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Lagos State Government: Those Presenting Themselves as Ezendigbo Face Up to Two Years in Prison

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The Lagos State Government, through the Ministry of Local Governments, Chieftaincy Affairs and Rural Developments, has stated that those parading themselves as Ezendigbo risk two years imprisonment because the title is not recognized by the State Government.

P.M.EXPRESS reports that the revelation was made by the Assistant Director of the Ministry, Mrs. Raulat Ibrahim, before the Lagos State High Court while testifying against Ezendigbo in Ajao Estate, Eze Frederick Nwajiagu, for terrorism.

She also revealed that by Law, if any person is parading himself as Chief or King without the permission of the State Government through the Ministry, the person risks imprisonment.

From the case of Eze Nwajiagu, who presented certificate signed by the President of Igbo Speaking Community, as Ezendigbo, it means that other Ndiezes with such certificate risk imprisonment because it is not recognized by the State Government.

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Mrs. Raulat Ibrahim, who was the third prosecution witness led in evidence by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Dr. Babajide Martins,  told Justice Yetunde Adesanya of the State High Court sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square Lagos that the Eze-Ndigbo is not a recognized chieftaincy title in the State.

During the trial, Mrs. Ibrahim told the Court her schedule of duties in the Ministry.

“I am a civil servant at the Ministry of Local Governments, Chieftaincy Affairs and Rural Developments. I was employed in October 2001 and made Assistant Director in 2015”.

“My schedule of duties includes, upgrading of Baale/chiefs or Oba either from part 3 to part 2, creation of stool, monthly meetings with the Obas and the Lagos State Council of Chiefs and Obas. Preparing allowance of Obas, conflict resolutions and lastly stakeholders meetings.”

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“The processing for stool designation is from the Local Government. Relevant documents will be forwarded such as the minutes of the ruling house, minutes of the selectors, then minutes of the chieftaincy committee in the Local Government.”

“The bio-data of the chieftain, the Curriculum Vitae, the picture of the chieftain and a certain amount of money, which the chieftain will pay to the Local Government.”

“Payment of moving from part 3 to part 2 then we start the processing from our ministry. We forward the document to the Ministry of Justice for clearance then we send it for Governor’s approval, then ratification of the executive members. Then we prepare the letter.”

“Since the letter is from the Local Government, my office calls the chieftaincy officer of the Local Government for collection of the letter.
For the Obas, the Local Government will forward the requirement letter to our Ministry then we send it to the Ministry of Justice, then they forward it to Lagos State Standing Tribunal Enquiry for Chieftaincy Matters, the standing tribunal publishes name into the national newspaper, interested parties will join the tribunal.”

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“After it has been resolved, the file will be sent back to our Ministry for further processing. Then we start all over again to the Ministry of Justice to Governor’s office etc. Then the ministry will now issue a letter of approval. On the installation day, the certificate of issue will be sent by the Governor for approval, then the Ministry will install the Oba.”

“The letter of approval will be signed by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry. There is no installation for Chief. It’s the letter that shows his recognition as a Chief in Lagos State.”

Mrs. Ibrahim stated that this procedure is governed by the Obas and Chiefs law of Lagos State 2015. She also noted that there is no Oba or recognized chief in Ajao Estate.

“So if a person claims or parades himself that he is a Chief in Ajao Estate, what does that mean under the law and the procedure?” asked the DPP.

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“The person did not follow the due process as recognised by law and he is therefore, not recognized by Lagos State,” replied Mrs Ibrahim.

“When the defendant was arrested by Police, he had a certificate, are you familiar with it?
No sir, we don’t issue such.
This is not a certificate signed by the Governor? It’s not issued by Lagos State.

The prosecuting counsel tendered the certificate as evidence while stating that they had made a copy for the Court.

Defense counsel, Chief Emefo Etubo, stated that he had no objections to the tendered evidence. It was marked as Exhibit P6p.

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“What is the implication of this parade then? asked the DPP.
“Since the chief did not follow this procedure, he will be charged for two years,” said the witness.

The defence counsel, Chief Emefo Etubo,  further cross examined the witness and she further stated:

“The Permanent Secretary gave me instructions on this matter. A file containing mail was sent from the Permanent Secretary to our Director of Chieftaincy then it was sent to me on 19th December, 2023, and we appeared in Court in January. We didn’t have the administrative file of the Eze-Ndigbo, then we sent it to the Director Legal in the archives.”

“The director then said I will appear in Court because we don’t have such a processed file as he is not our Chief. I am conversant with the recognized Chiefs in Lagos State and Eze Ndigbo is not one of them.”

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Justice Adesanya adjourned till 29th January, 2024, for continuation of trial.

P.M.EXPRESS findings revealed that none of the Ezendigbo in Lagos State is recognized by the Lagos State Government and there is no single file at the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy Matters and Rural Development as testified before the Court.

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