Map of Essien Udim used to demonstrate the story.

By Itoro Etim

Adiasim Ikot Ekon, an agrarian community in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, is embroiled in a tussle over the selection of a new Village Head.

The leadership dispute has prompted the community to seek the intervention of Akwa Ibom State Government to avert potential crisis.

In the traditional rulership system of Akwa Ibom State, the selection of village heads is the responsibility of the family heads, known as Mbóng Ekpuk. These family heads are the legitimate king-makers empowered by law to choose the village heads periodically. The village heads, in turn, are responsible for selecting the clan heads, who then choose the Paramount Ruler of the local government.

It was gathered that Adiasim Ikot Ekon comprises eight families (ekpuk), each with its own legitimate head serving as a kingmaker.

During a meeting held on Friday, May 31, five of the family heads accused one of the aspirants for the village headship, Sunday Tom Umoh, of secretly manipulating the selection process to present himself as the chosen candidate for the position of Village Head.

Speaking with our correspondent shortly after the meeting, the family heads said that Umoh was using three family heads, as well as some individuals they described as “fake ones,” to forcefully have him confirmed as the selected Village Head by the Traditional Rulers Council and the Paramount Ruler of the area.

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One of our reporters monitoring the situation noted that despite the ongoing debacle, the Adiasim Ikot Ekon community remained calm at the weekend, as residents continued with their normal activities.

However, the whereabouts of Sunday Tom Umoh and the three family heads allegedly supporting his aspiration remained unclear, as efforts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful as of the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile, COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peace Building, through its Executive Director, Savior Akpan Esq., has sent a letter to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, requesting the non-recognition of Sunday Tom Umoh as an aspirant for the position of the Village Head until the proper selection process is followed.

The letter, which was copied to the media and 15 other organisations including the Office of Governor and Deputy Governor, requested the state government to ensure that no official village activity in Adiasim Ikot Ekon is conducted outside the village hall.

Akpan stated that the community’s plea for the Akwa Ibom State Government’s intervention underscores the need to resolve the leadership tussle and maintain peace and order in Adiasim Ikot Ekon.

The rights activist, among others, recommended in his letter that, “Village Heads should not attend to matters of the village in their private homes. Instead, they must operate from the village hall/square, along with their cabinet members.

“All Village Heads must reside within their respective villages. Any visiting Village Heads to their communities should be immediately dethroned, and their certificates of recognition be withdrawn.

“Before the certification of a Village Head, the aspirant should be thoroughly profiled by the State Security Service and the Intelligence Department of the Nigeria Police. This process should be carried out in a transparent manner to build public confidence and legitimacy.

“The issuance of certificates to successful Village Heads should be done in the village of their origin. This will help reduce, and potentially eradicate, cases of lawsuits against the government when the wrong person, whose aspiration had been disputed, is issued a certificate.

“The death of a Village Head should be announced by the Clan Head, and the burial should be concluded within three months. This will enable the selection of a new Village Head in accordance with the custom and tradition of the people. During the interim, the family (Ekpuk) heads should administer their respective families until a new Village Head is selected.

“Children of deceased monarchs should be barred from using their late father’s official vehicles with the covered plate number. Some of these vehicles were donated by the government during the Akpabio regime and are still being used without removing the official logo of the deceased monarch, thereby evading security checks”, the letter added.