The National Association of Jukun Wanu Association (NAJUWA) has sued the office of the Benue State Governor, Benue State Government and four others over alleged discriminatory policies against its people in the state.
The others joined in the suit are the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, Benue State House of Assembly, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Benue State and HRM, Orchivirigh Professror Ortese Lorzua James Ayatse, the Tor Tiv and President, Benue State Council of Chiefs.
The Writ of Summons has been filed at a High Court of Benue State, Makurdi Judicial Division by Falana & Falana’s Chambers on February 2, 2024.
According to the Summons, the defendants may appear by entering appearance in person or by a Legal Practitioner and by handing in the appropriate form duly completed at the Registry of the National Industrial Court, Abuja or by sending them to that office by post.
It pointed out that “if the defendant does not appear within the time and at the place above mentioned, such orders will be made and proceedings may be taken as the Judge may think fit and expedient.”
The Claimant declared that by virtue of the provision of section 25 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the people of Jukun Wanu are indigenes of Guma Local Government, Makurdi Local Government and Logo Local Government Area of Benue State and citizens of Nigeria and as such are entitled to equal protection under any law made in Nigeria including Benue State COUNCIL OF CHIEFS AND TRADITIONAL COUNCIL LAW 2016, that by virtue of the provision of section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the people of Jukun Wanu whom are indigenes of Guma Local Government, Makurdi Local Government and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State are entitled to freedom from discrimination on the basis of the circumstances of their birth and that by virtue of section 25 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the respondents are not competent to make any law or adopt any policy which discriminates against the people of Jukun Wanu whom are indigenes of Benue State in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.
The Claimant also declared that the exclusion of Jukun Wanu whom are indigenes of Guma Local Government, Makurdi Local Government and Logo Local Government of Benue State from SCHEDULE 5 and 6 OF SECTION 18(1) of the Benue State COUNCIL OF CHIEFS AND TRADITIONAL COUNCIL LAW 2016 is illegal and unconstitutional as it violates their fundamental right from discrimination guaranteed by section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, an Order directing the respondents to repeal SCHEDULE 5 and 6 OF SECTION 18 (1) of the Benue State COUNCIL OF CHIEFS AND TRADITIONAL COUNCIL LAW 2016 forthwith to include the Jukun Wanu indigenes in the schedule for Guma Local Government, Makurdi Local Government and Logo Local Government, an Order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further subjecting the people of Jukun Wanu to any form of discrimination in any manner whatsoever and howsoever, an Order directing the respondents to grade the Chiefs in Jukun Wanu like their colleagues among other ethnic groups in Benue State forthwith, an Order directing the defendants to pay compensatory damages to the Jukun Wanu indigenes of Benue State for prolonged act of discrimination in the sum of N1billion and that it is in the interest of justice that the claimants’ claims be granted by this honourable court.
NAJUWA is suing the Executive Governor of Benue State who signs into law all laws made by the State Assembly, Government of Benue State that administered and the Speaker as leader of the Benue State House of Assembly that makes laws for Benue State.
Benue State House of Assembly is joined in the suit as the law-making body for Benue State, Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice as the Chief Law Officer of the state and the Tor Tiv as Chairman of the Traditional Council in Benue State.
NAJUWA averred that its members are Jukun Wanu (Riverine Jukun) whom are indigenes of Benue State whose ancestral origin can be traced to many communities in the state.
According to it, these communities include but not limited to Abinsi, Agyogo (Makurdi) Akatungu (North Bank), Agyetashi, Azhoko (Ankwa), Abweni, Anmor (Fiidi), Ando Sede (Bajimba), Anuwha, Atenge and Anyishi.
Others are Asugu, Gidin Mangoro, Akatsu, Agbodo, Zhamindo, Ashuku, Kitsani, Aguye and Asokpoga among others.
NAJUWA noted that Jukun Wanu in Benue State are presently spread across the bank of River Benue in Makurdi, Guma, and Logo local government areas and have exercised control over the territory where the defunct Abinsi/Tiv Division is situated, before and after the advent of Tiv immigrants into these areas.
The association also averred that the Jukun Wanu of Benue State arrived over a hundred years before the arrival of the Tivs and all other ethnic groups in Benue State and have a distinct culture and tradition separate from the Tivs and all other ethnic group.
It also noted that Jukun Wanu ethnic group have their own system of government and selection of their Chiefs and all other title holders distinct from what is obtainable or practiced by any other tribe in Benue State.
The Claimant averred that the ancestral history of the Jukun Wanu, their chieftaincy and traditional stool are well documented and contained in various publications, reports, white papers, memos and government resolutions by the defendants, colonial masters and the Federal Government of Nigeria since the entry of British into Benue valley till date.
According to it, it was in 1913 that Abinsi and Ankwa were amalgamated to form Abinsi District under a District Head who was given the position of a 4th Class Chief and a Staff of Office.
NAJUWA in its claim said the first Chief of Abinsi was called Onu and he ruled for thirty years between 1600 and 1630 and after his death was succeeded by Adamma, and the Chieftaincy stool continued in that succession till date.
It explained that it was during the reign of Ashikeno (1850 –1870), the 11th Chief of Abinsi, that the Harev, led by Agiri the first Tiv immigrants, showed up with his followers and was received by Chief of Abinsi and inducted to the Tor Agbande scheme at Wukari in present Taraba State.
It said it was not until 1964 that the Coomassie Commission, set up by the then regional government to look into the rehabilitation of the Tiv native authority came up with a white paper on the government policy to rehabilitate them.
NAJUWA stressed that there is also abundant facts that since Abinsi was established, it is the Jukuns who have all along being appointed the Chiefs of Abinsi.
NAJUWA explained that in 1996, the Justice Oki Commission of Inquiry in Benue State in their report of the Abinsi Communal disturbances of 1995, made recommendations that the defendants should demarcate the boundary between Abinsi and the neighboring lands occupied by the Iharev Tivs.
According to the association, in the said report, the Committee also recommended for creation of a separate Local Government or Chiefdom for Abinsi but the defendants rejected it on the ground that government has already decided that the traditional stool of Abinsi will continue to remain the exclusive preserve of the Jukuns.
The claimant averred that the Committee also recommended that the stool of Sarkin Abinsi should continue to be occupied by Jukuns alone and same was accepted by the defendant whom even rejected the recommendation of the Committee that other major communities in Abinsi should be allowed to partake in the selection of the Sarkin.
NAJUWA noted that in 2006, the defendants also set up another committee on the review of the Chieftaincy laws and institutions in Benue State wherein the Tiv Area traditional council suggested that Abinsi should remain a district with a District Council.
It stressed that Jukun Wanu are indigenes of Guma, Makurdi and Logo local government areas respectively and to their greatest surprise the defendants while enacting the Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Council Law 2016 failed to capture the claimants as indigenes of these local governments.
NAJUWA expressed dismay defendants are not ready to review the Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Council Laws 2016 to include the Chieftaincy and traditional stool of the Jukuns in Benue State in it.
The association prayed the Court to grants the reliefs herein, because the defendants will not reverse their position and the Chieftaincy and traditional stool of the Jukuns in Benue State will be totally erased from history.
Furthermore, the claimant averred that the actions of the defendants have humiliated the Jukuns that they have been subjected to intimidation, harassment, loss of land, property including communal clashes leading to deaths of their sons and daughters as a result of the policies of the defendants.