The Operation of the Rule of Law in the Development of Kirike Bese in Modern Times

by Granville Isetima Abibo (SAN) (Ksc)


Ida fe, nyengi fe, kirikeni apu, a ro Kereni mo. Kirike Bese, a piki o Kereni mo. Kirike Aborigene, a ro kereni mo. Amana Ere na Asemeni na Iremeni na a piki okereni moo.


  • I bring to you warm greetings and facilitations from the Chairman of the Okrika Born Lawyers (OBL), T. T. Minianyo Esq. and all its members. We are so delighted by the synergy and the symbiotic relationship that have blossomed between the Okrika Born Lawyers (OBL) and the Wakirike USA Inc the organizers of this convention. Even though this relationship has just crystallised in recent times we in the OBL cherish it because of our common objective to pull together our talents, our resources and our time to focus on the development of our common heritage – The Okrika Nation (Kirike Bese). Ours therefore is a unique partnership – partnership for progress and development of Kirike Bese.


  • The OBL will also like to thank all of you here present for your warm prayers, support, congratulatory messages by emails, twitter, facebook, text messages and direct telephone calls when yours truly was conferred with the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on 26th August, 2011. The Silk is the highpoint of excellence in the legal profession in Nigeria. Why it had eluded us for so long remains a surprise. For the Okrika nation which amongst the various Communities in Rivers State was the first to produce an indigenous Lawyer in 1952 (G.B. Somiari Esq of blessed memory); and so many renowned lawyers thereafter, this award was late in coming.
  • The wise statement however is true-better be late than never. It is our belief that with our resilience as Okrika people this achievement will open the floodgate of this and similar awards yearly to Okrika people everywhere. However, one lesson of the award must not be lost on us which is that we Okrika people are united firmly on good purpose. We are united in our diversity. We share in progress. We are united in the orderly development of Okrika wherever we live. A lot of talents abound in Okrika in almost every field of human endeavour. What is left is how to collate and harness those talents for the development of Okrika under an atmosphere of the rule of law. Once again, thank you one and all.



2.1    The organizers had requested me to give a key note address on a topic relating to development in Okrika. I like to thank, most profusely, the organizers for the unique privilege and opportunity to address this august assembly of the best of Okrika nation with these my random thoughts. I am more elated by the wide latitude of choice of topic granted to me.

2.2    Our country, Nigeria on May 29, 1999 returned to Civil Rule and democracy. Democracy has been described as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It has been professed as the best form of government for the human race. Any other type of government outside it is tagged anachronistic and out of time with reality. Therefore, no matter its anomalies, every country strives to practice democracy and the effort is to achieve a high level of perfection to its tenets, rules and principles but no country, arguably, have achieved perfection.

2.3    One central theme for the sustenance of democracy is the operation of the doctrine of the rule of law. This concept developed since the 19th century and was popularised by the teachings of Prof. A. V. Dicey and it has been touted as the pivot and basis of development of any modern society.


3.1    The concept of the rule of law as encapsulated by Dicey is to the effect that no man is punishable or can lawfully be made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of the law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land. Secondly, not only is no man above the law but every man, whatever his rank, or condition, is subject to the ordinary laws of the land and amenable to the jurisdiction of the courts. Thirdly, the constitution or rules by whatever name called are not the source, but the consequence of the rights of individuals as defined and enforced by the courts. This concept has been subjected to cynisms and criticisms by various experts but nonetheless is acclaimed as the fulcrum of development in all modern democracies. What is more, it has adorned the garb of universal applicability and International appeal. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. This was followed in 1950 by the adoption of the European Convention of Human Rights. The International Commission of Jurists, an international organization of Judges and lawyers in New Delhi, 1959, adopted by Resolution the Rule of law as “a dynamic concept which should be employed to safeguard and advance the political and civil rights of individuals in a free society.” T. T. Minianyo Esq in a paper titled LEADERSHIP VACUM AND THE RULE OF LAW IN OKRIKA defined the Rule of law simply as “the subordination of all people, inclusive of the law maker, the law enforcer and the law interpreter, to the supremacy of law.” I cannot agree less. Therefore, for a country, state or community to develop in all facets, be it social, economic, educational or cultural, then the rule of law must be a way of law of its people.

3.2    American democracy and practice of the Rule of law is too detailed to repeat any rehearsing but we must remember at all times the admonition of ABRAHAM LINCOLN in his treatise – Perpetuation of our Political Institutions

“Let reverence for the Laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap – let it be taught in schools, in Seminaries and in Colleges, let it be written in primers; spelling books and in almanacs – let it be preached in the pulpit; proclaimed in the legislative halls and enforced in courts of justice. And in short, let it become the political religion of the nation and let the old and the young; the rich and the poor… of all sexes and tongues, and colours and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars…”

3.3    This statement is true for America as it is for Nigeria; Okrika inclusive. In our nascent democratic history, as a country we have continued to grapple with the operation of the rule of law.

In GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE VS. OJUKWU (1988) 1 NWLR. (pt. 18) 621 at 634. Justice ESO JSC. (as he then was) had this to say:

“The essence of the rule of law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear. To use force to effect an act and while under the marshal of that force, seek the court’s equity, is an attempt to infuse timidity into court and operate a sabotage to the cherished rule of law. It must never be.”

3.4    For our own purposes, it was the application of the rule of law that enabled the Okrika nation to obtain court injunction that stopped the onslaught and unbridled determination of the Rivers State Government to forcifully eject Okrika people from their waterfront abode in Port Harcourt in Suit no. FHC/PH/CS/13609/2009.

In practical terms therefore and in modern times, total compliance with the decisions of our regular courts is not an option but a requirement for harmonious living in any community governed by law. The alternative is anarchy. When and wherever the rule of law flourish peace will prevail, growth will evolve and development will be accelerated.


4.1    In retrospect, having regard to our nascent history, the rule of law have not faired well in Kirike Bese. The end result is that our growth and development have been stunted. To enable us make a proper prognosis, we shall examine certain heads, may be, the causes; the viruses or symptoms, which have refused the rule of law to have a firm foothold in Kirike Bese.

(a)     Poverty – the level of poverty is excruciating. There are no visible projects or businesses in Okrika to empower Okrika people economically. The few corporate organizations; Port Harcourt Refinery Coy. Ltd; NAFCON; Petrochemical Ltd. have never benefited us as a people and ofcourse are all controlled by other tribes. The net effect of this poverty situation is that the people are very angry people. A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. A very senior professional colleague from Western Nigerian but based in Port Harcourt had complained that even our method of greeting as Okrika people is most aggressive, more of collusion than salutation.

(b)     Unemployment – The large army of youths in Kirike Bese are unemployed. This is akin to the problem of poverty. From our analysis; our youths are unemployable because of the lack of functional skills. There are no joint communal projects or industries which can employ these youths in various specialized trades. As we speak, there is no vocational or skill training centre for a focused training and development of our youths. The Secondary Schools are grappling with the problem of capacity and manpower building. That is our bane. The rule of law cannot operate in such an environment infested with poverty and unemployment. What has therefore taken a centre stage is the rule of force; lawlessness and anarchy. The rule of law ofcourse, cannot thrive where anarchy reigns. At all times, the rule of law expresses some preference for human disputes to be settled by peaceful means without recourse to armed force, terrorism or other forms of physical might.

In our recent history, we have had a prevalence of force both in our dealings with our neighbours Okrika/Ogoni (1990 – 1991), (Okrika/Eleme crises) (1999 – 2000); Ogu/Ekporo (1999) and amongst ourselves (1999 – 2003). The culture of violence, impunity and might have not allowed the rule of law ipso facto development to flourish in Kirike Bese.

(c)     Traditional Institutions – By far the greatest factor in the undevelopment of Kirike Bese is the weak traditional institutions. For sometime now, this has been virtually non-existent in a community that is based on the Chieftaincy system of War Canoe Houses. As Justice Fiberesima had lamented in his book – OKRIKA IN ANCESTRY that

“Okrika is a Chieftaincy society and until the crisis rocking the Chiefs Council is resolved, Okrika will neither know peace nor progress.”

As at today, there is no agreement on the Amayanaboship of Okrika. The matter is in court and is therefore sub judice. That is also the situation in other satellite towns – Ogu, Ibaka, Ogbogbo; Abuloma et at al. The net result is that apart from Ogoloma, all other recognized Amayanabo stools are vacant owing to lingering disputes some for over twenty years now. Also, apart from the Amayanabo of Ogoloma; no other Amayanabo represents any other town in Kirike Bese in the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, a statutory body recognised by the Government. We are not there. The Amayanaboship stools, therefore, that ought to be agents and pivots of development have become for us a source of rancor, discord; polarization and discord. In Opobo, a sister riverine Community, it took the people twenty one years to have faith in the rule of law and the Judiciary which culminated in the determination of the dispute as to the Kingship of Opobo with the recognition of the King Jaja of Opobo dynasty for all times. The thrilling point about the Opobo experience worth mentioning, is that, it was resolved without crisis or physical violence but by an abiding faith in the courts and the operation of the rule of law. Without strong and functional traditional institutions, Kirike Bese is losing out in terms of government patronage and that of corporate organizations which could have attracted development. This ultimately has a multiplier effect on the poverty and unemployment situations mentioned earlier. Happily, the Okrika Divisional Council of Chiefs (ODCC) which itself has only recently recovered from its leadership crisis has witnessed a change of baton in its leadership without rancor. The new Chairman is Chief Nemi Wisdom Adoki, a young, ebullient and enterprising achiever. Our forlorn hope is for good tidings to translate from this epoch making event.

(d)     No functional institutions – the institutions of government in Okrika are not functioning or barely do so in name. There are Local Government Councils but there has been no synergy between the actual developmental needs of the people and these Local Councils. Until that focus or synergy is linked and achieved, development under the operation of the rule of law shall continue to elude Kirike Bese.

Up until 2000 AD there was no functional High Court in Kirike Bese. When the High Court was established, crisis started and the court was shut down. Throughout the period of the crises in Okrika there was no functional court system in the whole of Okrika. I leave it to you to imagine where disputes of whatever kind were resolved in the entire Kirike Bese within the period. Brute force and might took the centre stage and it was a state of survival of the fittest or was it the “Hobbesian State?” It was only in 2009 that the Magistrate’s Court resumed sitting in Okrika with a few cases while the High Court, Okrika was sitting to adjudicate Okrika cases in Port Harcourt. Surely the rule of law can not operate effectively in the kind of atmosphere depicted above. This means growth; orderliness and development had taken flight from Okrika. It is gratifying to note, however, that the High Court, Okrika have just resumed sitting in Okrika  from 27th January, 2012 with a resident Judge following the directive of the Honourable Chief Judge of Rivers State to that effect predicated on the seeming peace prevalent in Kirike Bese now.

There were also no courts in Ogu, Bolo; Ele; Abuloma et at al but with the new atmosphere of peace, we have been able to agitate for the establishment of courts in these Communities. Thus, there are now Magistrate’s Courts in Bolo and Abuloma while a new Magistrate’s Court for Ogu has just been completed.

As stated earlier, there are no joint communal properties such multipurpose farms/fishing cooperatives to channel the energies and productive capacities of our teeming youths. They remain idle and beggarly sometimes menacingly. Although I can be corrected but from my personal experience we have produced the greatest army of beggars particularly youths in the whole of Rivers State. The resulting climate of criminality of these youths is better imagined than explained.

To make matters worse, all the legacies of our heroes past have either been lost or are not properly maintained. I shall refer to only two examples. First, in broad daylight Okrika Community lost its vast landed property known as Okrika Plantation, Umuebule to ineptitude by our leaders who could not pay legal fees of their lawyer (a miserly sum indeed). This landed property of over 25 hectres of land was procured both by purchase and conquest from the Umuebule people during the time of Chief Sampson Adoki in 1928. It was covered by a Deed of Grant registered in Calabar, then capital of Old Nigeria in 1911. Second example is Okrika Grammar School, Okrika. This school ranking amongst the best grammar schools in Nigeria is a shadow of its former self. As we speak, there are only 15 students registered as available to take the Senior Secondary School Certificate Exams. Where have all the others gone? This school has produced some of the best minds from various parts of this country. It is now dysfunctional. A relic of our joint/communal heritage.

(e)     No Political voice – the grim truth is that Kirike Bese as a people in Rivers State have lost its political voice. The political positions assigned to Kirike Bese are few and in between. That is ofcourse, not the point. The crucial issue is that our elected or appointed political leaders from the Bese extraction have no collaboration or platform from which to channel development via political patronage and development to our Bese. There is a clamour for the national cake by all other ethnic groups using various platforms such as Ogbakor Ikwerre, Kalabari Se Kobiri; MOSOP, AREWA, Middle Belt Forum, et at al. We, Kirike Bese have no such platform. Our needs are diverse and individualistic while our pursuit to actualize those needs are self-centered. No coordination; no platform; no focus. A situation of everyone for himself, God for us all. Surely, the tenets of the rule of law cannot be used for optimal growth and development in such circumstances. This is the bane of our modern day reality.

(f)     Ecological/Environmental Problems – This have been with us over the years. That is not the issue. The by-products of the companies around us and the effluents they emit have completely polluted the entire landscape of Kirike Bese and all its coastlines. All our rivers are polluted. Okrika suffers air, land and sea pollution more than any other Community in Rivers State. What do we get for it? Next to nothing. Our Ogoni brothers have got the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to produce a world accepted report against Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd. and all the wrongs done to their environment are being redressed by the Federal Government of Nigeria and International bodies. That Report is presently before the National Assembly. In the case of Kirike Bese, I am not aware of any such coordinated report collated by all its stakeholders to ameliorate these degradations which have been ongoing for over forty years now. Okrika people die more as a result of these ecological/environmental pollution than natural causes. Only a few months ago, the House of Representatives have sent a fact finding team to inspect the level and extent of pollution of the Okrika waterline. Nothing has come out of that effort.

(g)     Tanker Drivers Menace – The reckless parking by Tanker drivers on all parts of Okrika Mainland have for so long constituted a menace and a danger to the lives and properties of Okrika people. It is now an eyesore. It has become a death trap. In November, 2011, a tanker with fuel exploded at Egelebie, near Abam Ama killing over six persons. The irony of it is that the Okrika Local Council has had nothing to benefit from the parking of the Trailers in Okrika Territory. By Sections 2 (1) & 34 of the Land Use Act, 1978 and the Constitution of Nigeria, these Tankers are in Okrika Territory. Rather than endless and meaningless crisis with our Eleme neighbours, is this not a gold mine opportunity for the both Communities via the Local Councils to collaborate and build a large multipurpose park for these Tankers to park and pay fees including demurrage fees which would provide revenue and employment for youths from both Council and strengthen our mutual relationship for good away from internecine war/crisis that have not done anyone any good. We are in modern times, for crying out loud.

(h)     The Language Question – finally, it is to be observed that the Okrika language, a prime symbol of our unity is on the verge of extinction. Already, there is a disconnect between the old generation and the young ones in the speaking of the language. Most parents have given up on this, but if we accept it as such where then is our unity? Where is our bond as Wakirike people? What other single factor unite us? What relates the Ogu man to the Ogoloma person and vice versa? This is another legacy we are all failing to bequeath to our children. Most of us are guilty in this. In a few years time, we shall produce political leaders who have no inkling or knowledge of our language. The implication of this for our growth and development as a people cannot be over emphasized. We must salvage our language. This is a task that must be done. Others are doing so. The Germans have the Geothe Institute to propagate their language. The French have Alliance Francais, Turkish language schools The Yorubas and the Igbos teach their languages in all their Secondary Schools; they also have their special and dedicated channels on Televisions, newspapers and DVDs.

The issue of language definitely has effect positively or negatively on the question of growth and development under the rule of law in Okrika. The time to act is now.


5.1    Having stated in some detail, the prognosis and problems which have in recent years militated against the effective operation of the rule of law in Okrika, it is worth the while to proffer some suggestions, personal and subjective as it may be, as solutions to these problems and therefore a Compass for our future development.

5.2    These include inter alia the following:

(a)     The elites; the well to do, and the enlightened must consciously collaborate together to put in place projects investments and empowerment programmes that would improve the level of poverty in Kirike Bese. This consciousness must include pulling together all available resources to establish Community based cooperatives whether of fishing or farming; thrift societies; micro and macro finance agencies that are well funded to assist in the establishment of small scale businesses all over Kirike Bese. The net result is to erase the level of poverty and unemployment. It is by taking time to care for the have nots that the rich can also enjoy their wealth in peace.

(b)     We must promote the rule of law in all its ramifications in Kirike Bese. First, we must do all we can to assist the Judiciary conclude in reasonable time all disputes relating to our Amayanaboship tussles in the various Communities in Kirike Bese. Whilst these cases last, we must keep an abiding faith in the system. We must say no to violence. We must avoid crisis; brazenness and brute force. It is the rule of law that must flourish, not the rule of force. Secondly, to sustain the rule of law while these cases last, we must organize and enthrone a RULE OF LAW series monthly in the various Communities in Kirike Bese. This can be achieved under the auspices of the Kirike Bese Council of Chiefs in conjunction with professional bodies including the organizers of this Convention as well as the Local Government Councils. Ofcourse, enlightenment; publicity and training of the populace are all thrump cards for the proper flourishing of the rule of law.

(c)     The organizers should also collaborate with the Local Government Councils of Kirike Bese in respect of all its programmes targeted at Youth and Community Development. These Councils should be encouraged to create departments such as Employment/Placement; Cooperatives; Industrial Development; Community/Company relations; Micro finance; which are relevant to the development objectives already set out. Ofcourse, a blue print targeted at the specific need of each Community must first be collated.

(d)     Vocational/skills acquisition centres must be established and equipped to make our youths employable skilled workers. They can therefore be self employed in printing; welding; photography et at al.

(e)     A platform of political leaders of whatever persuasion of Kirike Bese extraction must be established and nurtured. It must gauge the needs of the entire Kirike Bese and be a permanent resource think-tank for development. I am aware that similar efforts in this regard in the recent past did not last. We need something permanent that would outlive all of us similar to the Jewish Research Institute responsible for the development of the State of Israel and the interest of Jews all over the world.

(f)     In respect of the language question, we urge the organizers to collaborate with the Churches, Schools and Community Development Councils (CDC) to make the use of language a sine qua non in the entire Kirike Bese. Also, fund the running of a permanent Okrika Language Institute at St. Peter’s Church Premises, Okrika and St. Martin’s Church, Ogu, as pilot centres. Further, films, tapes, DVD of Kirike Bese language be promoted and produced vigorously and distributed all over the world. Parents should only speak the language to their children and also pick a lot of interest to learn the language themselves. All hands must be on deck to salvage the situation.

(g)     On the ecological/environmental degradation of Kirike Bese, a stakeholders meeting be summoned under the auspices of the Bese Council of Chiefs in conjunction with the Local Councils as a prelude to produce a detailed, coordinated and comprehensive report on the degradation of the environment by the companies operating within our territories with a view to obtaining a full amelioration of the problem with the assistance of the Federal government including International bodies. The time to do so and solve this hydra-headed problem is now.

(h)     Lest I forget, a Preacher had also suggested that to get away from our sordid past, may be we should change the nomenclature of our various WAR CANOE HOUSES to PEACE CANOE HOUSES.


6.1    All the foregoing are random thoughts on the operation of the rule of law in our beloved Kirike Bese in the recent past and what this concept and indeed our democracy portend for our future growth and development in modern times. My hope is that the past in which we have really wasted our resources; potentials and talents would continue to act as Compass to propel our future. We must pull together our resources and talents; renew our synergy; build up our best efforts to achieve our optimal development as a people under the rule of law. We must promote and emphasise the things that unite us as Wakirike and de-emphasise those that disunite us. We must harness all our potentials for development under the rule of law and drop the garb of the rule of force.

I rest my case.

Thank you for your attention


G.I. Abibo (SAN) (Ksc)