By Emma Amaize
OGHARA—DELTA State Government has intervened in the rift between the people of Oghara Kingdom, Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state and the Nigerian Navy over the community’s land, which the navy claimed to have acquired for the Nigerian Navy Logistic Command, Oghara.
Vanguard gathered that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had following a protest by the community on Tuesday dispatched a high-powered government delegation to meet with the Ovie of Oghara, HRM Noble Eshemitan.
A source said that the delegation informed the community of the government’s intention to commence investigation to ascertain the validity of the Nigerian Navy claim to have a Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, issued by the state government.
Meanwhile, the people speaking through the co-convener of the Oghara Centre for Social Justice, OCSJ, Rev David Ugolor, welcomed the intervention by the state government, but accused the Navy misinforming the public by parading an illegal C of O in respect of the community’s ancestral land.
They demanded among other things that the Nigerian Navy should move back to the area of land initially allocated to it and remove the fence covering areas far and above 500m x 500m initially allocated to the Navy.
They also want the Navy to initiate proceedings to pay damages and compensation to community members, who have suffered loss and trauma for the infraction and trespass on their lands. They also want them to refrain from further despoiling and destroying cash crops on their lands, which form the mainstay of income for their people.
Furthermore, they demanded the return of their illegally acquired lands to them in the interest of peace in Oghara land and Delta State.
Ugolor pointed out that the Navy “hurriedly and surreptitiously secured the CofO, last year, after the community raised alarm over its land grab and massive destruction of economic crops owned by the people.
“We, therefore, wish to restate our demands that the Delta State Government and the Federal Government should order the Nigerian Navy to stop further destruction of the only source of livelihood of Oghara people.”
“The Navy cannot hide under the guise that they want to build housing estate for their men, school and whatever grab such a massive land in the heart of Oghara. Government established the Navy to protect the people and their rights, not to destroy their rights.
“We, therefore, call on the Federal Government to commence an immediate investigation into the land grab in Oghara involving the Nigerian Navy and use the current peace that is existing in the Oghara Kingdom to reach out to all stakeholders to ensure that the right of the people is protected before the impasse goes out of hand.
“We decided to give a break to our protest to enable Governor Okowa initiate the talk he promised the Royal Highness, the Ovie of Oghara Kingdom, while the protest was ongoing in Oghara.”
Ugolor, however, said that the people would wait for the Federal and Delta State Governments official position on the matter, which they believe would be to take proactive steps to build trust between the people of Oghara and the Nigerian Navy.
But he urged all well- meaning Nigerians and the International Community to “ join the people of Oghara whose land and means of livelihood is being forcefully taken to appeal to the Nigerian Navy to stop harassing and intimidating our people and return our land to us,” he stated.”
“Against the backdrop of militancy in the Niger Delta and dwindling fortunes in oil resources, government has been encouraging Niger Delta youths to return to agriculture and farming as alternative to oil. How can the same government come to grab the agricultural land of the people hiding under Certificate of Occupancy? This is absurd and unacceptable in today’s Nigeria.”