Succession Under Customary Law in Nigeria. The Rule of Primogeniture versus the Deposition of a Traditional Ruler (Onojie) in Edo State: A critique of the Provisions of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edicts No 16 of 1979

Paul Okhaide Itua

Abstract


Before the advent of colonial administration in the area, which is presently known as Nigeria, there existed a people occupying vast areas of territories, which were traditionally dominated by highly diverse ethnic groups with highly sophisticated language systems. Apart from the variation in the languages, there also exist shape differences in terms of customs and traditions. However, with the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorate by Lord Frederick Lugard the former Governor-General of Nigeria in 1914 these territories were brought together for the convenience of British Colonial Administration. The new territory was called Nigeria. In furtherance of their quest for effective colonial administration, the British used to their advantage the traditional institutions that were well established in the country. Although traditional structures differ considerately from one ethnic group to another, but it was a common feature for these various ethnic groups to have their own established traditional institution with a recognised ruler, who may in turn be subordinate to the ruler of a larger community. The procedure regulating succession to the throne of these various traditional institutions are well defined by customs and traditions. These traditional ruler exercises absolute powers, and wade considerable influence in the affairs concerning their area of jurisdiction. However since the attainment of Independence in 1960, and followed by alternating between Military rule and civilian administration saw the decline and in some cases the eroding of the powers once excised by these traditional rulers. The once reviled absolute rulers suddenly discover that they are now subject to the powers of the state as provided in the various Traditional Rulers and Chief Law of the various states in the federation. These laws prescribed the mode of selection, appointment and discipline of a traditional ruler, which could include deposition or dethronement. In Edo State, succession to the throne as a traditional ruler in most of the communities is governed by the rule of primogeniture. Among the Esan people of Edo State their traditional ruler is known as the “Onojie” and succession to the throne is strictly by the principle of primogeniture. Recently, the Onojie of Uromi was deposed by the Edo State Government acting in accordance with provision of the Traditional Rulers and Chief Edict No 6 Laws of Bendel State of Nigeria 1979 applicable to Edo State. This article seeks to examine critically the aforesaid deposition of the Onojie against the Rule of primogeniture that regulate succession to the throne under Esan customary law.

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijch.v6i2.15125

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