. It is also a testament to Abba’s perfidy”.

However, as was customary, they (Abba) took oath never to take or annex any portion of Ukpo land beyond the area allowed them. It was not long before greed, insatiability, voraciousness, discontent and selfish aggrandizement moved them into encroachment of their benefactors’ land in utter disregard to their initial understanding hence the land dispute which is the subject matter of this discuss.

TERSE HISTORY OF THE LEGAL EXPEDITION

In the last 45 years, Abba set out to make parts of Ukpo and Ukwulu communities lands permanently theirs hence they sued Ukwulu for trespass. After initially serving as witness for Ukwulu, and startled that Abba was also claiming a big parcel of Ukpo land, Ukpo joined the suit which was consolidated as Suit Nos. AA/53/75 & AA/ 11/77. Hence Abba became the Plaintiff while Ukwulu and Ukpo were the 1st and 2nd sets of the Defendants respectively.

HIGH COURT ANAMBRA STATE: On the 12th day of November, 1999, the Anambra State High Court presided over by His Lordship Rtd. Hon. Justice Obiora Nwazota (the then Chief Justice of the State) in consolidated suits No’s. AA/53/75 and AA/11/77 granted declaration of title to the disputed land in favour of the 1st and 2nd sets of Defendants. The learned Chief Judge dismissed all the claims of the plaintiffs (Abba) with respect to the disputed land.

CHIEF ANAYO EJEM (supra) has better explanation of how Abba community laboured to subvert and undermine the above mentioned judgment in a style akin to Maradona “Hand of God” in the world of football. He detailed thus:

“In less than two weeks, Abba filed a notice of appeal, with which they secured a stay of execution from the then Chief Justice of Anambra State, His Lordship Hon. Justice G. C. Ononiba, who hailed from Nimo, a town that claims kinship with Abba and bore them witness in the court. From that point going forward, Abba departed any pretenses to righteousness.

It was glaringly clear that from evidentiary standpoint, Abba had no chance of overturning Justice Nwazota’s judgement in a fair appeal process. An extra legal strategy was needed. They eventually settled for a reprehensible legal engineering. As late as year 2000s, it was practicable to retrieve lost Court cases by forcing a retrial (trial de novo). And the most common method of forcing a retrial was simply making the judges’ Record of court proceedings to disappear permanently. In that scenario, the losing party (appellant) could competently argue for a retrial, since an appeal cannot be heard without the trial court’s record of proceedings. The dubious practice was notoriously popular in the South Western Nigeria, where land cases were a matter of life and death. Being naturally mendacious people, this inglorious method was indeed very appealing to Abba.

Abba committed time and resources to this mission, including what was left of their credibility and morality. They hired prominent lawyers from South Western Nigeria, and together hatched their treacherous plans, and went to work. Unfortunately, their mission was unwittingly aided by the defunct Court of Appeal Practice Direction and Order 3 (13.2) which stipulated that “all original documents delivered to the court below under this rule shall remain in the custody of the court below until the record of Appeal has been prepared, and shall then be forwarded with the record to the Registrar (of the Appeal Court) and shall remain in the custody of the Court until the determination of the appeal.” This provision put the responsibility of compiling and transmitting the lower court’s records exclusively on the High Court registry. Thus, if records were not compiled and transmitted, blame the High Court registrar; if records disappeared, also blame the registrar. That made the task for Abba relatively easy. All they needed to do under that provision was seek out well placed judicial officers at Anambra High Court Registry, offer them enough incentives to take the rap, and then wait to take delivery of the Record Book at Oye Abba market. As far as Abba was concerned, the plan worked to perfection. They felt great, because even though they were the real perpetrators of the dastardly scheme, Abba and their lawyers were in the clear; what is more, Abba was well positioned to shed a bucket of crocodile tears to appear justified in demanding fresh trial.

In four years following their filing of notice of appeal, Abba did nothing to further the appeal. Instead, they spent time and fortunes recruiting insidious agents. They strategically engaged retired Justice Olike as their consultant on the case. Then they conveniently recruited the assistant Registrar of Anambra High Court, Mrs Olike (who just happened to be the wife of their consultant), and who was in charge of the Appeal Court Section of the High Court.

Surprise surprise, on 19th September 2003, the record book of the land dispute between Abba vs Ukpo/Ukwulu disappeared forever. The coup was completed!!

Then in early October 2003, Abba, who for four years took no steps whatsoever to prosecute their appeal, and who neither asked for, nor obtained enlargement of time to appeal, suddenly went on the offense. They accused Ukpo of stealing the Records to frustrate their appeal and, expectedly, cried for a fresh trial (which essentially was the culmination of the plot). 

By the time Abba got to the Appeal Court, the table had turned. Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, the former President of the Court of Appeal, had ushered in a new Practice Direction, which took effect on 1st May 2013. For all intent and purpose, the order took a retrospective effect, because the Appeal Court decided it had had enough of the evil-geniuses in the legal profession, who exploited the orchestrated disappearance of judges’ record books to further their own sinister designs.

The new Court of Appeal Order 8, Rules 1 & 4 state as follows:- “The Registrar of the Court below shall within 60 days after filing of a notice of appeal compile and transmit the Record of Appeal to the Court”, and “Where at the expiration of 60 days after filing of the notice of appeal the Registrar has failed and or neglected to compile and transmit the Records of Appeal in accordance with the preceding provision of this Rule, it shall become mandatory for the appellant to compile the Records of all documents and exhibits necessary for his appeal and transmit to the Court within 30 days after the registrar’s failure or neglect”.

What does this profound change mean? It means that the new Court of Appeal Practice Direction has made it impossible for Abba, for instance, to blame the Registrar, or blame Ukpo or blame anybody else for the disappearance of the Records. This new provision made it mandatory for Abba to compile the trial Records themselves (as obviously the Anambra High Court Registry had failed to) within 30 days, and forward to the Appeal Court. This was impossibility since Abba had since destroyed the stolen Records. Because Abba failed to transmit the Records, the Respondents (our lawyers) were entitled by law to move a motion to dismiss ABBA’s appeal. The motion was so moved, and ABBA’s appeal was so dismissed. Alas, Abba had fallen on her sword!!”

APPEAL COURT ENUGU: In line with their original plot, Abba approached the Appeal Court at Enugu, armed with the plea that the High Court Record Book was missing, and asked the Court (via motion No. CA/E/30/2009) to direct the Anambra State High Court to start the case afresh (de novo).

Appeal Court on the 11th day of July, 2017 resolved all issues formulated by Abba community in favour of Ukwulu & Ukpo communities sequel thereto appeal –CA/E/86/2012- filled by Abba community was dismissed. The court also vacated the order of stay of execution granted to Abba community against the judgment of the High Court delivered on 12/11/1999 and further granted warrant of possession over the disputed land to Ukwulu & Ukpo communities.

Note: Abba went to Court of Appeal on two different occasions against Ukpo and Ukwulu and shamefully lost both appeals.

SUPREME COURT: Abba proceeded to the Supreme Court where they formulated four grounds of Appeal. Again there was no solace. On 15th February 2019, the Apex Court, in a unanimous judgment delivered by Hon. Justice Adamu Galumje, ruled in favor of the 1st and 2nd sets defendants, Ukpo and Ukwulu in all four grounds of Appeal formulated. The Honorable Judge also awarded N1,000,000 cost against the plaintiffs, Abba.

Germane to say that, neither the Plaintiffs/Appellants (Abba community) nor the 1st sets & 2nd sets of the Defendants/Respondents (Ukwulu & Ukpo communities respectively) conversed the issue of Trial De Novo at the Apex Court as such that was not part of the issues for determination before the Supreme Court.

It follows therefore, that any statement relating to Trial De Novo made by the Court is statement made by the way and which has no legal consequences or precedent value and of no binding effect. It is the ratio decidendi which has binding effect. Abba community ought to know that the Supreme Court is not a Father Christmas or a Philanthropist whose nature is to dole out gifts even when not solicited for. It is elementary in law that reliefs not sort by litigants cannot be granted by any court.

BACK TO HIGH COURT ANAMBRA STATE HOLDEN AT NENI:

It takes only a community that celebrates illegality, impunity and an affront to the nation’s legal authority to challenge the authority/judgment of the Apex Court (Supreme Court) in a High Court be it State or Federal High Court. Abba is a definition of such community. They inter-marry with the growing contrary reality that is now eroding the authority of the apex court.

Abba as a mendacious and fractious community, scrupulously baroque and decorate the media with the false shriek that the Supreme Court ordered trial de novo. As a result they applied to the Anambra State High Court holden at Neni to set aside the aforementioned Supreme Court Judgment.

This situation brings to mind the fact that such conducts by various personalities and actors of jettisoning or circumventing Supreme Court judgments is embarrassingly becoming more of a national affliction, which must be treated like Covid 19 before it consumes the entire judiciary and erodes all national values and structures.

Ideally and in sync with the practice of the rule of law that no other court should entertain any matter, which has already been decided by the Supreme Court, High Court Neni presided by Hon. Justice Onyinye Anumonye, ruled that Supreme Court judgment is final and cannot be re-visited or re-heard by any court in the country.

He opined that the judgment of the Supreme Court on the consolidated matter before the Supreme Court on the 15th February 2019 dealt extensively and exhaustively on the issues in the Ukpo, Ukwulu and Abba community land dispute, which forms part of the issues in the motion before the court for Trial De Novo filed by Abba Community. Consequently, Abba suit for trial de novo was struck out with heavy cost of N250,000 in favour of Ukpo and Ukwulu communities.

UKPO AND UKWULU RE-POSSESSED THEIR INHERITANCE

The Supreme Court represents the last bus-stop of all litigations in Nigeria; when it rules on any case, one can only appeal to God. In line with this time-tested legalistic wisdom, the Chief Judge of Anambra State, upon being served the Supreme Court judgment, issued Ukpo and Ukwulu the clearance (Warrant of possession) to re-possess their lands. Or, is Abba community suggesting that the Chief Judge of Anambra State did not understand the Supreme Court judgment? The Commissioner of Police Anambra State and Abba community have been served the Supreme Court judgment, as well as the Warrant of Entry; that is why the Police is on firm ground in upholding the law and enforcing the peace on the erstwhile disputed land.

Abba claimed they have Court Order restraining the police from entering Oye Abba. We dare to ask can the police be restrained from maintaining peace and obeying the Supreme Court judgment? The answer thereto is a matter of later discuss not herein contained.

Just to put the records straight, since the beginning of this matter, the only obstacle for Ukpo and Ukwulu was the order of Stay of Execution granted by Hon. Justice G.C. Ononiba on 11/12/2000. That order for Stay was vacated by the Appeal Court sitting at Enugu on 11/7/2017 and the Supreme Court of Nigeria upheld the Appeal Court’s decision to vacate that Stay on 15/2/2019. And in obedience to the position of the courts of superior jurisdiction, the Anambra State Chief Judge issued Warrant of Possession to Ukpo and Ukwulu, to re-possess their heritage.

In line with the forgoing Ukpo and Ukwulu are lawfully repossessing their stolen bequest (land). It is therefore illogical, ridiculous and bizarre that Abba in a protest powered by some political appointees can be heard bawling and shrieking illegality on the part of Ukpo and Ukwulu in their lawful bid to re-possess their (Ukpo and Ukwulu) possession.

It is note worthy that in a meeting with Igwe, her President General and other leaders in the office of the Commissioner of Police that Abba community pledged to abide by all court decisions once served with the warrant of possession. Now Abba community has been served yet they keep formatting troubles and spread falsehoods in the media.

PRINCE DR. ENGR. ARTHUR EZE’S PEACE MOVES

Prince Arthur Eze to the nervousness of Ukpo community is by margin the greatest and best advocate and empathizer Abba community has ever had in the dispute herein exhumed. He has unremittingly and interminably initiated peace moves and has remained open to contracting peace between the three communities – Ukpo, Ukwulu and Abba. He has persistently, in his usual philanthropic nature, offered to use his princely blessing to unite the three communities and restore peace but some Abba leaders (feeding fat from continuous levy shouldered by the poor indigenes of Abba most of whom are women) in their querulous and belligerent nature foist the peace moves.

Prince Arthur Eze is the most conciliatory, appeasing, mollifying, peacemaking, pacifying, assuaging, kindest, and arguably the most public-spirited billionaire God created. He has no iota of meanness in him as the Almighty God created him for the sole purpose of giving, as opposed to amassing anything, least of all community land.

Abba Community hear this, Prince Arthur Eze has better things to do with his God given wealth than procuring the services of the Nigeria Police to brutalize or dehumanize any Abba person. There are lots of poor men turned billionaires in Abba courtesy of Prince Arthur Eze’s benevolence and munificence. Twice has Prince Arthur Eze sponsored peace meetings in Awka between Abba community and Ukwulu/Ukpo communities twice has Abba leaders rejected the peace meetings.

It’s therefore disheartening that Abba community instead of commending him, are more determined to smear or vilify Prince Arthur Eze’s good image and depict him as a wealthy bully who represents all that is wrong with Nigeria; to cast him as an influential man who has the police in his pocket; a land grabber who would stop at nothing to forcibly acquire other people’s land; and a mean-spirited man who uses his wealth to oppress Abba people instead of improving lives. By every stretch of their imagination, the world will never see Prince Arthur Eze as a wealthy bully as painted by Abba war mongers rather posterity will remember him for his peaceful, kind and generous nature.

ABBA PROTEST; A SHAME TO HUMANITY

Last week Abba unguided leaders took to protest at Anambra State Government House and Anambra State Governor’s Lodge Awka. Ilokolobia Chukwugozie rightly captured the protests as follows; “The protesters were at Anambra State Government House to demand Government White Paper on Abba community erstwhile land dispute against Ukpo and Ukwulu communities. They equally mandated Anambra State Government to down play the Supreme Court and High Court judgments and take directives from Abba people. Their placards were to the effect that what matters to Abba is the white paper not court Judgments”.

We are moved to ask, is the Panel’s so called white paper superior to the Supreme Court judgment?

These protesters are clearly examples of men and women suffering from drunkenness and are desperately hoping to twist the law. Abba a community of funny men has remained unpredictable and capricious in the face of law. Since the start of the land dispute more than 45 years ago, Ukpo and Ukwulu have played by the rules – the rules of human decency, the rules of fair play and the rules of law. For all their noisy whirling and protest processions to Anambra Government House, Abba is completely exposed by history, tradition, and the courts of law.

The protests buttressed the fact that Abba is a community that celebrates illegality, impunity and are well schooled in perverting the cause of justice. May we remind Abba community that he who goes to equity must go with clean hands.

It is however, germane to note that Abba unending protests is stage managed as it is geared towards discouraging the situating of Zone 13 in Ukpo.   Anu a ga fe go kwanu……

ABBA’S DEMAND FOR COMMITTEE’S WHITE PAPER

It should, however, be noted that, before the Supreme Court Judgment, the Anambra State government had set up an administrative panel of inquiry into the Enugwu-Ukwu, Ukpo, Nawfia, Abba, Abagana, Enugu-Agidi and Ukwulu land dispute, under the leadership of Justice Chinyere Anigbogu, retired.

But with the Supreme Court judgment delivered and the recent High Court of Neni judgment, it is now trite law that the land belongs to the Ukpo and Ukwulu communities and as such should be unchallenged.

In line with the rule of law, the State Government was expected to have dissolved the committee since its terms of reference were now in conflict with the ruling of the Supreme Court or at best the aspect of its work involving the land dispute between Abba and Ukwulu/Ukpo communities should have been removed.

But this was not done, as the committee has continued to seat and gather facts and evidence over a matter that has been adjudicated upon by the apex court of the land, a worrisome development, which calls to question the true aims of the committee.

As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the committee’s recommendations would be null and void, since it cannot challenge the verdict of the highest court in the land. There is, therefore, need for the dissolution of the committee to remove the confusion it is now creating in the minds of the people of the area and the general public at large.

The general public must also be wary of the actions of the committee as its insistence on carrying on with its original assignment now amounts to gross illegality, impunity and an affront to the nation’s legal authority. It is a case of clear challenge of the authority of Supreme Court, which should not be taken lightly.

The so called white paper sort by Abba Community from the panel is not just worthless but also immaterial and of no consequence in view of the Supreme Court judgment.

ABBA PERSISTENT WAR SONGS AND PROVOCATIONS

Ukpo as a peace loving and law guided community has remained calmed even in the face of Abba’s unceasing war songs and provocations. We tolerated their excesses and stomached their frequent lies in the media.

For over 44 years while the suit lasted, Abba occupied Ukpo and Ukwulu parcels of land and enjoyed the proceeds. Abba relocated its Oye Abba market to the disputed land; they rented plots of land to telecommunications companies to erect masts; they built shops and stalls; they manned Ukpo Junction and forcibly collected tolls from commercial bike and motor operators. Their liver spirited men fenced (Chief Pius Nweke Best Aluminum and others) in hundreds of plots of Ukpo land inside residents which were built on Ukpo land.

Recently, in May, 2020, Chief Pius Nweke, Best Aluminum in absolute disregard and disdain to the Supreme Court judgment embark on massive expansion, annexing and arrogating over 100 plots of Ukpo’s land to himself on the deceptive guise and pretense that Ukpo in her magnanimity had promised not to take over any part of the erstwhile disputed land developed by Abba people.  What a shame!

In the early hours of 12th June, 2020 some Abba blood and war mongers numbering over 1000 attacked and beat up armless Ukpo indigenes and recorded scores of injuries. They were seen blandishing dangerous weapons such as guns, cutlass, log of wood etc.

It will be recalled that Ukpo and Ukwulu communities has long notified Anambra State Government of the violent nature and unceasing physical attacks melted on them by Abba community yet the Government did nothing.  It is however, important that the Anambra State Government should urge Abba community to respect Court’s judgment and toll the line of peace.

In spite of the extensive provocations, Ukpo were a class act in civility, law and order.  Igwe Ukpo, HRH Igwe (Dr.) Robert C. Eze, Okofia IV, in his peaceful nature and respect for rule of law admonished agitated and edged Ukpo youths not to embark on a reprisal attack.

For more than 45 years, we have been patient, no physical confrontations, no riots and no breach of the peace. 45 years, it paid off! Why shouldn’t Ukpo and Ukwulu be allowed to re-possess their stolen heritage (land)?

IN CONCLUSION

In this matter, the assemblage of law, facts and history is unequivocal and definite that the land erstwhile in dispute belongs to Ukpo and Ukwulu. Moreso, all competent law courts in Nigeria which decided the matter (from High Court to Supreme Court back to High Court) affirmed that the land belongs to Ukpo and Ukwulu communities.

Abba’s interpretation of the 15/2/2019 Supreme Court judgment which is to the effect that the Supreme Court ordered trial de novo is calculated to deceive the world and win cheap sympathy. However, we believe that the judgment of Neni High Court on 19/5/2020 has rested the fussy particularly Abba’s overelaborates misconceived issue of interpretation.

THE ALLEGED BRUTALITY BY MEN OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE: May we add that Contrary to the trending falsehood by Abba people bordering on brutality by men of the Nigeria Police Force against Abba, the police has been diligently performing their constitutional duty in line with court judgments without been influenced by anyone. No one from Abba community has been harassed, intimidated or chastised by men of the Nigeria Police over the said erstwhile land dispute between Ukpo, Ukwulu and Abba communities. Though we do not speak for the Nigerian Police Force yet we will not encourage falsehood, hate speech, lawlessness and absolute disregard to constituted authorities.

Ukpo is peace loving, law abiding and a community in a class act civility, law and order, we detest violence in settling disputes. We have been patient and peaceful since 1999 when the first judgment was delivered in our favour and after 20 years, the Apex Court resolved same in our favour. Just recently, High Court Anambra State reaffirmed that the land belongs to Ukpo and Ukwulu communities.

Why should Abba community be allowed to dispossess and deny us the benefits of these judgments?

We respect and will always defend the dignity of human life.

Dated this 15th day of June, 2020.

Written by C. C. Ozumba Esq.

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