Sunday Magazine

Bizarre: Imo at verge of crowning woman ‘Eze’ in Igboland



…as bill No 12 legalises abortion, same sex marriage

• Bill targets cultural rejection, breakdown of traditional
governance –Prince Njemanze


Imo State is in the news for a number of reasons. Earlier, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement upheld a woman’s right to her father’s inheritance against the age-long tradition. Today, an earlier repealed Law – Imo State of Nigeria Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law No 12 of 2012 – is coming back with a promise to crown a woman ‘Eze’ (king) and ordain a woman Catholic Priest. That is if it receives the governor’s accent. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports






Imo State may soon be crowning its first female ‘Eze’ (King) in Igboland if the Law No 12 of 2012, which was earlier repealed for a number of objections, is lifted and represented as a bill receives the nod of the current administration. Provisions of the repealed law which has not changed is returning in the guise of Bill Number 12.


Thus necessitating the state branch of the Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (ACMPN) and other stakeholders in the state to seek revision of the Bill.


The same repealed law, according to them, encourages abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy and heightens same sex marriage, which Nigerian Constitution under Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration outlawed and recommended certain terms of imprisonments for violators.


Lawyers and doctors, who were instrumental for its earlier repeal, insist that Imo Law No. 12 legalises abortion, same-sex marriage, outlaws the use of Bible in schools, outlaws all-men Catholic Seminaries, ordains women as priests, crowns women as traditional ‘Ezes’ in Imo communities, promotes the sale of human parts from aborted babies, imprisons parents and preachers for moral education of children, which were the reasons it was repealed.


They are confused whether the new Bill, which is a clone of the repealed law, if passed into law, would see to the disappearance or replacement of Men-in-Council with Womenin- Council Imo tradition since a woman by this law, under the right to inheritance, can be crowned as an ‘Eze’ and not a queen.


Sequel to this, Imo Prolife, a group of doctors, lawyers, priests and monarchs said this would be the first of its kind in Igboland, to see a woman being crowned an ‘Eze’ to rule over Men-in-council, just as the state became the first to give father’s inheritance to a woman in a bizarre Supreme Court judgment (Ukeje vs. Ukeje) against the tradition of the land.


Their worries were further compounded by the thoughts and feelings that their children who may be growing up under the bill, if it becomes a law, would have cultural, religious, ethical, moral restrictions with no traditional upbringing for which Imolites are known.


To this end, in a bid to protect its tradition and morality from being eroded by Bill 12, the ACMPN and other stakeholders in the state, are seeking the revision of the Imo State of Nigeria Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law No 12 of 2012, which is currently undergoing resuscitation. To one of the lawyers who stood their grounds until the Law was repealed in 2012, Sunny Ekwowusi, they fought and defeated the Law after its promulgation due to a number of hidden agendas in the law, said the same fate awaits it if it resurfaces.


He said: “We fought the bill in 2012 and defeated it but if they represent it, we will do the samething. The last time it came up, we, group of prolife lawyers visited the Bishop of Owerri Diocese, educated him on this attack on our religion and culture, and we were able to join forces with other stakeholders and   ended the bill. “The problem is that African culture and life are under serious attack.


The western world has been sponsoring a number of bills and policies that are clandestinely targeting at destroying Africa’s strong morals, tradition and heritage. “What is the need for legalising abortion in Imo State? Ordaining a woman Catholic priest and ‘Eze’ if not targeted at destroying Africans and their culture. We don’t need all these weird typescripts of the West. We need to train our people to understand these onslaughts in our societies. A number of Nigerians are illiterate and always fight the right and spare the wrong.


“Foreign bodies under the guise of aid and grants, are coming into Africa with the sole aim of bringing about rejection of our culture and tradition under the guise of development. We need to rise up against this.” In the same vein, His Grace Most Rev. AJV Obinna, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Diocese, has also called on the lawmakers in the state to be cautious of laws they are promulgating as church will not entertain any indent law that would destroy the moral fibres of the people.


According to the ACMPN, the new Bill 12 is poorly written and conceptualised, which has an agenda to destroy the family and erode the Igbo traditions and Christian religious foundation in the state. ACMPN stated that Section 22(1) of the Imo Bill no. 12 intends to crown women ‘Eze’ in communities by including ‘succession rights’ to the Bill, which would mean that if the first girl in the family of an ‘Eze’ is jumped in the line of succession, in accordance with Igbo customs and tradition, the ‘Eze’ or the village kingmakers would be jailed for four years.


Prince (Dr.) Chidi Njemanze from the ruling family in Owerri, the Imo State capital, said the aim of this Section is to crown women as ‘Ezes’ in Igboland, which would result in rejection by the Imolites and cause a total breakdown of the state’s traditional governance.


He noted that the law will destroy the Igbo traditional institutions and create a problem where the bill mentioned ‘harmful traditional practices,’ saying that by including ‘succession rights’ in the bill, the male-only ‘Ezeship’ in Igboland is outlawed by the Imo Bill No. 12.


He said: “This would create unprecedented chaos and collapse of Imo society. Applying Section 22(1) would mean that a woman refused as ‘king’ to succeed her father is a ‘harmful traditional practice’ liable to four year imprisonment.


He noted that ‘succession rights’ mentioned in the bill should be removed from the ‘harmful traditional practices’ list, rather all sections in the definition must exempt ‘accepted good practices’ of Igbo customs and traditions as well as religious traditions of Imo people.


He also stated that ‘succession rights’ as economic abuse, should now read ‘economic abuse’ to mean forced financial dependence; denial of inheritance rights in a manner that violates the Fundamental Rights of the Person as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and generally accepted good social practices of Igbo traditional norms.


He continued: “On a more serious implication, the Imo Bill No. 12 legalises abortion, same-sex marriage, outlaws the use of the Bible in schools, outlaws all-men Catholic Seminaries, ordains women as priests, crowns women as traditional ‘Ezes’ in Imo communities, promotes the sale of human parts from aborted babies, imprisons parents and preachers for moral education of children, which were the reasons it was repealed.”


He maintained that the Bill is better not promulgated in its present form and or remain repealed, saying if the Bill is well intended, it should ban the proliferation of ‘Imo Baby Fac- tories,’ who are being killed and their organs taken for export to Western countries to provide organs for their infants with heart defects, kidney defects, liver and lung insufficiency.


The section 40(1), page 38, of the Bill made available to Sunday Telegraph reads in part: “In addition to the rights guarantee under chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, or any other International human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a party, every victim of violence as defined in Section 1 of this law, is entitled to the following rights:

“(i) Every woman shall have the right to enjoy reproductive rights including the right to medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest and where the continued pregnancy endangers the physical, mental, psychological or emotional health of the mother.”


Again, Section 1 reads: “Everyone has the rights to freedom and security of the person which include the right to be free from all forms of violence in private or public spheres, in peace and conflict situation.


Prince Njemanze, who is also a medical doctor said by way of analysis, it implies that throughout the nine months duration of pregnancy, a pregnancy can be aborted for just the singular feelings of emotional discomfort experienced by the woman. He noted that the current bill was designed to augment the Imo State Law No. 7 for the destruction of the family and killing of the unborn Imo Child, saying that the issues addressed on rape are all provided for in the current penal code in Nigeria.


He said: “This is a bill purported to be a Law for Prohibition of Violence Against Persons, but there is no section on definition of a person. However, we will provide a detailed medical definition of a ‘person’ who is the main object of this law and must be clearly defined. “The poor conceptualisation in this Law No 12 has shown, for example, the main subject of the law is that the ‘person’ is not defined. If a person is characterised by ‘life,’ what in this law protects that ‘sanctity of life’ on which violence is inflicted.


“The Law does not protect ‘life’ from its very scientific medical beginning from ‘conception to natural death.’ This law must state that any laws that propose ‘violence or death’ against a ‘person’ not in accordance with the provisions of Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, is hereby repealed, rendered null and void and of no effect.


“This Bill No. 12 should specifically state that the Imo State Law No. 7 2007 in [Section 18 (a-f)], which legalises abortion, contraception, assisted reproduction and human ovarian egg-donation,’ is hereby, rendered null and void and of no effect.


“The Act may be cited as the `Imo State of Nigeria Violence Against Persons (Sanctity of Human Life Act)’ Law No. 12 of 2012.


Be it enacted by the House of Assembly of Imo State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the House of Assembly Imo State declares that– “(A) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and that the life of each human being begins with fertilisation, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and the House of Assembly affirms that the Imo State Government, has the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.


“For purposes of this Act, the terms human',human being’ or ‘person’ includes each and every member of the species Homo sapiens at all stages of life, beginning with the earliest stage of development, created by the process of fertilisation, cloning, or its functional equivalent.


“The term fertilisation' means the process of a human spermatozoan penetrating the cell membrane of a human ocyte to create a human zygote, a one-celled human embryo, which is a new unique human being. “The termcloning’ means the process called somatic cell nuclear transfer that combines an enucleated egg and the nucleus of a somatic cell to make a human embryo.


Human embryo is the early stage of human development after fertilisation resulting from an ovum and a sperm fusing together to the end of the first eight weeks of pregnancy. “Human zygote is a one-cell human embryo after fertilisation.


Human ovarian egg is a procreative cell with nucleus and cytoplasm called an ova released by the female’s ovaries or obtained from the ovaries of a woman using assisted reproductive methods such as IVF techniques. “Human sperm is a procreative cell that is derived from the male reproductive organs through ejaculation to form a motile sperm cell or spermatozoon.


“Cold freezing of embryos, gametes and sperms is the use of cold freezing to store human reproductive cells like embryos, games and sperms for the purpose of commercial sales or research experimentation within and outside Nigeria.”


More so, ACMPN, noted that pages 26 and 27 of the Bill 12 legitimises homosexual relationships by defining domestic relationship a relationship between any person and a perpetrator of violence constituted in any of the following ways that they live or have lived together in a relationship in the nature of marriage, although they are not or were not married to each other or married to each other, including marriage according to any law, custom or religion.


They insist that marriage should be defined as a union of a man and a woman established between themselves by their own free will as a partnership for the whole of life according to an order established by law, faith or custom, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.


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