COMMENTS BY CHIEF SALIFU ANYEBE, ONU OTUTUBATU OF BAGANA, ABOUT FREQUENT CRISES IN HIS DOMAIN
Otutubatu is an ancient kingdom founded by Abutu Eje, the first Igala king and the founder of Attah dynasty in Igala kingdom in the 12th Century.
The location (Otutubatu) which has since then been occupied by the descendants of Abutu Eje is made up of Ogbagana (now Bagana), Omagede, Ofapo, Idakpiti, Ojeda, Aj’Adakpajele, Egwumale amd Ojuwo-Igbone villages – all within Bagana community in the present Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State.
The domain is bounded to the North directly by River Benue; to the East by Agatu LGA of Benue State; to the West by Ihiankpe Chiefdom in Omala LGA and to the South by Ife Kingdom in Omala LGA of Kogi State.
Otutubatu Kingdom is made up of some of the descendants of Abutu Eje who are members of Abutu Eje dynasty (otherwise referred to as Jukun dynasty), who for traditional reasons vouchsafed to remain at Otutubatu, while the other descendants embarked on a further expedition which took them to the present location known as Idah, now the traditional headquarters of Igala nation.
Otutubatu inherited its kingship from Abutu Eje and has maintained it hitherto. The present traditional ruler (Onu Otutubatu) is Chief Salifu Anyebe appointed in 1998 by HRM Attah Igala, who happens to be the 19th traditional ruler of Otutubatu since the demise of Abutu Eje in 1190 AD.
The descendants of Abutu Eje in Otutubatu today are faced with a lot of crises emanating from undue interest shown by various sets of people in neigbhouring kingdoms who are envious of Otutubatu due to the availability of numerous economic potentials in the area and the promising nature of its location, which make them to contend with the traditional ruler of Otutubatu over customary ownership of Bagana land. Some of them have used all resources at their disposal to dispossess the people of Otutubatu and, of course, the descendants of Abutu Eje all over Igala land, of one major part of their ancestral home (i.e. Bagana).
To be specific, the traditional rulers of Ife and Ihiankpe – both in Omala LGA of Kogi State and the Hausa/Nupe settlers in Bagana have been attempting to take over Bagana land. Each of these three groups of contenders falsely lay claim of ownership without tangible proofs. As law-abiding citizens, we, the people of Otutubatu have gone to courts to seek redress on several occasions and have always triumphed, as judgements are usually passed in our favour due largely to the facts we have to support our claim. HRM Attah Igala has in all the cases testified in court that Bagana is right in the jurisdiction of Onu Otutubatu. But these people are separately determined to use any means to chase Onu Otutubatu out of Bagana, through blackmail, violence and incendiary reports through petitions that lack substances. It is clear that it was as a result of their blackmail and misinformation to the government that the stool of Onu Otutubatu has NOT been graded up till now.
We so much believe in the judiciary as the hope of the common man and so we handle our matters in court. The court cases which Otutubatu Kindom has won in respect of the right of customary ownership of Bagana include:
- Upper Area Court Anyigba in a judgement passed on 6th September, 1978 in a case between Onu Otutubatu and Onu Ihiankpe over ownership of Bagana land.
- Upper Area Court Anyigba in a judgement passed on 23rd August, 1982 in a case between Onu Otutubatu and Onu Ihiankpe, also over ownership of Bagana.
- High Court of Justice Idah, in a judgement passed on 19th May, 1983, following an Appeal of the case in No. 2 above.
- High Court, Anyigba in a judgement passed on 30th May, 2019 in a case between Onu Otutubatu and Onu Ihiankpe over right of ownership of lands in Bagana.
- High Court of Justice, Ankpa in a judgement passed on 1st August, 2013 in a case between Onu Otutubatu and Omala Traditional Council headed by Onu Ife, in an attempt to take over Bagana and create a new chiefdom. The judgement stated categorically that:
“It is hereby declared that by existing Igala native law and custom, the claimant as Onu Otutubatu is the traditional owner of lands in Bagana – which extends to and includes lands in Bagana and Omagede Gago Areas.”
- The Court of Appeal, Abuja in a judgement passed on 20th December, 2018 in the appeal of the case in No. 5 above between Onu Otutubatu and Onu Ife and others.
- HRM, the Attah Igala with his Council’s ruling on the Bagana/Otutubatu boundary tussle between Onu Otutubatu and Onu Ife, on 28th May, 2008. Judgement was passed in favour of Onu Otutubatu as the rightful owner of Bagana land.
Court judgements passed in respect of all the above cases are available to substantiate our claim.
Recently, Onu Ife in conjunction with the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Kogi State, summoned Onu Otutubatu to a meeting on 10th June, 2021 in the ministry, only to threaten me (Onu Otutubatu) to move out of my palace in Bagana. They explained that it was my presence in Bagana that usually generate tension in the area. We felt that this directive was biased and lopsided to a great extent, because they never wanted to know who actually owned the land in Bagana and to identify who was fomenting trouble, so as to know and take the necessary action, but rather, they were only interested in threatening me (Onu Otutubatu) to relocate and forfeit the heart of my domain to them. I resisted it because I feel we are all bound by law and natural justice. And I hope that the law of natural justice will certainly expose whatever evils (oppression and subjugation) that are being planned against me and Otutubatu in general, if not now, then certainly later.
Similarly, the representative(s) of the Hausa/Nupe settlers in Bagana have been writing series of petition against me to various Police authorities in Abuja and Lokoja respectively but unfortunately they have NEVER been able to prove their case to a reasonable conclusion.
The Prayers of Otutubatu People
- The government should investigate into this matter objectively (without bias or undue influence) to ascertain the rightful owner of Bagana based on the customary law and custom of Igala and the judiciary, being the hope and arbiter of the common man.
- The government through the security agencies is to come out clearly to enforce maintenance of law and order in Bagana, so as to restore lasting peace among inhabitants. This is why it is necessary to establish a Police Post or Station as well as a Naval Base in Bagana. Establishment of Marine Police is equally necessary. These will curb the excesses of hoodlums in the area.
- The general public should guide against utterances that are capable of igniting tensions among the settlers and that anyone who is aggrieved over ownership of Bagana land is at liberty to go to court instead of fomenting trouble.
- The government is to consider the stool of Onu Otutubatu for grading, as it is long overdue, considering the relevance of the stool in the history of Igala kingship.