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May 21, 2024

Fresh tension rises between Okuama-Ewu, Okoloba


…Okuama accuses Okoloba of spying on villagers with drones
…Women protest looting of property, farmlands
…They lay siege to our waterways; we have nowhere to pass—Protesters

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Akpokona Omafuaire & Chancel Sunday

UGHELLI — A fresh crisis is brewing between the Okuama-Ewu community, Ughelli South Local Government Area, and Okoloba community, Bomadi Local Government Area, both in Delta State, over allegations of looting of property and farmlands, armed youths laying seige to the waterways, and spying with drones.

The two communities torn apart by land dispute came into the public eye a few months ago when suspected gunmen killed 17 army personnel, who, reportedly were on a peace mission to the Okuama-Ewu on March 14.

The military took over the Okuama-Ewu community on March 15 and vacated on May 8, following the intervention of Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of the state.

Residents of the community, who took cover in the forests, and starved for nearly two months, returned on May 8, after the soldiers vacated their homeland, but since that day, it has been one crisis or the another.

Reports from the area indicate that tension was building up between the two communities. Sources said unless the state government takes urgent steps, another crisis might break out between the warring neighbours.

Women of Okuama-Ewu, clutching leaves demonstrated in the community, yesterday, accusing Okoloba women of digging, harvesting, and stealing cassava, potatoes, and pepper from their farms.

They also accused Okoloba youths of laying siege to the waterways with guns, calling on President Bola Tinubu, and Governor Oborevowri, to come to their aid.

Leaders of Okuama-Ewu, who spoke to Vanguard, said Okoloba was spying on them with drones.

First protest by Okoloba women

Placard-carrying Okolaba women, led by the Chairlady of the community, Mrs. Timipakebi Godwin, and Secretary, Mrs. Mary Koibi, carried out the first protest in the preceding four days, last Saturday.

They alleged that armed youths of Okuama-Ewu were threatening peace in the riverine area, adding that the latest attack that led to the killing of one youth, and wounding of three others, by armed Okuama youths, showed that they could kill at the slightest provocation.

Okuama-Ewu women protest

Yesterday, however, women of Okuama-Ewu, who claimed they caught Okoloba women, who fled on sighting them, harvesting their cassava, came back home carrying loads of cassava, which their fleeing neighbours allegedly abandoned while escaping.

One protester said, “They stole our foams, boats, and other property and sold them before we returned on May 8. But today (Monday), we caught them digging our cassava, and they ran away.

“On Sunday, armed youths of Okoloba blocked us with guns on the waterways, we had to take another route to come to Okuama. Our community is an island, we come through Okwagbe on the waterways, and you will first get to Okoloba before Okuama, and they blocked us with guns on Sunday.”

Another woman protester, said: “When we got to our farms this morning (Monday), we found that Okoloba and Akugbene women were harvesting our cassava. When we cried out before that, they were stealing our cassava, people thought we were raising a false alarm, you can see it now.

“They have been harvesting our cassava, potatoes, pepper, and other crops. Women and children are suffering, our husbands are not here, we have not seen many of our children since we returned, and we do not know where they are.”

One more protester said: “We went this morning (Monday) to our farm and saw Okoloba women harvesting our cassava and they ran away. The government should rebuild our houses and call them to order. The river we pass, they have blocked it.”

They monitor us with drones frequently — Okuama leader

One leader, who shed light on the development said: “Yes, this morning (Monday), the Okuama women went to the farm and discovered that most of their crops had been harvested. They abandoned the cassava that they uprooted before the arrival of our women.

“They ran away when they heard the voices of our women coming. After returning, our people usually go to the farm in groups.

“One woman leader from the Okoloba community is leading their women to harvest our women’s cassava, potato, pepper, and all they have labored for in the bush.”

I’ll get back —Koki, Okoloba chair

When contacted, Chairman of the Okoloba community, Mr. Clement Koki, said he would get back with a detailed response. He was yet to respond at press time.