By Chris Onuoha
Some group of women in Anambra State under the banner of “Nkerehi women” has embarked on a protest in the city of Awka, to register their displeasure on the name change of their community from Nkerehi to Umuchukwu in Anambra State.
The women, in their numbers stormed the State capital with placards demanding from the state government, a revocation of an Appeal Court ruling that upheld the name change from Nkerehi to Umuchukwu.
However, this act of protest against an Appeal Court ruling is totally wrong and uncalled for, reacted a Human right lawyer, Gozie Okafor.
Okafor, speaking on behalf of Umuchukwu community in a released statement to the press said that the protest is very illegal and against the law of the land.
“The right to protest is a constitutionally guaranteed right in Nigeria as enshrined in Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution. It is one of the powers that people can exercise beyond voting in an election. However, like every other human right, the right to protest or freedom of assembly is not absolute. It has its limitations and when the bounds of the law is breached, it can be said to be illegal,” Okafor reacted.
Stating further, he disclosed how the name change issue started to the point of approval.
“The quiet agrarian community has for sometime past, engaged in an unhealthy bickering over the appropriate name for the community. This, also led to the former President General of the community, acting on an order to avoid controversies and unnecessary bickering, applied to the then Government of Anambra State, under Peter Obi for a referendum on the name change, which led credence to choosing Umuchukwu by referendum.
“However, some people from the community challenged the actions of the government. These parties approached a High Court sitting in Ekwulobia and sought a restraining order against the respondents. The lower court threw out their application for lacking in merit.
“Dissatisfied with the decision of the lower court, they appealed to the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu seeking to upturn the decision of the lower court. The Court of Appeal in Suit No CA/E/162/08 upheld the decision of the lower court stating that the first respondent, Mr Dubem Obaze, as the representative of the executive arm of the Anambra State Government has the authority to conduct referendum in Nkerehi after which the outcome would be forwarded to the State House of Assembly for necessary action.
“The State Government has since gone ahead in obedience to the pronouncements of the Justices of the Court of Appeal to conduct a referendum on the name change and majority voted for Umuchukwu. The State, acting in accordance with the wishes of the community has through the instrumentality of the Anambra State House of Assembly, gazzetted the name change, documenting it in Anambra State of Nigeria official gazzette ISSN 0331-1880. Awka – 6th March, 2008, Vol. 18. Currently, there is no stay of execution on the judgement of the court,” he stated.
However, Okafor noted that the protest embarked on by the women is contemptuous of the court, saying that the action affects the dignity of the courts and the administration of Justice.
According to him, “This is a perfect recipe for anarchy, uncertainty and confusion in the society. The State Government should be mindful of entertaining frivolous grievances from parties who hide under the banner of dissent to sow discord for their selfish political ends.
The Court of Appeal has made pronouncements on this matter. The State Government under Mr Peter Obi has gone ahead to gazette it. Until the Supreme Court upturns this judgement, the Court of Appeal pronouncement stands and must be obeyed,” Okafor added.