THE IMPLEMEMTATION OF THE 2016 BENUE STATE CHIEFTAINCY LAW IN IDOMA LAND

THE POSITION OF IDOMA NATIONAL FORUM

Preamble
When Benue State Government announced its intention to create Intermediate Area Traditional Councils and appoint First Class Chiefs in 2013, Idoma National Forum (INF) set up a committee to assess and analyze the implications of the policy.  The committee chaired by Professor Armstrong Adejoh did a good job and submitted a comprehensive report to INF which was forwarded to the Idoma Area Traditional Council. The Bills were presented for public debate in April, 2014. INF prepared and presented a detailed memorandum at the public hearing organized by the State House of Assembly in Otukpo on 24th April, 2014. The issues raised in the memorandum were further

amplified at the Town Hall meeting in Makurdi on 28th April, 2014.
A committee was set up by H.R.H Agabaidu Elias I. Obekpa, Och’Idoma IV under the Chairmanship of Gen. Lawrence Onoja (Rtd) with the Immediate Past President of INF, Engr. Dr. Okopi Alex Momoh as a member. The committee was to meet the Executive Governor of the State, Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam to further discuss the position of Idoma on the matter.  The major areas of concern with the Bills included:

  1. The enormous powers given to the Executive Governor to create Area Traditional Councils and appoint chiefs without reference to the custodians of the culture and tradition of the people.
  2. Repeal of existing instruments for appointment and deposition of chiefs.
  3. Similarity in functions of the proposed Intermediate Area Traditional Councils and the Area Traditional Councils which could lead to Intermediate Area Traditional Councils claiming autonomy outside the control of the Area Traditional Council.
  4. The lack of a clear relationship between the First Class Chiefs of   Intermediate Area Traditional Councils and the Och’Idoma as the Paramount Ruler.
  5. The implied provision that the First Class Chiefs could deal directly with organs of government without reference to the Paramount Ruler.

The law as passed has addressed most of the concerns. Since the bills have been passed into law, it is difficult to change the provisions of the law now except through future amendments. What we need to do is to make the best of the law for the purposes of our unity and development as a people.
Observations

  1. The core objective for the creation of the Intermediate Area Traditional Councils is not clearly understood
  2. The  Wards and the Intermediate Area Traditional Councils are more of political creations that do not seem to add much value to sustainable development
  3. The qualifications and procedures for appointment of the various grades of Chiefs are adequate for now.
  4. The defined functions of the Intermediate Area Traditional Councils are not in conflict with the functions of the Traditional Area Council.
  5. The law has established a clear relationship between the Paramount Ruler and the First lass Chiefs
  6. The appointment of traditional rulers to higher positions of traditional rulership in most places is always restricted to existing traditional title holders operating in defined domains.
  7. The appointment of any candidate outside of the Idoma Area Traditional Council as First Class Chief will most likely cause disenchantment within the traditional establishment.
  8. The gazette has provided a uniform procedure for appointment of Chiefs in Idoma and Tiv areas without regard to the peculiarities in culture and tradition of the tribes.

Recommendations

  1. In addition to the minimum criteria set by the law, a prospective candidate for First Class Chief should have the requisite education, exposure, deep knowledge of the Idoma tradition and culture, leadership acumen, good interpersonal relationship and ability to attract development projects and mobilize the people for sustainable development.
  2. In line with the provisions of the gazette “Benue State Notice No. 42” dated 20th October, 2016, Vol. 4, section 18 on Appointment of First Class Chiefs, the Idoma Area Traditional Council should immediately initiate the setting up of the Selection Committees to select the First Class Chiefs from among the existing Idoma Area Traditional Council members for the designated Intermediate Area Traditional Councils.
  3. The Idoma Area Traditional Council should as a matter of urgency articulate stringent candidate selection criteria for appointment of chiefs in line with our traditional practices and culture.

Conclusion
Since the law on the appointment of First Class Chiefs is already gazetted, we have to accept it and immediately commence the process of selection based on acceptable criteria.

Barr.  Adoya Amali
President, Idoma National Forum

16th December, 2016