ECHOES OF THE CREATION OF AUTONOMOUS COMMUNITIES IN OHAFIA.
Engr. Sunny Mbila (Ugwumba Ohafia)
An autonomous community can be described as a group of people who share a common identity based on their cultural and traditional boundaries, with a Traditional Ruler chosen by the community according to their tradition and usage. The concept of autonomous community in Igbo land can be traced back to pre-colonial era, where communities existed as independent village unit.
However, a nation-wide reform of local government was initiated by the Federal government in 1976, which resulted in the formal recognition and political support for chieftaincy institutions, leading to the creation of local government structures that still exist today. Autonomous communities were established as a constituency for would-be chiefs, with the chieftaincy edict of 1978 formally establishing the Eze or Chieftaincy institution in each autonomous community.
The noble reason for the creation of autonomous communities was to decentralize governance, making it more accessible to the grassroots level, and promoting development partnerships between the government and these communities. The communities were also expected to generate revenue independently, embark on development projects, and assist in maintaining security by utilizing their grassroots intelligence network.
ANALYSING THE IMPACT OF THE CREATION OF AUTONOMOUS COMMUNITIES IN OHAFIA
There are 15 autonomous communities in Ohafia made up of 26 villages.
The Villages in Ohafia are:
10). Nkwebi “
11). Abia “
12). Amankwu “
13). Eziafor “
14). Isiugwu “
15). Oboro “
16). Okagwe “
17). Okom “
18). Ufiele “
19). Ndi Amogu “
20). Ndi Aku “
21). Ndi Anyaorie “
22). Ndi Ibe “
23). Ndi Okala “
24). Ndi Orieke “
25). Ndi Uduma Awoke “
26). Ndi Uduma Ukwu “
The autonomous communities in Ohafia are:
1). Akanu Ukwu
2). Asaga Ukwu
3). Amangwu Anaga Uka
7). Owuwa Anyanwu
8). Ebem – Oha
9). Eziafor Ukwu
10). Okon Aku
In Abia State, the administrative structure of governance, as outlined in the State Law of 1991 (as amended), grants autonomous traditional rulers the authority to govern recognized autonomous communities.
Refer to attached publication on the Autonomous Communities in Ohafia Clan by HRH Eze Igwe Ojike (MON) ANNEX A and a rejoinder to the said publication written and signed by the 26 Ezieogos and members, Council of Ohafia Monarchs. ANNEX B
AUTONOMOUS COMMUNITIES IN OHAFIA CLAN
HRH EZE IGWE OJIKE (MON)
& NTO ALI AKU OF OHAFIA.
In my frequent discussions on the effect of the creation of various autonomous communities in our culture and tradition; and on our structure of Government, | have come to realize that a good number of people are not very conversant with the Provisions of Abia State law No. 8 of 1991 (as amended); and consequently, do not understand or fully appreciate its implications and practical effects on the tradition and governance structure of the Ohafia Clan.
This brief write-up is intended to illuminate and explain the various grey areas of the law so that people can fully appreciate its impact on our society.
LAW No. 8 of Abia State of Nigeria 1991 (as amended) brought about a root and branch realignment of town and village structure in Abia State.
It produced seismic and fundamental changes in the governmental structure of the Ohafia Clan. Villages in the Ohafia Clan were reduced from 26 to 15 Autonomous Communities and the Eze-ship institution created.
According to the Government in a letter dated 11th April 2011 “The Eze is the Traditional Ruler and Government Representative in the Community. As the society becomes Complex, Government in her wisdom creates institutions and structures it deems fit that would help her with the dynamics of modern development changes. Hence, The Abia State Traditional Rulers and Autonomous Communities Law of December 1991 defines an Eze (of an Autonomous Community) as a Traditional Ruler or Head of an Autonomous Community who has been identified, selected, appointed and installed by his people according to their own tradition and usages and presented to the Government for recognition…the role of the Ezie Ogo should be advisory to the Eze of the Autonomous Community… Accordingly, an Ezie Ogo is not allowed to answer HRH or HRM; and confer Chieftaincy Titles.”
5) Functions of an Eze:
Section 19/1 states that “In addition to any duties and obligation imposed upon a recognized Eze by tradition and custom, his function shall include following:
Representing his Autonomous Community on ceremonial occasions.
Receiving important visitors to the Community on ceremonial occasions.
Presiding at cultural ceremonies in the community.
Acting as the custodian of culture, custom and tradition and advising the Community on them.
Assisting in the maintenance of law and order in the Community.
Taking steps to reconcile disputing parties in civil matters whether or not such matters which the disputing parties bring him for reconciliation are matters governed by any law of the community.
Encouraging development project of the Community.
Assisting the state and Local Government in-charge of the Community with collection of taxes and rates.
Promoting stability and peace in the Community.
Attending meetings by the Chairman of the Local Government Area, for the purposes of consultation and advice.”
6) Ohafia Clan has been fundamentally restructured. As a consequence, new constitutions and possibly bye laws evolved to regulate intra-community relationships and determine governing structures.
7) The Ohafia Clan can be classified into three groups: Group A (Metamorphosis) – there are 5 Groups her comprising 14 villages namely:
ii) Ndi Ibe
ii) Ndi Uduma Awoke
e) Owuwa Anyanwu:
i) Ndi Aku
ii) Ndi Uduma Ukwu
These villages surrendered their individualities and decided to go into a
union with other villages. They have constitutions and by-laws to
regulate their affairs and determine intra-community relationships.
GROUP B (Realignment or Dismemberment) – Here a single village was
split into smaller communities:
a) Ebem Oha
b) Ekelu Ogo
Ebem Oha went ahead and realigned with other villages, namely:
a) Ihe Nta (Ibina)
b) Ndi Amogu
c) Ndi Anyaorie
d) Ndi Okala
The total number of villages in this group is therefore 5.
Here, it was realized ab initio that the village Development Union was
moribund, and therefore; irrelevant in the new order of things and the
various Autonomous Communities formed their Development Unions
i) Ebem Oha Development Association.
ii) Ebem Oha Development Union.
iii) Eziukwu Ebem Improvement Union.
Each of these new groupings are now performing the functions of the
defunct village Development Union.
GROUP C (Evolution) – These were villages that gradually developed
into new Communities in a seamless way with only a change of name.
This BEGUILED the fact of very fundamental changes in their structure
and system of Governance.
Under this group are:
a) Akanu Ukwu
c) Amangwu Anaga Uka
d) Asaga Ukwu
e) Eziafor Ukwu
g) Okon Aku.
8) The Hard Facts:
a) The Office of a Traditional Ruler (The Eze) as the head of an Autonomous Community was created by the Law and will remain so until the Law is abolished.
b) Villages as organs or units of Governance as we used to know them have been “abolished” so to say, even though they are still there structurally and physically.
c) Government deals only with the Autonomous Communities. As a case in point, Government invites only the President General, Youth Leaders, Women Leaders of the various Communities to meeting for consultation and action. Assuming Government wants to share responsibilities, this will be done accordingly to Autonomous Communities -15 in Ohafia Clan and NOT the 26 villages we are used to. In other words, Abia State Government recognizes and works with the 15 Autonomous Communities that it created and their Traditional Rulers.
d) Government does not recognize the institution of the Ezie Ogo. The duties and responsibility of an Ezie Ogo are assigned or delegated to him by the Eze of the Autonomous Communities in which the Ezie Ogo (or Village Head) belongs.
e) Superficially, it has been ‘business as usual’ for communities in Group C, but in reality, it is not. For example, if the Government wants a meeting with the President General of Ohafia Communities, Amaedo (formally Ndi Orieke) will produce one, Akanu Ukwu (formally, Abia, Ndi Uduma Awoke, Isingwu and Amankwu) will provide one, which is at variance with our village (original) Structure.
f) the present unwillingness or inability of the Ezie Ogos to accept what is on ground is due to the fact that the Ezie Ogo believes that the Traditional Ruler – a creation of the Law – has usurped his traditional functions as a custodian of culture and tradition of his village.
But some of them forget that a number of the Traditional Rulers were Ezie Ogos in their respective Village settings and that the Ezes are not Warrant Chiefs handpicked by the colonialists. The Ezes emerged through legal and democratic process and are therefore not usurpers of the customary functions of the Village heads.
9) Section 19 subsection one has spelt out the functions of the Eze of an Autonomous Community. The functions are comprehensive enough to help a discerning mind deduce their corollaries; and frankly speaking there can be no two captains in a boat – “The Ezeogo” as a nomenclature is foreign to Ohafia culture and tradition.
The failure of majority of people to understand and appreciate the fundamental changes that have taken place in the structure and nature of the government in Group C have had a domino effect on some other Ohafia Communities. The practical paradox is that the Federated Units instead of concentrating on the Unified Development Union like the Abia Union still retains Old Village Associations as if they were recognized by Law. In actual fact, they are NOT.
The wind of change sweeping through the Ohafia Clan from East to West and North to South, brought about by the Abia State Law No. 8 of 1991 (as amended) means that The New Language is community NOT village AND The New Numerical is 15 (fifteen) NOT 26 (twenty-six).
The failure to detect these subtle differences has been the cause of misinterpretation of the law by all and sundry. The sooner we realized this better operational efficiency and functionality of the Unified Development Union in particular and Ohafia Autonomous Community system in general. Q.E.D.
HRH Eze Igwe Ojike (MON)
Nto Ali Aku of Ohafia.