•I said the truth- Bello Oboko, Ijaw leader
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Egufe Yafugborhi
WARRI- TWO Ugborodo leaders in Delta State, former chair, Ugborodo Community Trust, Ugborodo, Mr. Sandys Omadeli Uvwoh and activist, Mr. Alex Eyengho, weekend, tongue- lashed the president of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities, FNDIC, Dr Bello Oboko, over his recent claim that the Delta State Government had acquired land from two Ijaw communities for the Gbaramatu Deep Seaport project.
Oboko had while reacting to a statement by esteemed Itsekiri leader, Pa J. O. S Ayomike, that government had not acquired land for the project, faulted his position, saying the state government acquired not less than 335,554 hectares of Kpokpo/Okpeleama land for project in 2013.
However, Omadeli, who was visibly angry by Oboko’s alleged logic, said, “Let us bear in mind that I am commenting on this subject as former chairman, Ugborodo Community Trust, which entitles me as one of the community’s opinion leaders. I am saying this with respect to recent caution by Pa J O S Ayomike, guarding against further comments on EPZ by other community members except the chairman of the EPZ Interface Peace Committee.”
“When the issue is that of land acquisition, I dare say that the EPZ Peace Committee cannot speak for Ugborodo simply because the committee was not set up by the community, it was set up by government over the internal crisis in the community. The acquisition of land for the Ogidigben EPZ predates the Interface Committee.
“When government acquires land for public use, it publishes the details, including survey of the area to acquire in order to inform the public and get reactions if there are, that was done when government acquired land from Ugborodo for the Export Processing Zone, EPZ project
Ayomike is right
“In the case of the Deep Seaport, nothing of such has been made public; therefore, if according to Oboko Bello, land was acquired then it was simply a political acquisition. As a community leader and a very informed elder in Ugborodo, Pa Ayomike knew what he was saying when he affirmed that no land has been acquired for Deep Seaport,” he said.
His words, “Beyond any sentiment, this emanating issue is not for Ugborodo to join issues with Oboko Bello or any other stakeholder. The onus lies on the Delta state government to confirm Oboko Bello’s claim. Incidentally, the Deputy Governor is a Gbaramatu and a lawyer. It is the government’s responsibility to confirm the said statement, but as far as Ugborodo is concerned and by the norms in the acquisition of land, no land has been acquired for the Deep Seaport.”
Omadeli added, “Above all, it is actions and reactions like these that made me affirm recently in an interview in this same paper that all parties should deemphasize the struggle over land ownership for now until existing court cases that have been on for the past 39 years are resolved for the court to decide lawful ownership.”
“I did stress that what is desirable at the moment is for stakeholders to commit to an all embracing interface committee that accommodates representation from all stakeholders, though not on equal representation, so that all parties will feel a sense of belonging. Based on that, investors should not entertain any fear. And I am still calling on the state government to bring all warring parties together to sign undertaking for enabling environment for the project to make progress,” he asserted.
He stated, “Surely, in another four, five years, the court might have dispensed with the case and decided the ownership, especially now that the matter is already before the Supreme Court. In other words, the project should be allowed to progress while the court resolves ownership or naming of Deep Seaport.”
Lack of knowledge
On his part, Eyengho averred, “I think this Oboko Bello fellow is talking from the point of view of his limited understanding of the matter and manifest lack of knowledge of the procedure of land acquisition by government. He is simply ignorant. To that extent, I will excuse him and indeed volunteer to educate him on the facts of the matter.”
“Oboko claimed that the Delta State Government under former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan had acquired land for the purpose of the ‘Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu’ since November 11, 2013. How far can any statement ever be from the truth! Talk is cheap. I challenge him to produce any shred of document to that effect.
“In the context of the EPZ Project, there are two projects in one: the Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP) Ogidigben covering an area of 2,560.89 hectares of land and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Jetty Project (Deep Sea Port) in 300 hectares of land. If Oboko must know, the land acquired by the Delta State Government for the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) for the establishment of the GRIP project in Delta State lies between Ogidigben and Ajudaibo, while the one originally for the Deep Sea Port lies between Madangho and Kpokpo.
“As required by law, the Notices of Revocation of the Rights of Occupancy published respectively in the Pointernewspapers of Thursday, 12th November, 2012 and Vanguard newspapers of Thursday, 6th December, 2012, expressly show that the land for the GRIP is between Ajudaibo and Ogidigben. While the one for the proposed Deep Sea Port is between Madangho and Kpokpo, which are in Ugborodo community, in other words, the government without this mandatory Notices of Revocation publication can acquire no land from any community,” he said.
Said Eyengho, “I have referred you to the Notices of Revocation of the Rights of Occupancy published by the Delta State Government with respect to the acquisition of land from Ugborodo community for the GRIP and the proposed Deep Sea Port project. This is due process and due diligence. This is the law and procedure in land acquisition from communities by government.”
“I challenge Oboko Bello to make reference to such publications with respect to his bogus claim that former Governor Uduaghan signed the land acquisition document for not less than 335, 554 hectares of Kpokpo/Okpeleama land on November 11, 2013 for the purpose of the Deep Sea Port of the EPZ project. It is not enough for him to challenge the former governor and the Delta State Government to come clean on the acquisition. The onus of proof is on the person who is alleging,” he added.
Eyengho stated, “Now, assuming but without conceding that this bogus claim by Oboko Bello is true, it may interest the public to know that Kpokpo (renamed “Ikpokpo” by the Ijaws after the Warri crises), has been adjudged the land of Ugborodo community in Suit No. MCC/4/71: Godspower Okoturoh (Ugborodo) against Ebiareneyin Ogbaburu (Gbaramatu) and Suit No. MCC/37/71: Godspower Okoturoh (Ugborodo) against Burutu (Gbaramatu).”
“Similarly, Ubagboro and Uremure (now renamed “Okpeleama and Opuedebubor” respectively by the Ijaws also after the Warri crises), though not within the NPA Jetty site, have since been declared land of Ugborodo people in Suit No. 142/16 between Chief Olueh (Ugborodo) and Ebime (Gbaramatu). The judiciary had adjudged the whole area from Kpokpo down to Ubefan to be Ugborodo land in Suit No. W/124/76, so head or tail, the land Oboko Bello claimed was acquired for the Deep Sea Port belongs to Ugborodo people,” he asserted.
Evidence of ownership
The activist declared, “I am not in any way saying that the Gbaramatu people do not have the right to agitate that the Deep Sea Port be named after their community, not at all! However, they must show proof of ownership of such land because you cannot give what you do not own. Ogidigben, Ajudaibo, Madangho, Ode-Ugborodo, Ijaghalla, Kpokpo are all names of communities in that part of Delta State.”
His words, “Gbaramatu is not the name of any community but the name of a kingdom in Delta State. Where in Gbaramatu are the Ijaws proposing that the Deep Sea Port be located? Can they show and proof ownership of such area? Are they ready to subject government acquisition of such area from them to due process and due diligence, just like the Ugborodo people did with the acquisition of over 2,800 hectares of land for the EPZ project originally?”
“This is the litmus test before my Gbaramatu brothers, which they cannot scale through using the back door, not even with their kinsman as the current Deputy Governor of Delta State! He added.
Chief Oboko, however, told Saturday Vanguard that he stated the home truth, as the state government indeed, acquired Kpokpo and Okpele Ama for the Nigeria Port Authority project.
He forwarded a document by the state government, signed by former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, on November 11, 2013, revoking the rights of occupancy in respect of an approximate area of 335,554 hectares of land at Kpokpo/Okpeleama, Warri South West local government area, required for overriding public interest for the Escravos Gas Revolution Initiative.
Bebenimibo says Ayomike, Oboko‘re gate crashing
An Ijaw youth leader, Mr. Paul Bebenimibo, on the other hand, said Chief Oboko was not competent to speak for the Ijaw on the matter, while also chastising Pa Ayomike for his comments on the project. He said that Ijaw and Itsekiri leaders interfacing on the EPZ and Deep Seaport projects have taken far-reaching decisions on the matter and there was no need fanning embers of discord.
Okpeleama cries out to Buhari, Okowa
But the people of Okpeleama community cried out , weekend, that they were been languishing in pains from dislocated economies since they complied with the order by the former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan to vacate part of land for the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project.
In a Save Our Soul signed by chairman and spokesperson of the community, Comrades Yabrade Moses and Abednego Douperegha respectively, they appealed to President Mohammadu Buhari and Governor Ifyeanyi Okowa to come to their aid by paying compensation for land acquired.
They said government should intercede to enable them get employment and empowerment in keeping with the Local Content Act like other land stakeholders of the EPZ project.
Comrade Moses said Okpeleama’s continued exclusion from benefits of the EPZ project was tasking the patience of the people in the face of other EPZ land stakeholders already enjoying benefits of the project.