The Cross River State Government has been ordered by a High Court in Calabar to pay His Royal Majesty, Dr. Ntui Atue Oru Ojong, the sum of N50 million.
The government was ordered to pay the monarch the money for illegitimately removing him as the paramount ruler of Etung LGA of Cross River State.
The High Court also ordered that the monarch be reinstated with all benefits accrued to him during the period with immediate effect.
The monarch was suspended from office by the state governor in May 2021, without any benefits to him, for allegedly misappropriating cocoa funds.
Delivering his judgement on suit number HC/96/2022, the presiding judge, Justice Elias O. Abua, on March 23, 2023, said the compensation is to assuage the emotional and psychological trauma which the monarch suffered throughout the time of his suspension by the state government.
The matter was between HRM Ntui Atue Oru Ojong as claimant and the Cross River State Government, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and four others as defendants.
The court stated that the state government suspended the claimant, who is also head of the Traditional Rulers’ Council of Etung LGA, without following due process of the law.
The court maintained that there is no section of the law which authorises the state government to slam suspension order on a paramount ruler.
The judge explained that the law only authorises the state government to withdraw certificate of recognition from an offending paramount ruler.
“The suspension was done in breach of the provision of sections 5, 17(1), 21, (1) and (2) 27, 28 (2), 29 and 30 (2) of Traditional Rulers Cap T4 Vol.6 Laws of Cross River State 2004.
“Therefore, the suspension was illegal, unlawful, arbitrary, wrongful, null and void. The claimant was never given fair hearing as far as the matter was concerned,” Abua’s judgement stated.
The court further restrained the state government from issuing any certificate of recognition to anyone as paramount ruler of Etung LGA given that HRM Oru Ojong was never dethroned nor his certificate of recognition withdrawn.
Further, the court nullified every act done, every document signed by the 6th defendant, Ntufam Raphael Ekuri Agbor, in his capacity, cautioning him to desist forthwith from parading himself as acting paramount ruler of Etung LGA.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining 1st and 4th defendants, their agents, servants and privies from ever recognizing or issuing certificate of recognition to Ntufam Raphael Ekuri Agbor as paramount ruler of Etung LGA while the claimant is still paramount ruler and president of Traditional Council, his certificate of recognition having not been revoked or withdrawn,” Abua’s judgement warned.
In a brief interaction with the reinstated paramount ruler at his residence on Monday in Ikom, he expressed happiness over the issue.
He said: “I thank God that the court which is the last hope of the common man still exists. I have forgiven all those who conspired and framed me up for reasons best known to them.
” I was framed that I took the royalty money meant for Cocoa Landlord Communities of Etung. Today, the state government has begun to make payments to beneficiaries. So where did I misappropriate the cocoa fund?”
The special adviser to Governor Ben Ayade on Cocoa Development, Dr Oscar Ofuka declined to speak on the matter.