September 30, 2023

Delta: Bloodletting Kefas, Ibori, Udughan, Okowa couldn’t stop

Delta: Bloodletting Kefas, Ibori, Udughan, Okowa couldn’t stop

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

WHY has the inter-communal crisis between the Ogbe-Ijoh, and Aladja communities in Warri South-West and Udu Local Government Areas respectively in Delta State, continued to linger, after nearly three decades of bloodletting, and immeasurable destruction on both sides?

On record, a former military administrator of Delta State, Group Captain Ibrahim Kefas; three ex-governors, Chief James Ibori- 1999-2007; Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan–2007–2015; and Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa- 2015-2023 could not lay the matter to rest.

Who are the forces profiting, and smoldering the coals of dissension between the two neighboring Ijaw and Urhobo-speaking communities? Why is it interminable, and can the present governor, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, overcome the forces that defied his predecessors?

The forces

Saturday Vanguard has it on good authority that some frontline politicians/leaders from both divides were feeding from the crisis, and they employed detrimental fabrications to gain favor from former chief security officers of the state, and other appropriate authorities.

Besides their powerful connections, they have also used social media to propagate disorder between the two communities, and blot the hard work of some dedicated government authorities and officials, genuinely interested in resolving the misunderstanding.

Their treacherous horse-trading has noticeably deferred the peaceful resolution of the predicament.

Issue at stake

The long and short of the matter is the ownership of land spanning 1,236 hectares between the two communities.

For decades, they had fought, killed one another, and destroyed their properties over the boundary. The only link road from Aladja to Ogbe-Ijoh is usually a no-go area whenever the spirits of war arise.

Kefas intervention  

The prolonged crisis between Diebiri community, administratively under Ogbe-Ijoh, and Aladja first broke out in 1995 during the military administration of Group Captain Ibrahim Kefas.

The military administrator set up the Justice Dan Azinge Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Disturbance between Diebiri/Aladja, and Aladja/Ogbe/Ijoh.  

The Commission recommended that the government should gain the land in dispute between the two warring communities among others.

Ibori interlude

An Aladja leader, Hon Andrew Gbise, who accused the former governor of partiality, said, “Ibori punished Aladja community by relocating the local government headquarters from Ogidigben, an Itsekiri town to Ogbe-Ijoh without proper boundary demarcation between the two communities.”

He attributed the former governor’s alleged bias to the fact that the Ovie of Udu Kingdom, an indigene of Aladja, did not welcome him to his palace during Ibori’s campaign tour to become governor of Delta State in 1998.

“Chief Ibori took action against Aladja because the community also voted massively for Engr. Moses Kragha, who is also an indigene of Udu Kingdom. They suspended the Udu King from the traditional institution,” he added. 

However, Chief Monday Keme, a member of the Ogbe-Ijoh Leader of Thought said, “During the Ibori administration, there was not much disturbance; the road was accessible to Ogbe-Ijoh by both Ogbe-Ijoh indigenes and visitors. The Ibori administration, therefore, did not really intervene.”

Uduaghan arbitration

Hon Gbise said of the Uduaghan administration: “Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan came into office with a different mindset, set up another panel of inquiry, but could not implement the Report until he also left office.”

However, Keme, also the Principal Secretary to the Pere (traditional ruler) of Ogbe-Ijoh, HRM Monbene III, said, “It was during the time of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration that the boundary conflict became worrisome.”

“The Uduaghan government showed interest in implementing the Report of Justice Dan Azinge Commission of Inquiry, but the Aladja community protested its implementation.

“They did all they could to frustrate the government and insisted on a new Commission of Inquiry.

“The Uduaghan government, after that, constituted Justice Franklyn Nwulu’s Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the same subject. 

“The panel recommended among others that the Delta state government should demarcate the boundary of Udu and Warri South West Local Government Areas, as both communities are in different local government areas, as the absence of such local government boundary is making parties to claim areas that do not belong to them

 ”The Delta State Government should gain the land in dispute and pay compensation to the party that eventually wins in Court.

(The Aladja community took the Ogbe-Ijoh community to court, which case they abandoned at the time), and Delta state Government should construct bypass road to link up Ogbe-Ijoh.”

Chief Keme said the Uduaghan government invited the parties to Asaba, informed them of the government’s plan to implement Justice Franklyn Nwulu’s report, and gave the surveyor general a time-frame of May 29, 2015, to carry out the exercise. 

His words, “From the report made available, the Aladja community prevented the surveyor-general from carrying out government’s directive.”

Okowa mediation

Hon. Gbise disclosed, “When Dr. Okowa came on board as a governor of the state, he set up another panel of inquiry. He did his best to implement the Report from the said Prof. Ekoko’s panel, but could not conclude the boundary demarcation because of political undercurrents.”

Keme retorted, “Aladja community resisted an attempt by the Okowa government to continue from where his predecessor stopped. It insisted yet again on another panel, saying that the previous two Reports did not show the extent of land in dispute as culvert-to-culvert did not determine the actual size of land.”

“This prompted Okowa to visit the area in April 2016 and made up the Professor Abednego Ekoko Panel of Inquiry wherein he gave specific terms of reference – identify and demarcate the boundary of Udu and Warri South West local Governments and determine and demarcate the land in dispute between the two communities. 

“The Ekoko’s panel in line with the terms of reference identified, demarcated the boundary of Udu and Warri South West local Government areas with existing boundary law of 1955 and erected pillars which the Aladja community protested against.

“They destroyed the pillars marked as “UDU/WSW DT 01 to 20. The land in dispute is about 289.9 hectares. 

“They threatened the panel, especially the Chairman and Secretary, and they made a lot of manipulations …This led to two separate reports – majority and minority…”

So far under Oborevwori

Hon Gbise told Saturday Vanguard, “Immediately Elder Oborevwori took over the mantle of leadership of the state, the communal war resurfaced in a most aggravating dimension that never happened in the crisis’s history.” 

“The governor quickly invited the leaderships of the two communities, including the two local government chairs, to Asaba, and asked them to complete the boundary demarcation within two weeks.

“But it is almost two months now, nothing has happened significantly. Only God knows what is behind the delay. It might be obvious, the two communities’ grandstanding of not wanting to give peace a chance is replicating. 

Give Ogbe-Ijoh– 30% , Aladja- 70% – Gbise

Gbise said, “I sincerely want to urge both communities to be wise enough at this point to sheath their swords in order to have a common understanding of the spirit of give and take.”

“My plea is for the Ogbe-Ijoh to accept 30 percent of the land in question while Aladja should have 70 percent for absolute peace. I know why.

“This is because the land is not worth any person’s death, and promising young men again. Both sides have lost enough souls. We should all come together to embrace peace and stop further killing of innocent souls.

“I still advise the present government not to appease any individual or group from the two communities with funds in any form of security measures or otherwise. In addition, it should not award contracts to anybody from the two communities until they settle the crisis amicably.”

We are in court with Aladja — Keme

Keme said for Ogbe-Ijoh, “Having given the government ample time, and the inability of the Delta state government to take a firm stand on the matter, and in order not to take laws into our hands, we have approached the law court, which Aladja community has also entered defense.”

“We want the Delta state government to encourage parties while in court to maintain peace, acquire the land, and pay compensation to the party that eventually wins in the court. The government should build a permanent security base in the gained land to prevent incessant attacks. 

 ”Since March 16, 2016, they shut down Aladja/Ogbe-Ijoh road, preventing the free movement of goods and services to Ogbe-Ijoh through land,” he noted.

Our findings

Saturday Vanguard findings showed that since the boundary dispute reared up, the state government, under different administrations, constituted different Judicial Commission of Inquiries, and even came up with white paper.

Three specific recommendations of the several panels were the delineation of the boundary between the two communities; the acquisition of the disputed areas, and the construction of a bypass road for Ogbe-Ijoh to detour the link road through Aladja.

Obviously, the quandary is not a lack of a solution to the crisis, but political will by the government to put into action the workable recommendations available to it, and disappointingly, allowing interested parties to hold sway for so long.  

However, from the body language of Oborevwori, who is waiting for the concluding details from the Committee he set up, the “Warri boy” brimming with native intelligence seems ready to make far-reaching decisions, in the next few weeks.