By Emma Amaize
WARRI—IJAW People’s Development Initiative, IPDI, Warri, Delta State, yesterday, joined issues with the Iwere People Congress, IPC and Niger Delta Omega, both Itsekiri groups, over their separate contentions on the ownership of Warri and ultimatum to rename the location of Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, describing their outpourings as needless distractions.
The Ijaw rights group, in a statement by the national president, Austin Ozobo, said: “The IPC was clearly out to mislead the public, as it is not true that leases B2 covering 360 acres and B5 covering 180 acres, erroneously referred to be 350 acres by the Itsekiri, were granted by Chief Dore Numa and other Itsekiri chiefs, acting for and on behalf of the Olu of Warri.
“Dore Numa was an agent of government and never acted on behalf of Jekri (Sekiri). Though, he annexed people’s lands under the cover of government, Ogbe-Ijoh people are the owners of Warri. Dore was not an indigene of Warri. He was from Benin River, another Ijaw territory. The lands in question were leased to Royal Niger Company and United Africa Company, UAC, by Ogbe-Ijoh people. Dore only acted as a representative.
“It is not true that the leases do not indicate ownership as claimed by IPC or that the lands do not have ownership consequent upon the lease. If truly the lands were free lands that were occupied by government and the said companies, there would have been no need for deed or lease agreements by such companies and the Warri Province government.
“It will interest you to note that several letters of disclaimer of Title of land were written by Numa Dore. Dore’s letter of disclaimer to Agbassa Uhrobo people was dated February 28, 1923, while the one for Ogbe-Ijoh people was written and dated November 10, 1923. Dore’s letter of disclaimer of title written to His Lieutenant-Governor was dated February 23, 1923. The letters were forwarded to the Commissioner of Lands, Lagos, from the resident, Warri Province, Warri, on March 19, 1923.
“We have read the purported Appeal Court judgments of 1923 and 1931 respectively referred to in their mischievous publication. We have not seen where the counsel to the Agbassa Uhrobo people, S.L Bucknor, admitted in court that he was instigated to forge those documents. Equally, there was no time Dore said the letters were forged. We challenge them to publish the court proceedings where Bucknor allegedly confessed that he was instigated to forge the documents.
“Ijaw ownership of Warri does not lie on Chief Dore Numa’s letters but was only cited as reference as there was no need relying upon it in court, since Ijaw ownership of Warri predated the existence of Itsekiri in the current Delta State.”
On the call on the Federal Government to rename NMU, Okereenkoko within 14 days, IPDI said, “We equally condemn the 14- day ultimatum given to government by the Itsekiri to rename Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko.
“Itsekiri should desist from things that are capable of causing ethnic discord. Attempt to rename NMU will hit the brick wall.”
They should demand things that will bring further development to the region and not to fight against the few developmental projects in the region.
“They have Chevron Nigeria Limited and Export Processing Zone, EPZ, a multi billionaire project and nobody is fighting against it, so they should learn to be contented with what they have, while they can also seek more, but not to sabotage what belong to others,” the group said.