The claims and counter-claims at the National Assembly
HIS Lordship Courtenay Reece of the then Supreme Court, Warri Division (now High Court) in his judgment, October, 1951, on the declaration of title sought by the plaintiffs (Omadino) people held that Omadinor people founded Okenghigho (Okerenghigho), Omadinor, Bakokodia and Akpata.
The court in its judgment in the suit, E. E. Silio, Edoneyemode Golley on behalf of themselves and Omadino people versus Adurumorkumor on behalf of himself and Bakokodia people, found that Ofomini and his son, Bubor, settled with the people at Bakokodia with the permission of Chanomi and the elders of Omadinor.
“Jelebe, an Ijaw, founded the villager of that name on lands of the Omadinors with the permission of the Omadinors. Adurumokumor in an action instituted by him failed to obtain a declaration of title to the land in dispute; the people of Omadinor have collected dues from fishermen for the right to fish in the water and creeks in and around the lands in dispute and that they have also collected dues from hunters, canoe carvers and palm nut collectors.
“On these findings, I am of the opinion that the plaintiffs are entitled to the declaration sought. The plaintiffs also claim 300 pounds damages from the defendants for interfering with fishing rights and preventing the plaintiffs from collecting rents from tenants using the land.
“I am satisfied that the defendant has not only interfered with persons fishing in the water of Akpata creek, but has also collected dues from fishermen and canoe carvers. He has arresting Kponu and two others and said that he received dues from fishermen and canoe carvers.
“The evidence above shows that he collected two pounds from Kajemite and four pounds from Eyikemi Agara. The total amount in dues, which the plaintiffs have proved they have list is six pounds and there has been no interference by the defendant with any fishing or working in the bush since two years ago when Kponu said he began again to collect dues.
“In my opinion, the arrest of Kponu and the two others is not a circumstance to be taken into consideration into determining the amount of damages to be awarded for the infringement of the plaintiffs’ fishing and other rights.
“Kponu has his own remedy against the defendant if he thinks that any of his rights have been invaded. I consider 20 pounds sufficient damages for the infringement of the plaintiffs’ rights.
“I enter judgment for the plaintiffs in the sum of 20 pounds and costs and declare that they are the owners of the land claimed and described in the claim and delineated in the plan,” the court declared
Omadino-Itsekiri memo to House of Reps
Omadino community and Itsekiri people in a memo to the House of Representatives, signed by Elder Edukugho and seven others, said the community again in 1962, specifically sued for possession of Okerenghigbo and in 1969, the judge held: “I am satisfied that the village land Okerenghigho which is the subject matter in dispute in this case falls within the area described in the claim in suit no W/29/51 in respect of which the then Supreme Court (now High Court) declared plaintiffs (Itsekiri) people of Omadino) owners… Although, it will now be superfluous to grant a declaration of possessory title of ownership to the plaintiffs, for the avoidance of doubt, I hereby grant it as claimed in respect of Okerenghigho.”
They said the Ijaws appealed to the Supreme Court in SC/294/70 in January. 1973 and the case was dismissed by Elias C J, Sowemimo and Ibekwe S C.
Omadino people stated that in the memo: “On the difference between Okerenghigho and Okerenkoko, the trial judge said inter alia at page 14 of the judgment as follows- “I find as a fact that the land in dispute is called Okerenghigho by the plaintiffs, who are Itsekiri and Okerenkoko by the Ijaws, who are the defendants.”
Okerenkoko, an illegality
They maintained that from historical facts and judgments “The land Okerenghigho is owned by the Omadino people under the lordship of Olu of Warri; Okerenghigho and Okerenkoko are one and the same place; and the proper name of the land is Okerenghigho and not Okerenkoko, an illegality that should be seen as contempt of court judgment and history.”
Pay us compensation
Omadino also insisted that payment of compensation in respect of the acquisition of land at Okerenghigho for the location or site of the Nigerian Maritime University should be to the people of Omadio and the Ijaws, who are in occupation in accordance with the law.
Gbarmatu memo to Senate
On the other hand, the people of Gbaramatu in their memo to the Senate signed by the Bolouwei of Gbaramatu kingdom, Chief Wellington Okirika and 10 others, asserted that the High Court presided over by Onurhorho J, dismissed the claim of the Omadino people and the counter-claim of Okerenkoko people, adding, “the legal outcome leaves the contending parties in the status quo ante belum.”
They also said that the Itsekiri people of Ugborodo went to court in 1976 where they claimed certain injunction reliefs in trumped-up history of ‘first settlement’, but Gbaramatu people, who were made parties at the High Court, joined at the Appeal Court, where their contentions were upheld and the judgment obtained by Ugborodo people consequently set aside.
Gbaramatu kingdom contended that the case was returned back to the High Court for trial de novo, while the Ugborodo people appealed the Appeal Court judgment to the Supreme Court.
They argued that it would be out of place, therefore, for the Itsekiri or any other person to rely on these cases to lay claim to exclusive ownership of the land in question.
Ijaws came as fishermen; they’re not owners – Itsekiri group
AN Itsekiri group, Itsekiri Awareness Platform, led by Joseph Okoro, has said that the Ijaws came to Okerenghigho to fish and occupied the place as a fishing camp, not as the owners of the land.
“They called the place Okenrenkoko, but Itsekiri people believed that it was mispronunciation or corruption of the proper name of Okenrenghigho, but now appears to have been a deliberate act to annex this area.
The group, which has Chief Omolubi Newuwumi, as patron, in an electronic mail, denouncing the action of the Ijaw, said: “The owner of a place by nature or law is the owner of a place. The owner of a place may as well live in the place or not.”
It asserted: “However, an occupant, not owner, no matter the centuries, does not change the status quo. And so, the Ijaws claim of ownership is not justifiable. Simple question, is it true, to say, that for centuries, Satan live and rules the earth, therefore, God is longer the owner of the earth because He dwells in heaven?
On whether Itsekiri people live in the community at the moment, the group said, “Yes! The Itsekiri and the Ijaws of the area are highly intermarried. There is no complete Ijaw man in Okenrenghigho without an Itsekiri blood. Motherly and paternally, the duo is so tied beyond human’s imagination and cannot be separated.”
“The place in question is an Itsekiri community. Besides, the Ijaws used the town as base during the Itsekiri-Ijaw war. And for the purpose of safety, a pure Itsekiri man had to evacuate the place.
The group insisted that Itsekiri judgment on the ownership of Okerenghigho was enforceable despite overwhelming Ijaw presence in the town.
Its words: “Yes! If truly Nigeria is a society where the rule of law is adhered to, it is practicably enforceable.”
On what should be done for peace to reign in the area, the group said, “Peace can never reign in an oppressive society or environment, only truth can set any nation free. Let truth prevail. Let the rule of law be observed.