A traditional ruler has been accused of witchcraft and ostracized in a Rivers community, leading to tension in the area.
File photo used only for illustrative purpose
The decision by the Abonnema community in Akuku-Toru local government council of Rivers State to ostracize their traditional ruler, the Amayanabo, His Royal Highness, Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, for allegation of witchcraft has unsettled the community.
The Kalabari-na Ekine Sekiapu, which conveyed the isolation, said the Amayanabo should stop performing the functions of the traditional ruler or even sit with the Abonneme council of chiefs, until he purged himself of the accusation of witchcraft in line with the Kalabari native law and custom.
In a letter written by the Ekine Alabo (custodian of Kalabari custom and tradition), Chief Precious Elekima, dated January 4, 2017, the Abonnema Council of Chiefs declared: “Consequently, in exercise of my functions and duty as Ekine Alabo (the custodian of Kalabari custom and tradition), I hereby formally advise you to cease forthwith from performing the functions and duties of Amayanabo and also as a Chief; and to refrain from sitting among the Abonema Council of Chiefs, until you purge yourself of the allegations of witchcraft according to tradition.”
When contacted, the Amayanabo, told reporters that “it is a lie,” but could not respond to questions as to why he went to court in 2013, against Mr. Adokiye Akamaka who made the allegation or the outcome of the suit.
It was revealed that after Adokiye Akamaka accused the traditional ruler of witchcraft, he sent bottles of wines to the various ruling houses, according to the Kalabari custom and tradition.
Based on the weight of the accusation, Akamaka’s gesture of supporting his allegation with bottles of hot drinks, the Abonema council of chiefs, wrote to the HRH Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, pointing out the seriousness of the allegation and demanded that he perform the traditional rites of the community to deny the accusations.
The letter from the council of chiefs dated September 12, 2016 was signed by leaders of the five ruling houses, including Ibioku W. Manuel, Ibietela Oruwari, Krakrafa-a T. Jack, Senibo P. Kala-Otaji and Boma Hamilton Bob-Manuel.
In the letter, the council of chiefs wrote: “We are constrained to write as concerned citizens of Abonema to advise and move the Abonema Council of Chiefs- our revered chiefs to do the needful and necessary things concerning the witchcraft acusation on HRH Disreal Gbobo Bob-Manuel, Amayanabo (King) of Abonema.
“The Owukori Stool in Abonema is a revered one. It is the number one in Abonema-respected by all and sundry…It stands to reason therefore, that any incumbent on that revered stool must be free from such accusation of witchcraft and the like. In our tradition, if you are a witch you are not allowed to be a chief. If it is discovered after you have been installed as a chief and it is proved that you are a witch, you are sent packing from the chieftaincy council.”
Giving the background to his allegation, Akamaka had disclosed that before May 20, 2011, HRH Disreal Gbobo Bob-Manuel had told King Alfred Ditte Spiff that he (Bob-Manuel) was going to be the next Amayanabo of Abonema. By then HRH Morgan Opuarudokubo Bob-Manuel was still on the seat, hale and hearty.
“The circumstances surrounding his death and the quick and clever manner in which HRH Direal Gbobo Bob-Manuel was installed as King, on the day of grave reinforcement- (never in the history of Kalabari land had that happened), agitated the minds of many and Adokiye Akamama quickly instituted a summons before the Abonema Council of Chiefs against HRH Disreal Gbobo Bob-Manuel calling him a witch on May 20, 2011; the necessary fees and one bottle of gin were paid in all quarters,” the letter stated.
It was discovered that the summon was hidden away by the Secretary to the Council of Chiefs Chief G.I. G Ogidi Briggs, who received it on behalf of the council, who was allegedly working in cohort with HRH Disreal Gbobo Bob-Manuel.
But Adokiye Akamaka persisted that justice must be done and renewed the allegation in fresh summon dated June 29, 2012. And in a bid to divert public attention, HRH Bob-Manuel went to court and instituted a libel case against Adokiye Akamaka claiming the sum of One hundred million in damages in suit no. DHC/8/2013.
Intriguingly, the letter from Akamaka which was hidden away by the council secretary, was used as evidence.
Incidentally, during trial one of the witnesses, Mr. Oprite Gladstone Bob-Manuel, in paragraph five of his witness statement asserted: “Adokiye Akamaka caused me to recive the document (summons), which I read. The document suggested that because HRH Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel was ambitious to be head of Owukori House and Amayanabo of Abonema, he brought the life of HRH Don Opuarudokubo Bob-Manuel to an unnatural end by use of power of witchcraft.”
Based on the depositions of his witness, HRH Bob-Manuel abandoned the case. On January 1, 2014 the court, taking notice of the lack of diligent prosecution struck out the matter with a cost of N5, 000 against the claimant, HRH Disrael Bob-Manuel.
With the legal impediment cleared, the Kalabari Ekine Sekiapu of Abonnema in their meeting of December 24, 2016 resolved as follows: “That by Kalabari way and customs, all persons, chiefs, kings, men or women accused of witchcraft are required to purge themselves by the customs and tradition of the Kalabari people.
“That it is customary for all such summons to be referred from the council of chiefs to the Ekine Sekiapu to perform the native law and custom on the accused. In view of suit no. DHC/30/2016, the His Royal Highness Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel is required and shall purge himself of the said allegations according to the Kalabari native law and custom, to enable him perform his functions as Amayanabo and also to sit among the council of chiefs as required by the Kalabari native law and custom.
“Finally, the Kalabari Ekine Sekiapu’s decision is based on maintaining its neutrality and upholding the Kalabari native law and customs without fear or favour to any particular person no matter how highly placed.”
The resolution was signed by Daobu Peters and Briggs Daopuye.
It was against that background that the Kalabari-na Ekine Sekiapu in its letter of January 4, 2017 signed by Ekine Alabo, Precious Elekima, ostracised the Amayanabo, HRH Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel.
Titled, Advise That You Step Aside Pending Your Performance Of The Traditional Requirement With Reference To Witchcraft Allegations,” the letter read: “I am constrained to draw the attention of your Royal Highness to the decision of Kalabari-naEkine Sekiapu, Abonnema of December 24, 2016 in respect of the allegation of witchcraft against you over which the Kalabari Ekine Sekiapu was sued in the Degema High Court in Suit no. DHC/30/2016.
“The meaning and effect of that decision is that you can no longer act and perform the functions of Amayanabo of Abonnema until such a time that you purge yourself of the witchcraft allegations according to Kalabari native law and custom.
“Consequently, in exercise of my function and duty as EkineAlabo (the custodian of Kalabari custom and tradition), I hereby formally advise you to cease forthwith from performing the functions and duties of Amayanabo and also as a chief and to refrain from sitting among the Abonnema council of chiefs until you purge yourself of the allegations of witchcraft according to tradition.
“I am further required to advise you to hand over the functions of your office to the next most senior chief, namely Chief G. N. Alabraba, head of Oruwari Briggs group of House of Abonnema.”
The final blow to the embattled Amayanabo came from his ruling house of Owukori (Manuel).
In a public announcement sent out to newspapers and radio stations, signed by Chief Awoye Kelly Bob-Manuel, on behalf of the ruling house, the Amayanabo’s relatives said that they support the Abonnema Council of Chiefs to do the needful by asking HRH Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel to vacate the sit for now and arrange to clear and purge himself of the witchcraft accusation, stressing that “we are waiting and watching.”
Below is a copy of the letter: