Gist

Tension Brews in As Chairman TRC confronts Gov. Otu’s SA Chieftaincy Affairs

The Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council (TRC) chairman, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet, and Chief Frank Edet, the governor’s special adviser on chieftaincy affairs, recently clashed, leading to a recent turn of events in the state. The March 22 clash has generated controversy and questions around traditional authority and governance in the state.

There are rumors that when the TRC chairman tried to show his power over Chief Edet, it escalated into a furious verbal and physical altercation in Chief Edet’s office. Witnesses described chaotic scenes when Chief Edet was forcibly removed from his office by the TRC chairman and a few other recognized and unknown individuals. Concerns over the state’s governance and rule of law have been raised by the occurrence, which resulted in Chief Edet being prohibited from attending his place of employment.

A few days later, the TRC Chairman invited the SA Chieftaincy Affairs to attend another meeting. The SA politely declined, telling the TRC chair’s messenger that he was unable to attend since His Excellency had given him certain tasks to do. The next thing we knew was that, with a terrified expression, one of our employees ran into the office and announced, “The oga chairman is coming to our office.”

“Etinyin had opened the SA’s office and entered like Italy’s Mussolini before you could utter Jack Robinson. The TRC chair allegedly began yelling at the SA as soon as he stood up, surprising him by asking, “Who are you?” Who believe you to be? Are you the king? Are you the Almighty? During my time working with other SAs, none of them made fun of me or disobeyed my orders. You don’t respect me anymore since you came here. You refuse to follow directions. You refuse to carry out my instructions. Since I am powerless over you, I will not collaborate with you at this office. I collaborate with people I manage.”
“The next thing, some of his boys came and held the SA’s suit and tried to drag him out of the office. We said to them not to drag the SA that way, rather we pleaded that it is better for the SA to leave the office quietly since he was not born in that office and obviously shouldn’t be killed there. Three paramount rulers were there with him. Other clan heads were there too and the other persons he brought to come and push the SA out of the office. You can imagine the effrontery to remove and push out a representative of the governor from his office. The SA wasn’t even wearing his shoes because the place was hot, so he had to removed them. Infact I’ve never seen such a thing. The SA after being manhandled just asked if he could be allowed to take his shoes and they mockingly allowed him to go back and retrieve his shoes. Etinyin and the Paramount Ruler of Calabar South were standing there and shouting at him until he walked away after which the thugs warned him never to come back to the office.

The beleaguered SA drove to the governor’s office with a few employees in tow. There, he met with the Chief of Staff and informed him everything that had transpired. It’s alleged that the chief of staff was taken aback.

Prior to the SA arriving at the governor’s office, there were rumors that the TRC chairman had phoned the SA and asked him to inform whoever had sent him that he was unable to cooperate with them. Moreover, he has the people he wishes to collaborate with.
The fact that it appears he is now challenging His Excellency confused the workforce.

They went further to say that the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Anthony Owan-Enoh was also aware of the very primitive and embarrassing display.

“After the incident happened on Friday, on Monday the TRC chair summoned another meeting of paramount rulers from the 18 local government areas. Out of the 18, 13 paramount rulers attended the meeting and he briefed them about what happened, how the SA insulted him, how the SA is not subservient to him, how the SA is very insulting and all of that. He even lied against the SA, saying that the SA claimed all the staff in the office are from “atam” while only one person is from Efik. That’s a big lie. The TRC chair is trying to play the tribal sentiment card so that the non Efik paramount rulers will support him. Ironically, the paramount rulers who physically stormed the SA’s office are all from the Southern Senatorial zone.

“He even wrote a petition that the governor should replace the SA Chieftaincy Affairs. 12 of the Paramount Rulers signed the petition while one from Biase refused to sign because he said he didn’t see anything wrong that the Special Adviser has done. He said the SA’s refusal to attend a meeting for introduction wasn’t enough reason to call for a removal.

Meanwhile, efforts to reach the Chairman of the Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet,to hear his own side, via repeated phone calls, SMS and WhatsApp messages have all proven abortive as he has not taken his calls, or responded to SMS and WhatsApp messages. After days of trying, our correspondent ran into the SA Chieftaincy Affairs to confirm the development but, he consistently refrained to answer our questions or address the press on the explanation that he does not have the authorisation from his principal the governor to do so. “I cannot deny or affirm your questions”, Otuekong Frank Edet said.

Our source further noted that, “The challenge they all seem to have is a situation where there are two captains on a boat and they are confused about whose instructions to obey. For now, it seems the law of the jungle has won as the group who deal in violence have kept the SA out of his office and their thugs keep coming around and promising to deal with him if he tries to re-enter the office.

“Tribal sentiments are also brewing as citizens are saying it appears the Chairmanship of TRC has captured by the powerful Paramount Ruler of Bakassi, supported by his Southern counterparts, and unlike in the past when it was rotational, no other zone can sit there.”

From our deeper investigation, the office of the Special Adviser to the governor on Chieftaincy Affairs, has its mandate and responsibility. There are about 7 or 8 units working under Chieftaincy Affairs department. They have the administration which the Special Adviser oversees. There is a state council of chiefs, they are under the administration unit overseen by the SA. They have planning, research and statistics unit still under the purview of the SA. They have the unit for certification – issuing certificates to village heads. They have conflict management. They have the registry and the accounts unit. At the apex of the department is the Special Adviser, assisted by the permanent secretary; and the department has a deputy director of administration, assistant director and a chief executive officer and a full complement of support staff who appear well motivated and willing to work. On paper, they are not supposed to work under the Chairman of TRC but rather report to the Governor through his Special Adviser.

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