• Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

THE BEGINNING OF COLONIAL PERIOD IN IKA (CONTD) BY ONYEKPEZE

Mar 18, 2024
onyekpezeCHIEF DR ONYEKPEZE

THE BEGINNING OF COLONIAL PERIOD IN IKA (CONTD)

DIRECT RULE

The system of administration, otherwise called Indirect rule, was imposed on the people. All that the Colonial Administrators did was to modify the existing system and use it as the basis for the Indirect Rule. This was the beginning of Colonial Rule in Ika, like in all other tribes in Nigeria.

The Indirect Rule meant that the representatives (District Officers or Assistant District Officers) of the British Administration ruled the localities through the traditional Chiefs. The Native Authorities were not independent units because they were an indirect arm of the Central Government in London, and had very limited sphere for any action independent of the British Administration Officers

THE INDIRECT RULE IN IKA NATION

The feudal system of government existed long in Ika before the arrival of the colonial masters. This was the Ika traditional rule. The Re-organisation of Clan Authorities, which gradually came into Operation in 1933, paved way for the Indirect Rule in Ika Nation.

In introducing the Indirect Rule, the Colonial Administrators modified the existing system to suit their purpose. They started by cajoling the Obi or Okparan-Uku: For example, that the Obi should retain his position as the hereditary ruler of the clan, and that all proposals were framed with a view to consolidating his, Obi or Okparan-Uku’s position, while at the same time, gave due recognition to the basic age grade organizations. All matters, fiscal, judicial and administrative, should be referred to the Obi or Okparan-Uku in the first instance, and the Obi or Okparan-Uku would place them before his Council through the medium, of which the final decision would be disseminated throughout the clans.

In modifying the various councils in the traditional system in Ika, the Colonialists scraped the quarter and village councils. Councils were established in each clan in line of the clan meeting, the procedure of which should be followed as closely as possible. The Clan Council was to be presided over by the Obi or Okparan Uku, and composed of the whole of the executive body of each village council, that was, the Okwa Ukpo, Okwa Okukpo, the Okwa -Son -Okwa (Okwa Obodo), the hereditary Idumu/Ogbe heads where they existed, and such of the religious heads as were entitled to sit on the village councils. Added to these were the members of the Obi or Okparan-Uku’s ‘Privy Council’ viz, the senior Ihaime and the different Okpeduale. The Council met in Clan Court building or a suitable place, once a month, or as often as was necessary. Proceedings were recorded in a book kept for the purpose.

To avoid the tedium of collecting livestock as fines and rewards, salaries were paid to the Council members. Payments were invariably made quarterly and in lump sums to be shared among the members according to their own methods. The Obi or Okparan-Uku did not participate in the payment as he was paid his salary separately. The Council very often sent the ‘head of the dividers’, senior Aghara, of the clan to the Native Treasury to collect the money.

Finally, the Native Authority system was institutionalized in the different clans. Obi or Okparan-Uku-In- Council became the Native Authority for his area, with the statutory powers granted under the Native Authority and Native Revenue Ordinances. Rules were not to be binding on any member of any clan until they had been fully discussed and passed by the Council and entered in the Minute Book as such, Every motion before the Council should receive the assent of the majority of the representatives of such villages before it could be considered as having been approved by the Council. Hitherto, Native Authority had existed under the influence of the people’s customs. But with the introduction of the Native Authorities Ordinance, the law and the powers of the Native Authorities were defined and made the same everywhere. Previously, because they depended on customs, which were not always the same, they varied from place to place.

 

JUDICIARY UNDER THE INDIRECT RULE:

The Colonial Administrators modified the existing judicial system in Ika to suit their Indirect Rule system of administration. They established Native Courts to take charge of the local administration. The courts were placed under the Native Court Ordinance, which defined the type of cases the Native Authority courts could try, and when appeals could be made from them to her courts.

The members of these courts were then selected irespective of their position in the indigenous organization of the town in each clan. And of all the original members, only one, the Obi or Okparan-Uku had any pretensions to the position. The rest were Ihaime who were selected on the advice of the Obi or Okparan-Uku.

In the judicial proposals made in 1932, each town was to have its own court (Town Court) composed of the Onyechen of the town as president, the Okwa Ukpo (Okwa (Okukpo) and Okwa-Son (Okwa Obodo) along with the hereditary village heads where they existed, and such of religious heads as had the right to sit with Okwa Ukpo (Okwa Okukpo) at the town meetings. The court was to be held in the Ogwa of the Onyechen of the town and to sit often as occasion demanded. The powers of the town court were strictly limited to such criminal cases that attracted fines of £1or imprisonment of one month. And in civil cases, the court had jurisdiction to adjudicate on maters to the value of £5 or below, divorce, matrimonial and civil cases, in which the parties of different towns were heard  in the Clan Court.

Summons fees were five shillings paid directly to Onyechen who would issue the payer with a receipt. For every shilling as summons fees, the court members shared two shillings as their remuneration according to an agreed proportion, while the remaining three shillings was sent to the Clan Court Scribe to be entered into the clan Court Cash Book for the Clan Revenue. At the end of each month, the counterfoils of the town Receipts and Judgment Books were sent to the Clan Court Scribe for checking.

Summons were verbal command by the Onyechen’s Agha to attend the court. Judgment on technical matters were not given. Arrests were sent to the Clan Court. Full time Scribes for the court were not necessary for the town courts. The simple judgment form used could be completed by any literate boy in the town. In crime cases, the Judgment Book consisted of a duplicate. In the case of fines, a page was handed over to the defendant as his receipt, and the page would act as a warrant of committal in the case of imprisonment. In civil cases, the Judgment Book consisted duplicate and two pages, a page being handed to both plaintiffs and defendants.

There was a right of appeal to the Clan Court from the two courts. No fee was charged for all appeals. All that was needed was for the appellant to produce to the Clan Court Scribe; the page issued over to him in the town court. A summons would then be issued, though the appellant would have to pay any costs that would arise. At the end of each month, all fines and fees collected in the town court would be taken along with the receipts and judgment Books by the Onyechen’s Aghara to the Clan Court Scribe to be checked and entered by him in Clan Court Cash Book. A separated receipt was given to each town court for the total of money paid into Clan Court in respect of fines and fees.

The Clan Court: The Clan Court had the same personnel as the Clan Council with the Obi or Okparan-Uku as a permanent president. The Court sat in the Clan Council building once every month. The Clan Court adjudicated in all land cases and in all divorces, matrimonial and civil cases, in which the parties were of different towns; when such one of the parties was a stranger to the community, and in which claim was over the value of five pounds (£5) with the exception of “serious wounding, brutal assault” and “habitual stealing”, no criminal cases were heard in the clan that had not passed through the village courts in the first instance.

Every suit was begun by the issue of the summons in the same form we know it today. The fees for all summonses with the exception of those arising from appeals from the town court were 5s, which was credited direct to the clan revenue. Services of summons were affected by the Olotu of the town in which the defendant resided, or in the case of stranger resided outside the area, through District Office. The payment of the Olotu will consist of a 6d fee levied on each summons that was issued. The fee was entered into the Court Cash Book by the Scribe and paid to the Olotu when he returned to report service. In the case of summonses served outside the clan area, the fees were paid to the Olotu who ultimately affected service by passing it through the Court Cash Book of the clan among whom the defendant lives.

A full-time Court Scribe was employed and he must be a native of the clan. He made his own arrangements for housing. The notes of the proceedings in the Clan Court were brief and simple. At the end of each month, the Court accounts were checked and the counterfoils of the clan court Book scrutinized. The revenue collected were paid into the Native Treasury by the Obi or Okparan- Uku’s Aghara, and a receipt for total amount given him.

Reviews were heard by the Administrative Officer seating with the Obi or Okparan-Uku and the members in Court. The salaries of the Court members were incorporated in those of the Clan Council as the personnel of both bodies were the same. At the end of each month, the Obi or Okparan-Uku’s Aghara obtained from the Native Treasury, the salary of the Court Scribe. He would pay the Scribe himself. One of the reasons why the Review Session took place in the clan other than Agbor was to save the litigants the problem of going to Agbor for this purpose. Although the Chiefs held judgeship in the Court, their actual role, when the Colonial Officer visited, was that of mere advisers, whose opinions were sought for, by the White administrator, when he needed assistance on some points of Customary Law. Also in attendance, were two women at a time, who undertook to press matters concerning women. For example, these women helped to examine young girl who were accused of having been defiled, by the use of an egg.

In 1957, the Native Courts were replaced with the Customary Courts. And in 1978, the Customary Courts became an arm of the Bendel State Judicial system.

TAX COLLECTION:

Tax collection began in Ika in 1927. It was also institutionalized with the statutory powers granted under the Native Authority and the Native Revenue Ordinance.

Tax was formerly collected through the medium of the Native Court. Every individual personally paid his tax to the Court scribe. This system was changed in 1930 when Assessment Notices were issue directly to Onyechen of the town, who was made responsible for the collection of the tax in his town assisted by a scribe employed directly by the Native Administration. The value of this system was much impaired by the existence of the paid scribe, and the interference of the Court members. A great improvement was effected by doing away with regularly employed scribe, and making the Onyechen of the town personally employ a literate boy from his town to compile the Tax Register.

The system of tax collection was slightly revised between 1935-1936, and the method adopted appeared to meet the approval of the people. Nominal rolls of all persons who paid tax in the previous year were issued at a clan meeting to the town heads. They were instructed to revise the list themselves. At a clan meeting about two weeks later, the Assistant District Officer checked the revised lists, assessed the amount payable, and issued the exact number of discs required. A date, about a week later was fixed for the payment of tax. On the appointed date, the Assistant District Officer again visited the clan and received, in the presence of the Obi or Okporan-Uku, the tax from each village. No installments were permitted. Town Council salaries were paid immediately after collection, which acted as a spur to the people. The tax collected was taken to Agbor and paid into the Native Administration Treasury. At the end of each month, the total amount of tax collected during the month was paid to the Local Treasury.

To keep the Tax Register up to date, the following procedure was recommended. All deaths throughout the year were to be reported by the town heads to the Obi or Okparan-Uku who would keep a record of the town and name of the deceased, his Idumu or Ogbe and village. Every year, either in the annual religious ceremony or during the village meeting, certain boys, who had then attained the age of puberty were advanced to the Ikoro age grade under the tutelage of the llotu of the village. These llotu knew the names and number of these boys, and consequently, at the festival or meetings, the llotu would bring the boys before the Obi or Okparan-Uku that would enter their names, Idumu and villages on the Taxable Register. In this way, a constant record of the rise and fall of taxable population was kept, and use was being made of the indigenous organization, the llotu and the age grade system. It was recommended also that the llotu received some remuneration for their work. This took the form of a lump sum paid them at of the close the collection in their respective villages. This was intended to spur them to expedite the collection.

(To Be Continued…).