Femi Falana wrote on behalf of the Jukuns
By Anthony Maliki
The Benue State House of Assembly has been given thirty days to set up a committee to review the 2016 Chieftaincy laws that removed the Jukuns in the state from having its separate traditional stool and merging it with that of the Tivs.
This was contained in a letter dated October 5, 2020 to the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly by solicitor of the Jukuns, Chief Femi Falana (SAN).
Part of the letter stated that “We demand that the State House of Assembly should set up a committee within 30 days of the receipt of this letter to review the 2016 Chieftaincy laws of Benue State to correct the infractions contained therein to capture the JUKUN traditional stool.”
According to the letter, the “…2016 Law as amended passed by the State for the establishment of the Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Councils which clearly depicts the intent of the State Government using the instrumentality of the law which singled out the Jukun traditional stool to be erased from Benue State and submerged the vestiges of its territorial enclave under the TOR TIV traditional Council.”
Here are details of the letter:
5th October, 2020
Benue State House of Assembly,
RE-A LAW TO MAKE PROVISIONS FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF BENUE STATE COUNCIL OF CHIEFS AND TRADITIONAL COUNCILS IN THE STATE AND FOR PURPOSES CONNECTED THEREWITH.
DEMAND FOR IMMEDIATE REVIEW OF THE LAW AND AMENDMENT OF SAME TO CAPTURE THE JUNKUN TRADITIONAL STOOL EXPUNGED FROM THE LAW
We act as Solicitors to the JUKUN WANU Community Association of Benue State hereinafter referred to our Clients and on whose instructions we write this letter.
Our clients are made up of more than 22 Jukun communities in Benue State as follow: Abinsi, Abonko (Makurdi), Agyogo (Wurkun), Akatungu (North Bank), Agyetashi, Azhoko (Ankwa), Abweni, Amor (Fiidi), Azenu, Ando Sede, (BAjimba), Anuwha, Atenge, Anyishi, Asugu, Gidin Mangoro, Akatsu, Agbodo, Zhamindo, Kitsani, Aguye, Asokpoga, Aselema, etc and settled along the River Benue bank covering about 3 local Government Area of Benue State.
Our Clients being JUKUN have a culture and tradition distinct from the TIV tradition. They have been in existence and in occupation of the said territory for centuries practicing their tradition before the arrival of the TIV and British colonial masters. The Abinseku stool was elevated to 4th Class status in 1932, the highest in the whole of Tiv Division; and by 1934 Abinsi Subordinate Native Authority was created for the Jukuns with Abinsi as the Headquarters. This arrangement was also restated by the Coomassie commission in 1964 which recognized the unique historical importance of the JUKUN traditional stool, and her status as Subordinate Native Authority.
As you are aware, the traditional stool of the Jukuns in Benue State has been a subject of debate and controversies for decade due to flawed arrangement that unjustly reduced the status of the Abinseku to a District head and subsume parts of the Jukun traditional territory under Tiv clans.
Recommendations have been made and several white papers issued reorganizing the existence of the JUKUNS with a distinct language and culture whos right to self-existence under a traditional ruler from their kinsmen where recognized but ignored by various governments in Benue State before now.
It is important to note that the Regional Government under the Coomassie Commission in 1964, the Federal Government Judicial inquiry in 2003, and the 1995 Justice Oki Commission of Inquiry in Benue State all recognized that the JUKUNS with a distinct language and culture whos right to self-existence under a traditional ruler from their kinsmen should be allowed to continue to practice their traditional system, with a CHIEFDOM like other tribal groups in Benue State. Unfortunately, these recommendations which will put to rest the rising tension in the state have been overlooked by the State Government as the JUKUN speaking people of Benue state has continued to suffer neglect and marginalization and were never recognized by the state government as a group of people distinct in Language and character from the Tiv tribe in the state.
The Benue State government has failed to implement these recommendations which will put to rest the rising tension in the state. Rather, the JUNKUN speaking people of Benue State has continued to suffer neglect and marginalization in Benue State and have never been recognized by the State Government as a group of people distinct in Language and character from the TIV tribe of the State.
A clear case at hand is the 2016 Law as amended passed by the State for the establishment of the Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Councils which clearly depicts the intent of the State Government using the instrumentality of the law which singled out the Jukun traditional stool to be erased from Benue State and submerged the vestiges of its territorial enclave under the TOR TIV traditional Council.
While all other tribes and traditional stools in Benue State were duly captured in the law, that of JUKUN traditional stool was totally erased leaving our Client with no traditional stool of their own to commune with.
It is clear from the laws that ABINSI, the headquarters for the JUKUNS in Benue State, and Abinseku stool with status as District head in Guma LGA was expunged from the 2016 Law as amended, which now reduces the hitherto 10 Council wards in Guma LGA to 9. In addition, the 22 JUKUN towns and villages along the bank of River Benue and parts of River Katsina Ala were also removed from the State, by virtue of this law.
The JUKUNS in Benue State by this law have become stateless people; while its traditional stool is now poised to be annexed by the TIV through the unjust provisions of the law that introduced a nuance that got utilized by the state government to appoint a TIV KINDRED as one of the Kindred in Abinsi District with that plan in view. That provisions of the law essentially abolished the JUKUN rights of ascension to the stool of ABINSEKU which is an exclusive preserve of the JUKUNS observed and acknowledged by all the aforementioned judicial inquiries.
The 2016 Benue State council of Chiefs and Traditional Council Law is discriminatory, vindictive, and violates Our Clients right as Nigerian Citizens and runs in conflict with the extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and clearly stand against the recommendations of both the Federal and State Government commission of Inquirys White Paper that stipulated creation of CHIEFDOM for the JUKUNS as antidote to future crisis in that region.
Our Clients being indigenes of Benue State are entitled to be protected by the law made by the Benue State House of Assembly and not excluded or discriminated against.
We believe that the exclusion of the Jukuns from the traditional stool of Benue State was not deliberate but an oversight which is fundamental and makes the 2016 law defective to the extent of the exclusion of Jukun traditional stool.
The Benue State House of Assembly has a duty at this stage to commence the process of amending the 2016 Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Councils law to capture in it the Jukun traditional stool with its rights of succession clearly spelt out as in the case of other traditional stool with its rights of succession clearly spelt out in the state.
It is our Client’s demand that the Benue state House of Assembly should immediately set up a review committee which shall take steps to revisit all the recommendations made by the British colonialist, the 1964 Commassie Report, the 1995 Justice Oki White Paper Report and the 2003 Federal Government White Paper Report into the communal clash in Benue, Nassarawa, Plateau and Taraba states between the Tiv and their immediate neighbors.
A review of all these recommendations will go a long way in assisting the Benue House of Assembly to make an informed decision on this generational crisis and will serve as a legacy and a mile stone achievement for your administration.
We believe that the House would want to bequeath a legacy of peace, harmony and prosperity by being fair and just to all her citizens rather than create further condition that perpetuate oppression, disharmony and promote a vicious circle of conflicts amongst its citizens.
We demand that the State House of Assembly should set up a committee within 30 days of the receipt of this letter to review the 2016 Chieftaincy laws of Benue State to correct the infractions contained therein to capture the JUKUN traditional stool.
We have attached to this letter various reports and recommendations on the above subject matter for your reference and necessary action.
We await your kind response.
FEMI FALANA, SAN, FCI Arb