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Ogbe-Ijoh-Aladja conflict: The claims and counter-claims — 2

The concluding part of the inside story of the Ijaw/Urhobo crisis.
“Our position is that Ogbe-Ijoh and Isaba are taking advantage of their political office holders to sponsor the invasion and propaganda against us. Isaba with whom we had the recent clash has its own monarch and leaders. They have been quiet, but it is Ogbe-Ijoh, which has been taking the medicine for Isaba’s headache. They were the ones shouting attack against them when we had issues with Isaba.

HRM. Charles Ayemibotu, Pere of Eseibiri Kingdom (left) and HRM. Monbene III, the Amakosu Pere of Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Kingdom, during the peace parley convened by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State

“We made it clear sufficiently and openly that we have confidence in the Ekoko panel. There was never a time we walked out on the committee or backed out of the process.”

“The much to remember was at a point when we were surveying, our senior surveyor on the panel noticed a flaw in the survey focus of the panel. Ogbe-Ijoh tendered some vague 1955 colonial map indicating a certain Jackson Line, claimed to give them the land portion they don’t own.

“However, the 1965 map with the coming of Mid-West State did not only override the said Jackson Line; inside it, there was never any mention of Ogbe-Ijoh in the disputed area. Our surveyor, who has always been with the team, wrote the Ekoko panel to correct the anomaly, but the panel tended to be hostile and that was the one off point where we tried to reconsider our position on the process and the panel.

Okowa’s intervention

“But the governor waded in and even asked at a meeting whether Ekoko was sure if this said Jackson Line, a straight line in some map, could solve the problem. It was discovered that our surveyor was right, the Jackson Line was obsolete, and we resolved and moved along. So we never backed out. We believe in the Ekoko panel and their work was almost completed before Ogbe-Ijoh started the latest hostilities”.

He accused some top Ijaw leaders in government (names withheld) of being sponsors of the crisis, saying: “We see one of them as a major sponsor of this crisis, he cannot defend himself. From incontrovertible facts available to us, we know him and another official as major sponsors. They are using their political offices to fuel, rather than quench the crisis.

“However, this impression they give us with their body language and actions do not support any intention of threat and attempt at their lives as being bandied in some quarters. Aladja is not threatening anybody. If we are provoked to take drastic action, we will not hide our intentions”.

Urhobo politicians, leaders behind disturbance – Keme, Ijaw leader

OGBE-IJOH leader and historian, Chief Monday Keme, also spoke to Sunday Vanguard on the vested interest in government, which he said was responsible for government’s inability to resolve the Aladja, Ogbe-Ijoh crisis.

How it all started

“What is today known as boundary dispute between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja communities started some years back and were being managed internally until in 1995 when the situation went beyond the control of the two communities, leading to the first major crisis, which consumed Diebiri community.

“Diebiri is an autonomous community but politically and administratively administered from Ogbe-Ijoh. The spill-over of the 1995 crisis also led to the military assisted destruction of Ogbe-Ijoh in 1996.

“The then Military Administrator of Delta State, Col. John David Dungs, constituted the Justice Dan Azinge’s Judicial Commission of Inquiry to look into the communal disturbance between Aladja and Diebiri on one hand and Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh on the other. The panel report was not implemented before the advent of civil rule in 1999.

‘Unrelenting harassment’

“From 1999 to 2008, the Aladja community adopted a pattern of persistent harassment. They mounted road blocks on their end of the only access road constructed by SPDC for the Ogbe-Ijoh community as an oil producing community. “Property developers and contractors were subjected to all forms of humiliation and intimidation. They had to pay before being allowed to move building materials to Ogbe-Ijoh.

“They also started excavating sand close to Ogbe-Ijoh end of the access road; the aim was to collapse the road. They also sold some plots to unsuspecting members as low as N100, 000 per plot of 100ft by 50ft.

Another judicial panel

.HRM. Jackson Angalabiri, Egbin II, the Pere of Kunbuowei Kingdom (left) and HRM. Okiemute Igere I, the Ovie of Ogor Kingdom

“Towards the end of 2008, the situation once again was beyond the control of the two communities and there was confrontation by parties and government intervened with the setting up of another judicial commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Frank Nwulu, which report was submitted to government in early 2009.

“From 2009 to 2014, the persistent harassment continued and, in January 2015, an Ogbe-Ijoh indigene wanted to construct a filling station at the extreme end of Ogbe-Ijoh by the creek. When the excavator he wanted to use to dig the site got to Aladja, an Aladja chief and others came out in their numbers and block the road and vandalised part of the excavator. Security men came to salvage the situation.

“The security personnel based on what they saw in Aladja wrote a security report, which prompted the state government to invite all the parties to Government House Asaba on the 3rd of March, 2015. The meeting was presided over by the then Deputy Governor, Prof. Amos Agbe Utuama (SAN). The issues were not strange to government and His Excellency informed the two communities of what government intended to do. That is, to implement the Frank Nwulu’ report.”

Hostilities worsen  

“In this regard parties entered into agreement as to measures to be taken to ensure peace pending the conclusion of the process by government. The agreement was dated 3rd March, 2015 to maintain the peace; no obstruction on the only access road; parties should not do anything within the disputed land, and the Office of Surveyor General was directed to carry out the demarcation process on or before April 28, 2015.

“This agreement was signed by the representatives of the two communities; the Deputy Governor and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice signed on behalf of government; Commissioner of Police and Director DSS signed for security agencies and the two council chairmen of Udu and Warri South West local governments also signed.

“In fact, after signing that agreement, the situation became worse. They completely blocked the road. Then on the 24th of March, 2016, the Aladja community decided to embark on ‘stop and search operation’ on the Aladja end of the Aladja/Ogbe-Ijoh road where identified Ijaw speaking persons were dragged out from their vehicles and tortured.

“Ogbe-Ijoh youths, on hearing this, wanted to inquire from Aladja community and, security men, sensing danger, went with the Ogbe-Ijoh youths. It was bloody as several persons, including security men, sustained injuries inflicted by the Aladja assailants. Aladja community also brought down the high tension cable supplying electricity to Ogbe-Ijoh and the community has remained in darkness since then to date.

Alleged pressure on governor

“Tension was high and government invited the two communities where Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa was briefed and after seeing the agreement reached dated 03/03/2015, he promised to continue from where the immediate past government stopped. He also promised to call the surveyor general to ask why government directive in this regard was not carried out. At that point, the Aladja people protested that the governor should discontinue with the process and constitute another panel.

“The governor after pressure decided to constitute the Prof. A E Ekoko panel comprising two representatives each from the communities as members. Because previous reports have provided clue or guide to what is on ground, what was needed was to fill in the missing gap and that was how the terms of reference were drawn – To identify, survey and demarcate the boundary between Udu and Warri South West, determine the extent of land in dispute and finally recommend ways that will bring about lasting peace.

 

Panel threatened, abandons work!

“In fairness to the Ekoko panel, the panel started very well with public hearing at Governor’s Office Annex, Warri and was followed by identification of claims on ground. Then the panel started with number one term of reference which is to identify survey and demarcate the boundary between Udu and Warri South West. First, the panel identified the boundary between Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh with the help of legal instrument and also surveyed the distance to be 20 kilometers from the Warri River to the terminating point at the Forcados Estuary.

“The intention of the panel was to erect pillars 20 in total along the boundary line  WSW 20 DT on other terminating point and a

third pillar UDU/WSW 19.  “Due to lhestressful nature of1heprocess,lhepaneI went on two days break and reconvened. on the third day only for the Aladja community to say that they were pulling out oflhepanel.

This development was communicated to the governor, who in turn summoned meeting at Governor’s Office Annex, Warn.

‘’The meeting was held on lhe 7th of September, 2016 and at the end there was nothing warranting pulting out from the panel. It was agreed lhat lhe panel will go back and complete its assignment. The next day Aladja community removed the pillars already erected. Contentious boundary line “It is important to stress —bere that the—r.nmndary 6etween Oqbe-Ijoh and Aladja communities has

long been legislated upon. For instance, Public Notice No 28 of 1951 first defined the boundary of Urhobo Divison in relation to Ijaw where it says that Ovwian is

the boundary line between Urhobo Divison and Oqbe- ljoh and Isaba as boundary line in the Warri Division. Aladja community was never mentioned in that law.

“This is not a matter of careless omission, because at that time lhe community now known as Aladja was known and addressed as ‘Ogbo Sobo or Ogbe Buyou’ which means Urhobo in Oqbe-Ijoh community. This fact was confirmed in Suit No W/IO/1934 where one Aya and others took a legal action against lhe people of lsaba claiming title to land and lhey lost lhe case to lsaba people. The Udu Intelligence Report of 1930, M P Okumagba (Short History of Urhobo) and lhe Udu Traditional Council all

articulated this fact. “It was in 1955 that the community adopted the name l\ladja’ and pleaded to join Urhobo Division and lhe boundary line between Urhobo Division and Warri Division was amended shifting the traditional boundary of Oqbe-ljoh and Ovwian from the DSC creek which the company converted to drainage to the

present location.

“Consequently, the 1955 law. Gazette No 176 now mentioned Ovwian and

AJadja as boundary line between Urhobo Division and Warn Division. This demarcation was accepted and remained so till Divisions gave way to the reformed local government system in 1976.

“Under the                  Local

Government system, Aladja was first placed in Ethiope and Ogbe-Jjoh in Warri Local Council in 1976, maintaining the boundary line 01 1955. Since then Aladja community has been in Ughelli, Okpe and now in Udu Local Government while Ogbe-Ijoh was moved to Burutu, Warri North,

Warri South and Warri South ‘M!st all maintaining same boundary lineol 1955.

It is also interesting to note that this 1955 boundary law has been used to resolve boundary dispute in DeltaState.

“For example, Ekpan in Uvwie and Ubenji in Warn South Local Government, it was this law that was used to settle that dispute. Again Oghara in Ethiope ‘M!st and I~lw U1 vv@il !<Jorth If 15 same 1955 law that was used. One pertinent question begging for answer is whythedil!erentapproach in this instant case. Vested interests “From the foregoing, one may conclude that

government is not willing to resolve the boundary dispute, but this is tar from the truth. The truth is that

vested interests which manifest through ethnic leaders, politicians and

government functionaries.”

“For example in 2008,    former                      Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan wanted to implement the Justice DanAzinge’s report; it was this vested interest that manifested prompting the

governor to set up another panel where the Urhobo interest was protected, “Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan upon receipt of the Frank Nwulu’s report realized that all the reports together with security were

pointing to boundary demarcation, bye pass road, Mobil Police Barracks and rebuilding of Diebiri”, Despite the interests, the Ogbe-Ijaw leader said

Uduaghan “demonstrated some commitment by including in the state budget 500 housing units for Diebiri, by-pass road from DSC to link Oqbe-ljoh at the cost of N 1.2 billion and police barracks

between Ogbe- Ijoh and Aladja at the cost of N150 IIYlHQR •.

He, however, bemoaned: “It was vested interests that ensured that these projects never saw the light of the day despite having budgetary provisions. Then towards the end of Uduaghan’s government, the state surveyor general was directed to demarcate the beundary, which directive he failed to carry out”, Keme maintained that, presently, top Urhobe officials in the state government, leaders of the Urhobo, beth

at the national and youth level, were manifesting the vested interests,

WSW 20 DT on other terminating point and a third pillar UDU/WSW 19.

“Due to the stressful nature of the process,the panel went on two days break and reconvened on the third day only for the Aladja community to say that they were pulling out of the panel.

This development was communicated to the governor, who in turn summoned meeting at Governor’s Office Annex, Warri.

‘’The meeting was held on the 7th of September, 2016 and at the end there was nothing warranting pulling out from the panel. It was agreed lhat the panel will go back and complete its assignment. The next day Aladja community removed the pillars already erected.

Contentious boundary line

“It is important to stress here that the boundary between Oqbe-Ijoh and Aladja communities has long been legislated upon.

For instance, Public Notice No 28 of 1951 first defined the boundary of Urhobo Divison in relation to Ijaw where it says that Ovwian is the boundary line between Urhobo Divison and Oqbe-ljoh and Isaba as boundary line in the Warri Division.

Aladja community was never mentioned in that law.

“This is not a matter of careless omission, because at that time lhe community now known as Aladja was known and addressed as ‘Ogbe Sobo or Ogbe Buyou’ which means Urhobo in

Oqbe-Ijoh community. This fact was confirmed in Suit No W10/1934 where one Aya and others took a legal action against the people of lsaba claiming title to land and they lost the case to lsaba people. The Udu Intelligence Report of 1930, M P Okumagba (Short History of Urhobo) and the Udu Traditional Council all articulated this fact.

“It was in 1955 that thecommunity adopted the name Aladja and pleaded to join Urhobo Division and the boundary line between Urhobo Division and Warri Division was amended shifting the traditional boundary of Oqbe-ljoh and Ovwian from the DSC creek which the company converted to drainage to the present location.

“Consequently, the 1955 law. Gazette No 176 now mentioned Ovwian and Aladja as boundary line between Urhobo Division and Warri Division. This demarcation was accepted and remained so till Divisions gave way to the reformed local government system in 1976.

“Under the                                             Local Government system, Aladja was first placed in Ethiope and Ogbe-Ijoh in Warri Local Council in 1976, maintaining the boundary  line 01 1955. Since then Aladja community has been in Ughelli, Okpe and now in Udu Local Government while Ogbe-Ijoh was moved to Burutu, Warri North, Warri South and Warri South West all maintaining same boundary line of 1955.

It is also interesting to note that this 1955 boundary law has been used to resolve boundary dispute in Delta State.

“For example, Ekpan in Uvwie and Ubenji in Warri South Local Government, it was this law that was used to settle that dispute. Again Oghara in Ethiope  West and Koko in Warri North  it is same 1955 law that was used. One pertinent question begging for answer is why the different approach in this instant case.

Vested interests

“From the foregoing, one may conclude that government is not willing to resolve the boundary dispute, but this is far from the truth. The truth is that vested interests which manifest through ethnic leaders, politicians and government functionaries.”

“For example in 2008, former                         Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan wanted to implement the Justice Dan Azinge’s report; it was this vested interest that manifested prompting the governor to set up another panel where the Urhobo interest was protected, “Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan upon receipt of the Frank Nwulu’s report realized that all the reports together with security  were pointing to boundary demarcation, bye pass road, Mobil Police Barracks and rebuilding of Diebiri.”

Despite the interests, the Ogbe-Ijaw leader said Uduaghan “demonstrated some commitment by including in the state budget 500 housing  units for Diebiri, by-pass road from DSC to link Oqbe-Ijoh at the cost of N 1.2 billion and police barracks between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja at the cost of N150 million.”

He, however, be-moaned: “It was vested interests that ensured that these projects never saw the light of the day despite having bud-getary provisions. Then towards the end of Uduaghan’s govern-ment, the state surveyor general was directed to demarcate the boundary, which directive he failed to carry out”, Keme maintained that, presently, top Urhobo officials in the state government, leaders of the Urhobo, both at the national and youth level, were manifesting the vested interests.


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