Because of public interest on the Federal High Court Judgement overlording Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe and Lokoja to Igala Kingdom, we again invite our dependable Columnist, Sani Michael Omakoji to digest the matter arising in his own views.
In what he titles: The Intricacies Of the Federal High Court Judgement Of Overlording Ajaokuta, Lokoja, and Koton Karfe to Igala Kingdom, let us read what he has to say:
” Ordinarily, it will not take me more than two paragraphs to address the landmark judgement of the Federal High Court Overlording Ajaokuta, Lokoja and Koton Karfe to Igala Kingdom but because of public interest, I will try to lay a background culminating into holistic overview of the matter arising.
From history book, we read that based on “gentle man agreement” though documented, the then Attah of Igala, Ameh Ocheje, leased Ajaokuta, Lokoja and Koton Karfe to Late Samuel Ajayi Crowther and Queen of England in 1841.
The leasing was initially agreed to last for the period of 90 years that is, from 1841 to 1931.
Fact available revealed that the sum of 700,000 cowries was to be paid covering the period of 90 years.
Further investigation uncovered that the sum of 160,000 cowries was deposited by the British which was never balanced till date.
Thus, if all things being equal, the agreement would have ended or renewed in the year 1931.
Surprisedly, it was never renewed as even the balance of 540,000 cowries agreed on the initial agreement remained unpaid till today.
Now before I continue, let me state it here that there were two basic reasons why the colonial Masters demanded for part-time ownership of Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe and Lokoja in particular.
Those reasons were: one for economic reason and the other reason is for suitable location to govern Nigeria.
The sense of British of lording those areas in contention from economic angle was to take advantage of River Niger and River Benue which has its confluence in Lokoja.
The River is/was considered as great economic potential to both farming activities and depot for ships from overseas.
Again, Lokoja is/was considered as a ‘nodal town’ to serve as an administrative city to rule Nigeria by the British because is easily accessible to all part of the Regions in the country.
No wonders, Lokoja served as the first Headquarters of Nigeria before it was later moved to Calabar and to Lagos before the Present day FCT, Abuja.
Having laid this background, let me now look into the Judgement of the Federal High court on this matter.
On 2nd June, 2020, the Federal High Court sitting in Lokoja led by Justice D.U Okoro delivered a landmark judgement that saw Igala Kingdom reclaiming Ajaokuta, Koton Karfe and Lokoja as part of her Kingdom.
The Judgement also added that the sum of N10billion should be paid to Igala Kingdom by the Federal Government of Nigeria for using those affected areas over the years without paying royalties to Igala Kingdom.
Note that the case is between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Igala Kingdom.
Recall that late Attah of Igala, Aliyu Obaje in 2007 approached Federal High Court Lokoja to determine the case but unfortunately, he later passed on without witnessing the end of the case however, the current Attah, Michael Ameh Oboni II did not sleep over the matter until on 2nd June 2020 when the court granted Igala Kingdom’s prayers therein in the case.
With the Judgement however, not until Appeal Court or Supreme Court says otherwise, the affected areas remain Igala Kingdom as declared by Lokoja High Court.
Perhaps, while the handful evidence presented by Igala Counsel seemed to have overwhelmed her defendant at the Federal High Court Lokoja, let me also say that the landmark judgement is still subject to Appeal up til supreme court as deemed it fit by the Defendant.
As we await the outcomes of those judgements at Appeal and Supreme Courts in view therefore, the subjects of Attah Kingdom are expected to remain law abiding citizens while the presence occupants of those affected areas are also to remain calm and embrace the outcomes of the judgement as whether the Judgement stands a test of time or not, Attah of Igala kingdom would not ask them to vacant his territory.
Finally, it is instructive to emphasis also that this Judgement does not change the fact that the LGAs in Kogi still remains “21LGAs” and the name of the state remains “kogi” hence, what would likely change is the statistics of Kogi East whIch hitherto has 9 LGAs would now have 12 LGAs…
Sani Michael Omakoji
City Centre Abuja- Nigeria