Chief Jethro Akun
Former Plateau “Deputy Governor,” Chief Jethro Akun has accused the State High Court of bias in its last week’s ruling on the Chieftaincy case between him and his younger brother, Da Jonathan Sunday Akun.
The ruling on the suit marked PLD/BL4/2010 according to him was an amendment of the court’s earlier judgment which favoured him and 10 others.
A statement by his Aide, Mr. Stephen Makwal says the ex Deputy to the annulled 2006 impeachment Government of Late Chief Michael Botmang had always succeeded in the decades old legal battle for the traditional stool of Mandung, Daffo District in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State.
The State High Court sitting in Jos, on August 8, 2019 declared Da Chief Jonathan Sunday Akuns as the substantive Clan Head, locally called the Saf of Mandung Village, and the Galadima of Daffo District.
Mr. Akuns and four others had approached the court challenging the election of a new Chief to replace him on January 16, 2010 by Chief Jethro Akun.
This was reportedly against an earlier restraining court order, leading to the emergence of one Mr. Zakkariah Mallo Mafulul as the Head of the Mandung clan.
Justice Daniel Longji of High Court 5, Jos in his ruling declared that Jonathan Akuns who was selected in 1997 and enthroned in 1999 remains the constitutional traditional leader of the Daffo Mandung community.
Consequently, the court declared the election held to replace him null and void.
The judge granted six other reliefs sought by the plaintiff which include an order restraining Mr. Mafulul from parading himself as the Galadiman Daffo.
Jethro Akun who was said to be part of the selection process that brought his brother to power however insists that the emergence of his younger brother as Village Head did not follow existing customs.
He had reportedly failed to prove this argument in two previous suits in 2000 under Justice P. D. Damulak dated PLD/J196/2000 and 2003 under Justice F.K. Dusu dated PLD/J319/2003).
The statement does not contemplate an appeal but suggests professional incompetence on the Judge and the Court.
Observers say such could amount to defamation and contempt, both of which constitute civil and criminal offenses depending on circumstances.
Contempt and defamation
While Contempt might be a lighter offense, defamation which section 373 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria defines as matter likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage any person in his profession or trade by an injury to his reputation attracts imprisonment.
Section 375 of the constitution says any person who publishes any defamatory matter is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for one year; and any person who publishes any defamatory matter knowing it to be false is liable to imprisonment for two years.
It is however unclear whether the concerned Judge will take the matter seriously.