Quit Notice An Insult, Recipe For Crisis, Aladja Group Replies Ogbe-Ijo

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Gov Okowa

Pressure group of Aladja sons and daughters in Nigeria and in the Diaspora has reacted to a purported quit notice issued by the Ogbe-Ijoh people for Aladja to vacate their land for Ogbe-Ijoh, describing the development as the insult of unimaginable magnitude, stressing that it was a sure recipe for avoidable crisis for the tenant to issue quit notice to the landlord.

In a statement signed by Comrade Ejovwo Ashe, Chairman, Comrade Kingsley Krokele, Secretary General and Diemuare Olokpa, Publicity Secretary, the group expressed grave displeasure with the ‘’annoying stance of Ogbe-Ijoh to deliberately distort history’’, stressing that Ogbe-Ijoh should rather quit Aladja land and go to Warri GRA, their original settlement before they were evicted by the instrument of the colonial administration.

‘’The present day Warri GRA was the ancestral home of the Ogbe-Ijoh people until 1908 when the British had need of land and evicted the Ogbe-Ijoh people from the land vide a leasehold signed by Chief Dore Numa. After this eviction the people of Aladja took pity on them and allowed them to squat on the far edge of the Aladja land. But this act of magnanimity has turned out to be the greatest undoing of the Aladja people today. The Ogbe-Ijoh people should go and reclaim their land in Warri which one British Captain James evicted them from in 1908 and same land leased to the British by Chief Dore Numa.

‘’The land in dispute is solely owned by the Aladja people. The land was deforested by the forebears of the Aladja people where they farmed for centuries before the piece of land was granted to the floating people of Ogbe-Ijoh after their eviction in 1908. It was five families from Ogbe-Ijoh who came to beg for a piece of land from Aladja after their eviction from Warri. When these families settled down on the said land, a few others came to join them and their numbers began to increase. These squatters are the ones calling Aladja tenants today.

What an irony of life!

‘’We, the Aladja people are not dragging the Ogbe-Ijoh land in Warri with them. It is a known fact that the Warri GRA as it is presently was the original home of the Ogbe-Ijoh people. They lay claim to that land and cannot at the same time claim to be sharing boundaries with Ovwian Community in Udu Local Government Area. The River Warri is the natural boundary between Aladja and Communities in Warri. And so it has been from time. But because Aladja took pity on the Ogbe-Ijoh people after their eviction from their homes they are now laying claims to our land and Government is tactically supporting them to seize our lands by force. It will not happen. The Ogbe-Ijoh land in Warri was leased to Government by Chief Dore Numa for ninety nine years. That lease has expired so the Ogbe-Ijoh people should go back to their land and leave us alone in peace.

‘’In 1969 the Justice Akinwunmi Rhodes-Vivour Commission of Inquiry was set up to resolve the ownership of Warri dispute between the Ijaws and Itsekiris on the one hand and the Urhobos of Warri and Itsekiris on the other hand. The Commission of Inquiry was constituted by the Brig. S. O. Ogbemudia military Governor at the time. The report shows clearly that Ogbe-Ijoh is in Warri and not Aladja land as being claimed today.

‘’The myopic Ogbe-Ijoh people said Aladja changed her name from OGBESOBO to Aladja. The name Aladja has been in existence since time immemorial. And that has been the name the town has been known for. Ogbesobo was used by the Itsekiris to describe the Urhobo town that was distinctively opposite Warri town on the River Warri. Ogbe in Itsekiri is a word used to designate a settlement. And so if they wanted to describe the Urhobo town they simply say ogbe usobo. Usobo, being the corruption of the name ‘Urhobo’. Aladja had never had a name change but affirm the name they are known by with the constant use of the name whereas Ogbe-Ijoh stuck to the name they were given by their overlords, the Itsekiris. Ogbe-Ijoh cannot tell us their original name has been Ogbe-Ijoh. Ogbe has no meaning in Ijaw so with the use of the name they have affirmed their servitude to the Itsekiris.

‘’It should be noted that Aladja has never been in the same historical or political division with the Ogbe-Ijoh people that would warrant an appeal to want to join our people in Urhobo division. We have been Urhobo and remain Urhobo. Ovwian and Aladja are two Udu Communities and have been boundary neighbours. Never a time has Ogbe-Ijoh been boundary neighbours with Ovwian. If they had been, where were they (Ogbe-Ijoh) when in the late 1970s and early 1980s the Delta Steel Company was established? Did they come out to say it was on their land that the company was being built and as such all compensations should be paid to them? It is on record that any compensation paid on crops and farm produce were paid to Aladja and Ovwian Communities.

‘’The disputes on the Aladja land started after a motorable access road was granted to the Ogbe-Ijoh people in the 1970s. This road was created after the Ogbe-Ijoh people came to beg the leadership of Aladja for an access road to their enclave. When the road was to be created the families who owned the lands were contacted and compensations paid to allow the construction of the earth road. But one of the families, the Bezi family, refused the negotiated compensation with the claim that the land the road was to be constructed on belong to families in Aladja and as such the Ogbe-Ijoh people should have met with the families and not the community. They argued that Community can only play a mediatory role and stand as witness in the event should dispute arise in the future. But the leadership of Aladja refused and the Bezis took Ogbe-Ijoh to court for trespassing on their land. The matter was later settled when Ogbe-Ijoh begged for an out of court settlement which the court witnessed and entered as court judgment. But today the present crops of Ogbe-Ijoh people are saying such a judgment never took place or that those who signed were mad men.

‘’After the road was constructed the eyes of the Ogbe-Ijoh people got opened to see the outside world. This made them to crave for land which they began to encroach on. This led to a few skirmishes but no lives were loss then. Gradually the encroachment became unbearable and more skirmishes erupted before it snowballed into a protracted battle in 1995 until Ogbe-Ijoh was defeated on the 15th June,1996. This defeat has been a pain they want to avenge. But as time has been the healer of all wounds they gradually began to come back and the Aladja people graciously allowed them. But this is now our greatest regret ever since.

‘’This present crisis is rooted on the decision of the Chief James Onanafe Ibori’s Government to relocate the Headquarters of the then Warri Central Local Government Council from Ogidigben to Ogbe-Ijoh and the change of the name of the council area from Warri Central to Warri South West Local Government Area. When the then Head of State, the Late Gen. Sani Abacha, created the local government he named it Warri Central Local Government Area with Warri GRA as Headquarters before the Itsekiris took it to Ogidigben which led the Ijaws to take up arms. Ibori in his wisdom relocated the Headquarters from Ogidigben to Ogbe-Ijoh which is in Aladja land. When Aladja protested Ibori never gave ears to Aladja protests.

‘’With the confidence got from the arms struggle against the Itsekiris the Ijaws now feel it is only through violence they can achieve whatever they want to grab and that they own the monopoly of violence and as such all persons and government must bow to their whims and caprices. Armed with the mindset that the Ijaws are the war Lords of the Niger Delta they kept on with their attacks on our farmers. Till on the 24th day of March,2016 when they attacked the Ogbe-Ijoh Police station, Ogbe-Ijoh and carted away all their arms and ammunition and came to attack Aladja through the riverside. This armed attack on Aladja on this day led to another round of violence which claimed the lives of many persons on both sides. And for three years this war raged till a group of young men and women from both Communities led by Evang. Thompson Layefa Enienghan from Ogbe-Ijoh and Mr. Bezi Ighotegwolor from Aladja formed the Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh Peace Vanguard to bring about peace to both Communities. And that peace reigned till a few unscrupulous elements in Ogbe-Ijoh decided to truncate it.

‘’Around the end of October,2021 one Pastor Sylvester Yerinbide was attacked and that attack led to his death. The Ogbe-Ijoh people laid the blame of the attack on Aladja and claimed Pastor Sylvester Yerinbide said he was attacked by the people of Aladja. But the Youth Chairman of Aladja Community, Comrade Elias Chipi, debunked that claim and said the attackers of Sylvester Yerinbide could have been from anywhere. That since no one was apprehended or seen perpetrating the act both Communities should carry out thorough investigations to unravel those behind the attacks on people of both Communities along the road leading to and from both Communities. The Ogbe-Ijoh Youth President will not hear of this and went ahead to give the State Government, all Security Agencies and Aladja Community an ultimatum to produce the killers within 14 days or that they would carry out an attack on Aladja. The ultimatum expired on the 20th November,2021 and true to their words Ogbe-Ijoh attacked Aladja on Sunday,21st November,2021 killing one Mr. Daniel Gbikeke and injuring another.

‘’Prior to the attack on the 21st November,2021 the Commanding Officer, Effurun Barracks, Major Bala through his OC in charge of Udu and Ogbe-Ijoh, Major Harrison Olumeka had called for a meeting where they warned the two communities not to resort to arms attack. Luckily, on the day of the attack Major Olumeka Harrison was right on the spot and he saw and heard the kind of arms the Ogbe-Ijoh invaders came with. But surprisingly nothing was done to Ogbe-Ijoh to serve as a deterrent.

‘’On the quit notice order by Ogbe-Ijoh titled: ‘Tell Aladja to Quit Our Land or We Will Claim Our Territories by Any Means Possible’, we make bold to say that this is the ranting of rabid idiots. If Ogbe-Ijoh thinks that because they came to attack Aladja on the 21st of November, 2021 and went away freely and that they had been given a blank check by their Ijaw brothers they want to bank on that to think they have the monopoly of violence they should have a rethink. Aladja is not afraid of the Ijaws and that the vengeance they crave against Aladja for the 1995/96 defeat will lead to their total annihilation if they dare attack Aladja again.

‘’Even though we are not happy with the distorted way the boundary demarcation is going, we have decided to take our fate as it is. We have decided to give the two Local Government Chairmen; Jite Brown and Taiye Duke Tuoyo the necessary support to allow peace reign. But Ogbe-Ijoh, the squatters on our land, must stop their acts of intimidation and allow peace to reign. We, the Aladja people, are fearless peace lovers but will not hesitate to defend our lives and properties if they are being threatened’’, the statement added.

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