My dear honourable members in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, I hope this letter finds you well. I write to you with the deepest sense of responsibility and respect as partners in nation-building, and I graciously congratulate the Assembly on the first 100 days of your legislative life.
I look forward to many life-touching laws that will ignite the economic renaissance, peace, and good governance of Akwa Ibom State. This expectation is shared with me by millions of Akwa Ibom people, but I must say that the hopes, sense of pride, and security of minority ethnic demographics in the state are imminently eroding by some offensive provisions of the newly enacted Traditional Rulers Law.
It is the circumstances of this new law and the grievous mood of my constituents in Ikot Ekpene, Essien Udim, and Obot Akara Federal Constituency that compels that I share insight with you on the Akwa Ibom Traditional Rulers Law 2023.
I must frankly say that Section 45 of the Traditional Rulers Law 2023 that vests in perpetuity the office of President General of Akwa Ibom State Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers in the Oku Ibom Ibibio is not only unconstitutional and discordant with the history of the ethnic nationalities that constitute Akwa Ibom State and their affable relationship with each other from time immemorial, it also betrays the mandate of your Assembly to make laws only for the peace and good governance of the state.
In writing to you, I am conscious of the seemingly benevolent intent of crafting a traditional institution that mimics the grace and relevance of monarchies in other parts of the country, but despite any possible altruistic intention, the opportunity cost of a more glamorous, albeit artificial, royalty cannot be the peace and unity of the state.
Honourable members, I invite you to ponder on these historical concerns:
1. Was there ever a time in history prior to the passage of the 2023 TRC Law where the Oku Ibom Ibibio reigned as a supreme monarch over the Annang and Oron areas of the state?
2. In fact, has there even been in history, particularly before the independence of Nigeria, in even the indisputably Ibibio section of Ibibio Land, where one man, however described, has reigned and ruled as a supreme monarch given the republican nature of the people?
3. Was the headship of the Ibibio Union that famously accommodated other ethnic nationalities perpetuated in a particular part of the state?
4. Can a son of Ikot Ekpene, Essien Udim, and Obot Akara of the Annang section of the state aspire to the throne and the stool of Oku Ibom Ibibio so as to possibly emerge as President General in the future?
You will find, Honourable Members, that your answers to these agitations are resoundingly negative and manifestly discriminatory, offensive, inconsistent with history, and, in fact, provocative. The law is unconstitutional and has discriminated against my constituents in that a young child in my constituency cannot aspire for that high office created or elevated by the House of Assembly, not because of any limitation of history, content of his character, competence, or interest, but because of the circumstances and place of his birth.
May I invite you to reflect on the provisions of Section 42(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which states that:
“(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion, or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions, or political opinions are not made subject:”
Honourable Members, the amendments to the Traditional Rulers Law are simply repugnant to natural justice, equity, and good conscience. It is therefore a demand of honour for the Assembly to retrace the painful steps already taken and preserve the harmony of our people. It is my admonishment that Honourable Members should rather focus on matters that improve the welfare of our hardworking people, create opportunities, and engender peace.
Thank you, and please be assured of my best wishes.
Dr. Patrick Umoh, KSJI
Honourable Member representing Ikot Ekpene/Essien Udim/ Obot Akara Federal Constituency; Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Monitoring and Evaluation of Implementation of Legislative Agenda