Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Egufe Yafugborhi
WARRI- ON the record, two persons died and 11 injured in a fresh outbreak of hostilities between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja communities in Warri South-West and Udu Local Government Areas of Delta State, but numerous corpses, suspected to be those of cultists hired by one of the parties in the bloody fight, were reportedly littering the wooded area unaccounted for. Farmers, who went to the bush, squealed to leaders of one of two communities, but those that recruited them have not informed the families of the deceased persons of the whereabouts of their wards until date.
Govt not resolute on the matter
The land dispute between the two communities started many years ago, but from our findings, the Delta state government has been unable to take a firm decision to resolve the matter due to lack of political will. Only recently, the governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, set up a Panel of Inquiry to address the cause of disagreement.
Each of the communities had threatened officials of the Survey unit of the state with death over the contentious portion of land, actually the boundary between the two towns. Because of that, no official wants to risk his life and government also failed to implement the suggestion to acquire the buffer zone. The governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who inherited the problem, recently visited the area. He had set up a Panel of Inquiry to look into the cause of disagreement and proffer a way out.
Both communities armed
Youths of both communities are armed and ready for war. In fact, while Ogbe-Ijoh youths were allegedly better equipped, the youths of Aladja attacked some of their leaders and destroyed their property, recently, for allegedly not providing them sophisticated weapons to repel their Ogbe-Ijoh counterparts. Saturday Vanguard learned that what sparked the latest fight was a purported breach of the peace agreement reached by both communities by Aladja youths on May 25.
Police ask monarch to produce hooligans
The Area Commander of Police, Warri, ACP Mu’azu Mohammed, in a letter to the Ovia of Udu Kingdom, HRM E.B. O Delekpe, Owhorhu I, said: “Members of your community launched attack on Ogbe-Ijoh community, but were repelled by the Conventional Police and Mobile Police personnel on duty at Ogbe-Ijoh.” “The Police High Command viewed this action of Aladja community as complete violation of the peace accord you entered into at the Area Commander’s Office on the 13th day of May, 2016. “You are hereby requested to surrender the perpetrators of the distortion act to the office of the Area Commander on or before May 31, 2016,” the police told the monarch.
The monarch did not produce the perpetrators, instead on June 1 and June 2 respectively, there were attacks on Ogbe-Ijoh, but tempers flared up on the part of Aladja following reports that Ogbe Ijoh youths allegedly deposited a pot of charm on the disputed land. An Ogbe-Ijoh leader said no charm was prepared, but that Aladja people took a flag belonging to his community and burnt it. The disagreement snowballed into armed conflict between the two communities leaving many dead and 11 persons injured and corpses littering the bush.
Isaba monarch raises alarm
Meanwhile, Aladja youths have laid siege to the access road to Ogbe-Ijoh and other communities in the area. At about 5.00 pm, Wednesday, they allegedly vandalized a Toyota SUV belonging to the paramount ruler of Isaba Kingdom, HRM Pere Donokoromo II (J.P), while the driver was going to Warri. The monarch told Saturday Vanguard that Aladja youths were laying siege to the road and preventing people from coming out or going to his community.
May 17 meeting
Saturday Vanguard exclusively obtained the proceedings of meeting of the stakeholders on May 17, which gave insight into the problems and intrigues between the two communities. The meeting was attended by the Area Commander, who convened the meeting, Ama-Okosu of Ogbe-Ijoh, Warri Kingdom, Monbene III, Ovie of Udu Kingdom, HRM E.B.O Delekpe, Ohworhu I, Chairmen of Warri South West , Hon. George Ekpemupolo and his Udu counterpart, Chief Solomon Kpomah. Others were the president general of Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh communities, youth leaders of Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh communities, three (3) representative from each community Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh, DSS operatives from Udu and and Warri South West local government areas and others.
The cause of disagreement- HRM Delekpe
HRM Delekpe pointed out that the cause of the recent conflict between the two communities was not just the beating of a motor cyclist as earlier stated by the Area Commander in the previous minutes of May 12. He stated that the beating of Aladja women by Ogbe-Ijoh in their farmland as well as blocking the only road leading to Ogbe-Ijoh by Aladja people.
I’ve no control over hoodlums
The Udu monarch at the previous meeting stated that he was not responsible and did not send anybody to fight. He said that bond or no bond; leaders do not have control over hoodlums in the community. He urged the state government to expedite action on the matter.
ACP sues for peace
The Area Commander cleared the air after argument on the matter by correcting and tabling two critical issues: harassing or beating Aladja women going to their farms by Ogbe-Ijoh youths on one part and blocking of the only access road by Aladja youths on the other part.
He called on all the stakeholders to respond and pleaded with them to give peace a chance. In an earlier meeting on May 12, he had spoken about his efforts to bring peace to the area, adding that what resurrected the conflict was the attack of a motor cyclist from Ogbe Ijoh by Aladja youth. He reminded them of the action of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who refused to allow bloodshed by putting a call to President Buhari after losing the election and appeal for both communities to emulate same.
He said he did not convene the meeting to apportion blames to anybody, but for the people to learn to tolerate one another. It was in response the May 12 meeting that the monarch said that Ogbe-Ijoh people also beat Aladja women on their way to the farm.
I have no money for security – Udu chair
Speaking, Udu Local Government Area Chairman, Chief Solomon Kpomah, noted that the two communities had been leaving together peacefully before now, adding that he would want them communities to go back to the ancient path. He said that he was saying this because he does not have money to take care of the security personnel, remarking that as far as he was concerned, God put the two communities to dwell together as neighbors. Udu monarch said the suggestion by the council boss was good, but would only work if Ogbe-Ijoh people stop encroaching into Aladja land and insisting that government should give out his land to share to Ogbe-Ijoh.
An Ogbe-Ijoh leader, Mr. Lucky Oromoni, also stated that Aladja would not stop blocking the road even with a peace accord because they had been doing so eve when there was no land/farm land issues that Aladja people. Mr. Friday Diah of Ogbe-Ijoh also there are legitimate ways of owning a land, pointing out that obstructing anybody, both on the road and on farm was illegal. He advised government to design modalities to arrest anybody, who blocks people from going about their lawful businesses He accused government of pretension and not being sincere in settling this dispute, noting that there was a resolution concerning the land in question, which it never implemented.
Diah reached out for his bag and brought out some documents signed in the Delta State Government House, which he said stated that both parties should stay away from the buffer zone. He said the document specified that after the harvest of crops by Aladja farmers, they were not supposed to replant any crop on the land until the state government resolved the issue, adding that over one year after, Aladja people were still planting and harvesting crops on the same disputed land. Our source said: “There was heated argument in the meeting hall immediately the document was presented.”
President General of Aladja community, Dogene Elias, stated that the document presented by Mr. Oromoni of Ogbe-Ijoh was no longer tenable because the document dated March 2015 expired a month earlier. He said the meeting was to talke peace and how Ogbe-Ijoh would have access to their community through Aladja and how Aladja women would have access to their farmland without molestation. He insisted that they were for peace and urged both parties to speak the truth.
Warri S-West chair carpets elders
Chairman Warri South West, Hon. George Ekpemupolo, blamed the elders for the prevailing fragile peace in the two communities, adding that the elders, often times, used the youths to disturb the peace.
Wiliki absolves Aladja youths
Aladja community leader, Chief Willki also stated that Ogbe Ijoh people had encroached on the so-called buffer zone by erecting houses in the area. He denied that Aladja youths were collecting money from Ogbe-Ijoh people along the road, saying National Union of Road Transports Workers (NURTW) officials were the ones collecting money. He stated also that the major issue was the obstructing of Aladja people from going to their farms.
Mobene III blasts Udu chair
HRM Mobene III Couple Oromoni, who tasked the two chairmen on security, talked about how the Udu local government had failed to take care of the policemen at Aladja, saying there was serious security lapses in the area.
The Area Commander said that for peace to reign, nobody should hinder Aladja people from going to their farmland, while Ogbe-Ijoh people should also have unfettered access to their community. He insisted that both parties should stop hostility against each other. SUV