The Rise and Fall of the Warrant Chief System in the Cross River Region

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Prior to the advent of the British Colonialists to our shores more than four hundred years ago, the traditional institutions held sway as the organisational structure around which the socio-political, cultural, administrative and economic life of the people revolved. It was therefore, not surprising that the colonialists who came to exploit us with their imperial motives and to imposed their own social order on the indigenous existing nationalities that later coalesced into the present day Nigeria, found it expedient to enlist the support and cooperation of traditional rulers in securing their hold on the conquered territories.
Indeed, the traditional rulers proved so indispensable in this regard that where non seemed to have
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This was a very crude version of indirect rule. To this extent, many Warrant Chiefs solely constituted colonially-backed usurpers of power and had little or no legitimacy beyond the fact of them being installed by the colonial state. Without any pedigree and claim to traditional legitimacy, they held to power and used it for their own parochial ends.
The Warrant Chiefs main source of power was the control of Native Courts and of labour, for example, for colonial road and waterways constructions.4 These artificially created chiefs were given the authority to arrest and detain people who committed offences; and debtors who could not meet their financial obligations owed to others. They also acted as tax collectors for the Colonial masters.
Native courts were graded A to D according to the Native Court Ordinance No.44 of 1933, with Grade A courts empowered with full judicial powers including capital powers, each subsequent grade having diminished capabilities. In the Eastern Region, there were no Grade A Courts, 5 at Grade B(divided between Calabar and Onitsha), 54 at Grade C(of which29 were in Ogoja province), 492 at Grade D (with 93 in Ogoja) as well as 45 Native Appeal Courts ,each also possessing status as courts of the first instance. Of these, 12 were in Ogoja province.5 As the courts grew in number

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