‘Delta govt. should act before dispute with Aladja goes bloody again’
By Perez Brisibe
HON. Friday Denighan is the Coordinator, Concerned Members for Peace and Development in Ogbe-Ijoh Kingdom, Delta State.
In this interview, Denighan speaks on the lingering land dispute between Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh communities.
There have been issues between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja communities for a while and you are aware that two Gbaramatu persons, who had come from Owian and heading to the Ogbe-Ijoh market, were abducted and killed.
The state government has been setting up commissions of enquiry to end the crisis with the last one being the Prof Abednego Ikoko panel. All the commissions have proffered solutions in terms of recommendations for government to implement but the government has done nothing. The situation is baffling because if you have spent money to set up the panels, what stops you from implementing their recommendations?
The last commission of inquiry was specifically asked to find out the boundary between the parties concerned and come up with recommendations on how to end the dispute. The panel was given the reports of the two previous commissions of inquiry to guide it in its assignment. Both sides made presentations at Ogbe-Ijoh to back their claims to the land.
Personally, I believe the Aladja people have no claim to the land. On December 20, 2016, through the informed decision of the independent findings of the Ikoko panel, 289 hectares of land was found to be the disputed land; it is based on that information that the governor pronounced the compulsory acquisition of the 289 hectares of land.
If the state government has made such pronouncement, what then is the problem?
As far as Ogbe-Ijoh is concerned, we are not opposed to the pronouncement despite the fact that the said land is in Warri South – West by law and this law has been in existence since 1955 while Aladja was under Urhobo Division and Ogbe-Ijoh under Warri Division.
So, government delay is the issue. The Ifeanyi Okowa administration has no reason to blame anybody on why the crisis lingers, it should take responsibility for the crisis. I advise the government of Delta State to immediately demarcate and lock up the disputed area from both communities. It would amaze you that equipment and vehicles coming to Ogbe-Ijoh and escorted by military personnel were vandalized along the road and turned back.
Are you saying Ogbeh Ijoh is the victim in this confict?
At no point did the Ogbe-Ijoh people initiate attack on Aladja and government is aware of that because, after each peace meeting, it is Aladja people that keep violating agreements and government has not sanctioned any of them.
During an invasion of Ogbe-Ijoh last month, a mobile policeman on duty was shot; a pastor at his church was also shot. You should try to understand that in a communal system, when you are attacked, you have to protect yourself and that is what the Ogbe-Ijoh people did and security agents are aware of that. In the last incident, the Ogbe-Ijoh people had to repel the attack on them and chased the assailants into their own community. The attack on the Gbaramatu persons is unfortunate because we also have Urhobos in Ogbe-Ijoh but they are living peacefully with us; so why attack any Ijaw person plying the waterway?
The beautiful thing is that during the peace meeting at the Government House Annex, Warri, the Udu monarch confirmed the deaths in his territory, saying the victims died during illegal oil bunkering.
Need to maintain peace
I believe this is the time for peace because there is no way either of the two communities would push the other from its current territory, the best thing is for us to live together because Ogbe-Ijoh is a blessing to Aladja as people from both communities intermarry and have been doing business together.
For instance, the road from DSC to Ode-Itsekiri, it would cut across the area and it would help in opening up Isaba, Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh, the whole of that area would be opened up.
Navy invades the Ogbe-Ijoh shrine
The navy was very unprofessional during the last attack on Ogbe-Ijoh. I witnessed the attack. If it wasn’t because of the presence of the soldiers and mobile policemen stationed at Ogbe-Ijoh, I believe the navy personnel, who were masked, would have repeated the 1996 military invasion. This is the same navy that acquired 44 hectares of land from the Ogbe-Ijoh people in 1988.
When they entered Ogbe-Ijoh under the guise of stopping the conflict, they started shooting into the community sporadically with their gunboats, went into the Ogbe-Ijoh traditional shrine, and destroyed everything in sight, as if we were fighting the navy.
It was the army personnel that confronted them saying, ‘you saw us here and you are still shooting? Do you want to kill us along with the locals?’ That was when the relaxed but they had already done their worst. Those individuals would not be forgiven and we need an apology from them.