Monarch lands in trouble with Oba of Benin
By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
All has not been well in Evbuovbioba in Oredo Local Government Council of Edo State after what the palace of the Oba of Benin, Oba Erediuwa Uku Akpolopolo, alleged as disregard for the custom and tradition of the Benin Kingdom by the Enogie, His Royal Highness Edwin Izevbokun Aigbe, and the Odionwere, Mr John Egharevba.
Their alleged action attracted the anger of the Oba of Benin who allegedly suspended them. Trouble started in the community in 2010 when the Enogie allegedly gave out some parcel of land without consultation with some people in the community according to custom and tradition.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the Oba of Benin invited the Enogie and other leaders of the community to a meeting where he reminded the Enogie that all land belongs to him (the Oba )and, therefore he must give out land only after consulting the relevant people.
But the Enogie allegedly didn’t heed the warning following which Oba Erediuwa suspended him and the Odionwere, who allegedly collaborated with him, in May 2011, through a letter signed by ten palace chiefs including the Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe, on behalf of the Oba.
According to a subsequent statement, “ the general public is hereby informed that the Enogie of Evbuovbioba, Aigbe Izevbokun, has been suspended by the palace of the Oba of Benin. This is sequel to his total disrespect for Benin custom and tradition and undermining the authority of the Oba of Benin. Consequently, Mr Edward Okunzuwa (Ozukpegieva) and Mr Lucky Enobabor (Okaighele) are to take charge of the community”.
On 20 November, 2011, the Enogie accepted the suspension and vowed not to query the decision of the Oba. According to his acknowledgement letter, “I wish to acknowledge my suspension aired in the news media by the Association of Enogies and the Benin Traditional Council and I thank you for such palace decision.
However, I am using this medium to put on record that I am a descendant of Obanosa and therefore a descendant of Erinmmindu authority. Therefore, I cannot do anything that could bring the royalty to disrepute. At the moment, I make bold to say that the directive of the Oba is being complied with to the letter.
The people mandated to handle the affairs of the village are fully in charge. Consequently, I have relocated to my house in Benin- City and wish them well in this new assignment. Before leaving, I did not forget to urge the elders of the village to extend maximum support to the new leaders of the village so appointed to run the affairs of the village in peace and harmony. At the appropriate time, I shall seek the support of well- meaning Oba’s subjects to help me plead for your royal forgiveness and subsequent lifting of the suspension presently placed on me”.
But tension heightened few days after the new leaders took over, when armed thugs allegedly invaded the community unleashing mayhem on perceived supporters of the leaders. At the time of filing this report, the new leaders of the community, Mr Edward Okunzuwa (Ozukpegieva) and Mr Lucky Enobabor (Okaighele), as well as hundreds of their supporters and family members have fled the community due to the attacks.
Although the sponsors of the attacks were unknown, on 30 November, the son of the suspended Enogie was allegedly arrested in connection with the crisis in the community. He and two others were allegedly handed over to the police at Airport Road, where they were reportedly taken to the Edo State police headquarters in Benin City. But to the chagrin of the new leadership of the community, the suspects were released on bail rather than charging the matter to court.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, Okunzuwa, explained:” The problem was that the suspended Enogie and the Odionwere went contrary to the tradition of the kingdom. They disobeyed the Oba and they were suspended. They gave out land to three or more persons without following the tradition of the land.
But since the Oba appointed us,some people have not allowed us to work. They have attacked us several times, destroying our cars, houses and shooting all the time to scare us. We have informed the Oba and he has warned them to desist from causing further trouble in that community. On 30 November, thugs came again with guns.
They took us to the police station and locked us up. They are using their connection with the police to intimidate us. That is why we are appealing to the Federal Government, the Inspector General of Police and others to come to our aid. The police have to help us enforce the decision of our respected father, the Oba of Benin. The Oba’s decision is final. We can no longer go to our community due to constant attacks”.
The acting Enogie further narrated: “The tradition is that any time you want to give out land in the community; you will give what belongs to the family, some to the owner of the land and some to the community. But the suspended head failed to abide by the tradition and he continued to give out land any how he deemed fit. So when he gave land to one Idahosa, the community queried why doing so without doing the right thing.
But he claimed that he did not give the land to Idahosa while Idahosa insisted that the land was given to him and gave evidence. That was how the matter was reported to the palace. The Oba mandated him to go back and give the land to Idahosa and go and share a portion of the land to members of the community which is what is due to them.
But he refused to share the land. The Oba continued to remind him that he is not the owner of the land, that he the Oba owns the land. For over two years, the Oba has been talking to him but he refused and that was what led to his suspension by the palace.”
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the Oba of Benin invited the acting Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Muhammad Hurdi, on the issue after the monarch expressed disappointment with the way the police was handling the crisis in the community. When contacted, the Edo Police Public Relations Officer, Anthony Airhioyo, said he would find out the details before making comments on it.