By Opara Chidinma
The embattled traditional rulers in Imo State have secured a court order restraining the state government from taking any further action against them pending the determination of the suit they filed in the court.
40 out of the 65 monarchs, 4 of whom were suspended and 61 others summoned to a panel, headed to a court in Owerri to challenge the action of the state government and avert their dethronement.
Presenting an ex_parte application before the court last Tuesday, the counsel for the monarchs, Iyke Udeozor, lamented what he described as the “active evasion of service” by some defendants, some of which include Eze Samuel Ohiri, Chairman, Imo state council of traditional rulers, his secretary and some members of a contentious probe panel.
The counsel prayed for an order for substituted service of the originating summons and other court processes on the said defendants.
In her ruling, the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice Ngozi Ukoha granted the application, directing that the originating summons and other court processes be pasted on the gates of the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th defendants being Imo State Council of Traditional rulers, Eze Samuel Ohiri, Edwin Orisakwe, C.J. Okwara, G.Ejiogu and Ben Igwilo who is the secretary of the Council.
Ukoha added that on the orders of the court and due to the sensitive nature of the suit, the substituted service as effected would be deemed as valid service.
The judge further directed that the defendants must refrain from any action that may antagonize the suit, saying, “defendants are ordered to respect the pendency of this suit”.
The monarchs are contending in the suit that the “Imo state council of Ndi Eze as constituted by Governor Rochas Okorocha and headed by Ohiri is an illegal and unlawful body, having been constituted in contravention of section 2 of law No. 6 of 2006 (The Imo State of Nigeria Traditional Rulers, Autonomous Communities and Allied Matters Law).
They are therefore praying the court to dissolve the council and sack Eze Ohiri alongside his illegitimate council members ditto for the unlawful fact finding panel set up to investigate them for alleged misconduct.
The case was adjourned to the 8th of July 2015 for further hearing.
It would be recalled that the state government had through the traditional rulers council suspended 4 traditional rulers and 50 more slated for suspension for alleged disobedience to the council and government’s order not to honour any meeting convened by the alleged sacked chairman of the council and deposed traditional ruler of Obinugwu Autonomous community, Cletus Ilomuanya and their participation in welcoming the former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan during his campaign visit to the state.