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The Native Administration Era 1931-1950

Author: smith on 16-09-2013, 21:00, views: 11 090


The period 1931-1950 is described in this study as the Native Administration Era. This is because all the developments that took place in Ikot Abasi or Opobo division during the period, be they political, social or economic, were tied up with the policy of Native Administration.


The system of Native Administration resulted from the reforms of the local government system in South-eastern Nigeria, introduced by Sir Donald Cameron, Governor of Nigeria from 1931 to 1935 (Nicolson, 1969: 24), after the collapse of the Warrant Chief system in the Women's War of 1929.


The Native Administration had three arms, namely, Native Authority, Native Court and Native Treasury (Ejituwu, 1991: 201), a division, which attempted to separate the legislative and executive from the judicial organs of government. Thus, while the Native Court exercised the judicial power and the Native Authority welded legislative and executive power, the Native Treasury ensured that money was available for the running of the system (Ibid.).


Native Authority


In Ikot Abasi or Ibibio area of Opobo District clan councils, village group councils and town councils comprising traditional rulers and educated elite were recognised as the Native Authorities (Kirk-Greene, 1965: 212). The Andoni Native Authority was the Oru, a council which consisted of the Otoko or heads of the extended families (Cheesman, 1931). In Ogoni the gazetted Native Authorities were four clan councils, composed of the traditional heads of the component villages and a number of educated young men (Cheesman, 1934). The Opobo Native Authority was more aristocratic. It comprised the Amanyanabo (the king) as permanent president and the heads of 66 main and branch Houses (Hunt, 1937).


Above the sectional or local Native Authorities, a Central Native Authority (Central Council) was established for the whole Division. This was located at Egwanga and comprised representatives from the four sections of the District. The body was expected to discuss Native Administration Estimates. Members were regarded as messengers of their local Native Authorities. They were expected to report what took place at the Central Council to their local Native Authorities (Cheesman, 1931).


Native Courts


Native Courts were constituted in the same way as the Native Authorities. They were located at Essene, Ekparakwa, Ikot Ibritam, Ukam (in Ikot Abasi area), Kono and Soo (in Ogoni area) and Agafor (in Andoni area) and Opobo Town. The courts tried both civil and criminal cases. And since they were located in areas with common customs and language they were able to work well (Ibid.).


Prominent members of the minor court at Egwanga were Chief Akpan Udo Ekpo, Chief of Ikot Abasi village and Udo Umo Afia at Etc, who were sanctioned repeatedly for holding illegal courts in their compounds, as was the local custom.
(Biddell., 1909, 1910)


Native Courts in Opobo Division, 1932
  Court Grade Clan Attendance
  Andoni 'B' tribal
  Opobo Town
'B' tribal
territory: Ikpa. Ukpum, Midim. Abak. territory: Abak. Ibiaku, Ikpa. Midim. Ibesit
Ibibio Anaang 'C' Nnung Ikot, Nnung Ita, Afaha, Ibiang, Iman, Inen.
      Nto Obo, Nnung Oku Ibiet and Ibesit
  Ukam 'C' territorial: Ikpa and Ukpum
  Soo 'C' territorial: Tai, Gokana, North Kana
Ogoni Kono 'C' territorial: Kana
(Source: Ann. Rep., 1932)
The jurisdiction and powers of Grade 'C courts provided for civil sections in which the debt, demand, or damages did not exceed, 20 in the Northern Provinces or, 10 in the Southern Provinces; and criminal cases, which could be adequately punished by six months imprisonment, or in the case of theft of farm produce or livestock, by twelve months imprisonment, 24 lashes, or a fine of '10', or the equivalent by Native Law or Custom.
(from the Native Court Ordinance, 1928)


Native Treasury


Native Treasuries were entrusted with the custody of the Native Authorities' money derived from fees (e. g. dispensary and market fees), court fines and tax. The money so collected was used for the payment of salaries of each Native Authority staff and for the provision of social amenities like roads, dispensaries, markets, schools and scholarship to students (Udo-Inyang, 1985: 44). The Ikot Akan District Council Treasury also provided scholarships for the Ibibio children in the Division.


Some native authorities also established primary schools such as the Native Authority schools at Andoni (1934) and Ogoni (1936). In the health sector, dispensaries were built and medicines provided for the treatment of the sick (James, 1943). So much was achieved that in 1941 the Native Administration in the district was described as the model of Native Administration of the Calabar province (Hartley, 1941).


In 1941 there were only 3 Native Administration dispensaries in the 270 sq. miles (699 sq. km.) Ibibio area of 51,500 people - at Ibekwe, Ikot Akan and Ukam, and one Native Authority primary school - at Ukam. There were no secondary or industrial training institutions.
(Ann. Report, 1941)


The destabilising effect of World War II, with its accompanying inflation and food shortages and the population unrest, expressed in the Leopard Society murders in 1945-48, undermined the NA system.


The Richards constitution of 1946 also made Native Administration unpopular. The Constitution divided Nigeria into three Regions and made the Native Authorities electoral colleges for the selection of unofficial representatives to the Legislative Council in Lagos. This arrangement was undemocratic and the nationalists in the district saw the Native Authorities as citadels of conservatism. The system and the Richards constitution were therefore rejected by the nationalists.


In 1949, a number of proposals for the reform of the Native Administration were suggested in Opobo and other districts in Calabar Province. A tentative organisation was worked out and this formed the basis of the local government reform in Eastern Nigeria in 1951 (Mayne, 1949).

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