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Niger Delta Scholars, Slam Itsekiri Youth Council Over “Deceptive” Claims On Warri Ownership

M. Keme, the National Co-ordinator of Niger Delta Scholars highlighted the landmark Idundun vs. Okumagba case.

By Nydra Ayibapreye

The Niger Delta Scholars in a recent press statement, have vehemently opposed what they describe as “spurious claims” by the Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC) regarding the ownership of Warri land.

The statement, released amid escalating tensions, challenges the INYC’s assertions, pointing out that none of the cited authorities confer any ownership of Warri land to the Itsekiri people.

M. Keme, the National Co-ordinator of Niger Delta Scholars highlighted the landmark Idundun vs. Okumagba case (Suit No W/48/1968), where the Itsekiri lost to the Urhobo people, with the Supreme Court ruling against the Itsekiri’s claim to Warri land.

He emphasized that the judgment clearly states that the territory founded by Ginuwa, the progenitor of the Itsekiri nation, never extended to Warri. Instead, it was limited to Ijala, where all Olus are traditionally buried.

Read the full statement below


PRESS STATEMENT FROM NIGER DELTA SCHOLARS OVER SPURIOUS CLAIMS ON WARRI OWNERSHIP BY ITSEKIRI NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL (INYC)

Niger Delta Scholars have read with contestation trending online news wherein the Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC) made spurious claims on Warri land ownership by citing irrelevant authorities to drive home their deceptive points. It will shock the public that none of said authorities CONFER ANY OWNERSHIP OF WARRI LAND TO ITSEKIRI. From available records, the ONLY known case that conferred land ownership to any of Urhobo, Itsekiri and Ijaw (Ogbe-Ijoh) legally is the celebrated Idundun vs Okumagba case, Suit No W/48/1968, which the Itsekiri lost to Urhobo up to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, majority of the younger Itsekiri nation including Itsekiri lawyers have not taken the time to read and study that judgment. If they have truly read and study that judgement, they will be careful and mindful on claims on WARRI ownership. In fact, it is crystal clear that from the above judgement, the Itsekiri don’t have ANY STAKE in WARRI as the Court held inter alia.. that the territory founder by Ginuwa, the progenitor of the Itsekiri nation never extend to WARRI…That the only settlement founded by Ginuwa during his life time is Ijala and that is the reason all Olus after death are buried there.

It is equally important to highlight some of these authorities cited, with specific reference to Suit No W/148/1956. Suit No W/148/1956 can’t be discussed in isolation to Suit No W/63/1958 and Suit No W/48/1968. Suit No W/148/1956 was filed by some persons in Ogbe-Ijoh, Suit No W/63/1958 was a counter Suit filed by the Olu against Suit No W/148/1956 at the time and late Chief Festus Okotiebor who was a prominent political leader at the time pleaded with parties to withdraw their respective cases for a political solution and parties did exactly that, but the Itsekiri continues to parade Suit No W/148/1956 as if it was legally contested to the end. Interestingly, the Itsekiri in their affidavits in support of their case against Okumagba heavily relied on Suit No W/148/1956 that they won Ogbe-Ijoh people and urged Court to enter judgement in their favor. The Judge in his judgement and we quote.. Evidence in this Suit shows that Suit No W/148/1956 was not heard. We therefore advise the public to disregard the claim of Itsekiri as it relates to Suit No W/148/1956.

Furthermore, the authors also made mention of a recent Suit filed by the Amakosu of Ogbe-Ijoh, Mobene III over his emoluments/salaries which is presently before the Court of Appeal Asaba Division and we will not like to discuss an issue pending before a Court of competent jurisdiction, but it suffices to state clearly here that the late Olu, Ogiame Atuwase II, the father of the current Olu instituted a legal action against the Government of Delta State in respect of same subject matter in Suit No A/36/1999 wherein he challenged Government decision on Delta State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law 1999 seeking declaration to the contrary that the creation and recognition of sub-clans and titles of Agbarha (Urhobo), Okere Urhobo (Urhobo) and Ogbe-Ijoh (Ijaw) with their respective Traditional Rulers of the Ovie of Agbarha, Orosuen of Okere Urhobo and the Amakosu of Ogbe-Ijoh. The Olu lost that case and went on appeal in Suit No CA/AS/441/2016 challenging the decision of the lower Court and the Appeal Court upheld the decision of the lower Court.

For those we may say that Delta State Government decision was just 1999 need to be reminded that the Western Region Chiefs Law, Cap 19 of 1955 and amended as Cap 37 of 1977 respectively created the stools of the Olu, the Amakosu of Ogbe-Ijoh, the Aketekpe of Gbaramatu, the Agadagba of Egbema as Traditional Rulers of co-equal in their respective domains. The Olu indeed was recognised as a prescribed authority for the Itsekiri excluding the territories of Ogbe-Ijoh, Gbaramatu and Egbema and it was this law that the Delta State Government amended in 1999 as Delta State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law, which the Courts upheld.

It is also important to educate the younger Itsekiri nation about the status of Ogbe-Ijoh people in Warri South Local Government Area. The Ogbe-Ijoh Kingdom is one Kingdom but divided into two parts by the Warri River – one part was in the defunct Warri Divisional Council as established by Western Region Laws of Nigeria (W.R.L.N) No 176 of 1955. This law created seven (7) Local Councils including Ogbe-Ijoh Local Council (W.R.L.N No 184 of 1955) at the time and now forms the present Warri South West Local Government. The second part of Ogbe-Ijoh was in the defunct Warri Urban District Council via W. R. L. N No 177 of 1955. The Warri Urban District Council as created by the above mentioned law created twenty one (21) electoral wards, out of which Ogbe-Ijoh had four (4) namely Alders town B3, Ogbe-Ijoh Ward C1, Ogbe-Ijoh Ward C2 and Government Area F1. Then, in 1976, the Government of former Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo introduced Local Government reforms giving birth to the present Local Government structure. It was at that time, the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) under late Justice Ovie Whiskey through the influence of an Itsekiri who was Secretary to the Military Government, Mr. Stephen Ayida that the four Ogbe-Ijoh electoral Wards were renamed, rearranged and split into different polling units and electoral wards with a view of making Ogbe-Ijoh people in Warri urban as minorities.

This press release is relatively short one, but long enough to educate the younger Itsekiri nation on the status of the Ogbe-Ijoh people in Warri South and to let them know that the public is fully aware of their tricks as to the deliberate misinterpretation of Court judgements including the recent Supreme Court judgement, Hon. George Timinimi and 9 others vs the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The Supreme Court in Suit No SC/413/2016 ORDERED INEC to carry out FRESH DELINEATION in the three Warri Local Governments – Warri South West, Warri South and Warri North, but yet Itsekiri claim was REVIEW OF EXISTING WARD STRUCTURES. Now that it is obvious, they have introduced another dimension, now restricting themselves to only Warri South LGA. That they have Court of Appeal judgement that recognised 10-ward structure as against 12-ward structure when the Supreme Court in Suit No SC/413/2016 dismantle every existing ward structure in the three LGAs prior to 2nd December 2022 when the judgement was delivered.

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