By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Ewatto is a sleepy community in Esan North East Local Government Council of Edo state, but there is tension currently in the peaceful community as a result of land dispute between a 48 year old teacher in the community, Mr Osahon Osimhen and the Onogie of the area, HRH, Sylvanus Ikhumhen.
Osimhen who spoke to Saturday Vanguard last week at the Edo state Police Command where he lodged a petition against his Royal Highness, alleged that thugs numbering over ten on the orders of the Onogie invaded a site where they were erecting a fence in order to protect his father’s land and beat him to a pulp while their working tools were seized.
A petition signed by his Counsel, Olayiwola Afolabi & Co, which was addressed to the Edo state Commissioner of Police, Funso Adebanjo, alleged that “the thugs were led by the younger brother of the Onogie and while some of the armed hoodlums were beating up our client, others descended on the ongoing concrete fence and reduced it to rubbles.
Our client was dragged on the ground to the palace of the Onogie where he was ordered to sit on the bare floor under the scorching sun on the instructions of His Highness as punishment.
That our client was debased and beaten like a common criminal which he is not to public glare. Our client was not also told why he was being beaten or dehumanized by the Onogie’s thugs.
“It is however instructive to note that our clients late father was a very senior chief at the palace of the Onogie of Ewatto. There has not been any dispute on the land.
That the whole essence of fencing the family land was to wade off intruders and trespassers. All our client’s personal effects and working tools were seized during the invasion by the thugs. All the seized items are still at the palace of the Enogie”.
But reacting swiftly to Saturday Vanguard, Onogie Ikhumhen described the allegations as baseless, saying that the petitioner was telling lies to rubbish his person. According to him, “I am not a hooligan, how can my subject come and I drive him away? My duty is to make sure that there is peace in my domain.
They are all lies, the police is already investigating the matter. They just want to dent my image. He was trying to deprive other people from building in that land by fencing the place and I said no, it is not fair.
You cannot ask people not to pass through the land and because his younger brother is a police officer, he is terrorising people. I told him that instead of encroaching in another person’s land by building that fence, that he should build a house first before fencing it and not fence a land to deprive others from building on the land.
The truth is that after the incident, he came to my palace and the matter was settled. So, I was shocked to hear again that the matter is with the police. And I have spoken to the police about it and they are investigating. So, those things they are claiming are all lies. I did not send any thug to beat him up. My duty as a royal father is to ensure peace in my community and that is what I have been doing”
The Edo State CP, Adebanjo disclosed that the was investigating the incident, saying that “ we have asked him to remain calm while we investigate the truth of the matter. “We are investigating the matter. Detectives have met with the royal father and at the end of the day, we will know the truth”.
However, Mr Osimhen who vowed to drag the royal father to court for his ordeal, narrated the incident to Saturday Vanguard: “ 1 went to build a fence to avoid encroachment on the land because some people were already trespassing.
As I was there with my workers, I went out to get a wheel barrow and when I came back, I was told that two men came in and warned them not to work on the site. So, I told my workers to continue their work. Within 10 minutes, they came back and this time, about ten of them led by one Sunday Ikhumen, the immediate younger brother of His Highness, the Onogie.
Immediately he came, he said they should demolish all they have been doing and the fence has gone far. Infact, that was the third day we worked there.
So the workers insisted that they cannot demolish the fence, that it was an abomination that they have been working there in the past three weeks. But he ordered the boys to demolish the fence under my very eyes and after that, he ordered them to collect our working tools.
As they were collecting the working tools, the workers working for me were crying that they should not collect their tools. So I now told them that rather than collecting their tools, that they should collect my own and leave the workers alone. But before I could say much, they slapped me and started beating me up.
Two boys came and all of them dragged me to the palace. They seized all our working tools. As we got closer to the palace where the Enogie was, they were still beating me. I tried to call my younger brother to tell him that they are beating me because I was losing my breath then but they collected the phone from me and smashed it on the ground.
They said I should go and call whoever I want to call. When we got to the palace, they said I should sit on the floor but I told them no, that I want to stand. One of the boys kicked my two legs and I landed on the ground on my buttocks. I sat there for over one hour before I could escape to the police station.
I went to the palace with the police but unfortunately, they started beating me up in the presence of the police, saying that I had the guts to bring the police to the palace. They asked the police to leave me for them that they have been looking for me.
The police almost left me for them until I raised alarm and told the police that I needed to be taken to the hospital because I was not okay. One of the High Chiefs came in and saw me and asked the boys to leave me, that the police should take me to the hospital that they will see me later. That was how they allowed me to follow the police who now took me to the hospital. It was traumatic”.
Speaking further he said, “the Onogie said we should not enter into the land, that he was going to use the place for town planning and that some economic trees will go. He said that for the fact that we have been farming on the land does not mean that it belongs to us. But history has it that the land belongs to us. My father is the Ologbosere of Ewato, he was a senior chief in Ewato.
His position is hereditary and by virtue of my father’s position, if Onogie is doing any ceremony, after Eguare his village the next village is Ogboso. There are things they do in the palace that without Ogboso, it cannot be complete. History made him to ascend the throne.
So, I don’t see any reason why he should deprive us of inheriting what we met. He is trying to annex the village and chase us away. I don’t have another village. There is no other place to go. I grew up in that village and I don’t know where the Onogie wants us to go.
I am pleading with the Oba of Benin and the state government to come to my aid because I was almost killed because of my own inheritance. He should leave our inheritance for us. My people can no longer farm on our land. Some of them have fled the community due to fear of the Onogie.
The boys who beat me up resisted arrest and the Commissioner of Police has called for investigation. And each time they invite all of us, they will not come. They said they are ready for any action and that is where we are today”.
Meanwhile, Saturday Vanguard learnt that the victim, Mr Osimhen has dragged the suspects before the Magistrate court in Ubiaja last Tuesday.