Across the country today, the issue of who is an indigene and who is a settler has been recurring and the inability to find satisfactory answers to these questions has resulted in conflicts in virtually every parts of the country. Specifically, this indigene and settler isse is currently a problem to the Ilaje of Ondo state, Benins of Edo state, Itsekiris and Urhobos of Delta state as a result of Ijaws expantionist to the extent of disregarding the rule of law and judgements from competent court of law. Our peace co existence should be a function of obidience to the rule of law which should bind every single Nigerian regardless of ethnic affiliation. An ethnic majority group should not seek to claim places unjustfully that belong to minority ethnic groups, a case of Ilaje, Benin and Itsekiri ethnic groups in the Niger Delta. Here we are going to make reference to some few places Ijaws have had trouble with other ethnic groups.
IN ONDO STATE. A REFERENCE TO ARUGBO AND APOI IJAW.
This was brought to the fore after Ijaw Ilaje crisis in Ondo state.
For the historical profile of the Ijaw in the present Ondo state, We need to rely heavily on their documented history by Professor Alagoa (an Ijaw) and other authorities. The Apoi and Arogbo Ijaw are immigrants neighbours to the Ilaje and Ikale (two sub-groups of theYoruba).
Professor Alagoa wrote that the Arogbo Ijaw migrated from kolokuma Gbaran to Ujo Gbaran. From kolokuma Gbaran, they also moved further to Obroza (oporoza) Gbaramatu and to Iparama and from Iparama, after a prolonged stay, they moved westward to the present town of Arogbo. We must stress and importantly too that today the Arogbo Ijaw rejected the status of settlers to which the Iiaje are trying to consign them, they claim they are the aborigines of the territories they currently occupy. In the paragraphs 3,4,and 5 of the Arogbo Ijaw Community represented by Mr. J. O. Menone and chief F. J William in the Commission of Inquiry set up to examine the root causes of the 1998 conflict between the Ijaw and the Ilaje, the Ijaw strongly advanced their aborigine’s status but under cross-examinations, the Ijaw leaders were asked as to the date of their arrival in their present location, their previous Kings list (the Iiaje argued that the then Olugbo was the 23rd) and were asked to reconcile their position with those of eminent historians like Professors Ade Ajayi and Joe Alagoa who put their arrival in their present location around the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Professor Alagoa In his History of the Niger Delta also argues that the Apoi ijaws had located the Brass Division of the Rivers State as their place of origin.
EDO STATE. IJAW AT GELEGELE ARE TENANT TO THE BENIN PEOPLE
That Gelegele is a Bini community is a long settled issue. There are established, verifiable administrative inquiries by the then Midwest State Government and judgments from the High Court up to the Supreme Court in Lagos giving authority and power to the Binis over the land occupied by our forbears for centuries. Our claim to Gelegele and environs is neither fictional nor adventurous. The area was incontrovertibly founded by a Bini
Prince Ekaladerhan who escaped a royal death decree over 10 centuries ago particularly Ughoton Princess Kobe from Ughoton
founded Gelegele after previous attempts to inhabit the swampy terrain failed the name Gelegele derived from the exclamation: “Gelegele emwan khian evbo” Our investigation showed that the first Ijaw man from undoubted history to setle in Gelegele was one Feti who suffered a misadventure in the near sea where torrential waves swept away his makeshift .home about 100 years
ago. He obtained permission from one Okunseri, the then priest of Ughoton, to settle there under traditional oath of allegiance. As
time went on the Ijaw population in Gelegele grew but continually paid homage to the Binis nay the Oba of Benin, through Ughoton
until late Oba Akenzua II, CMG, stopped them.
However, in 1969 the Ijaw who had prior knowledge of oil discovery in the land, rose against the authority which erupted in
a crisis at a time a Bini man, one Ogbeifun Egharevba was Odionwere of Gelegele. An administrative inquiry was setup by the
then Midwest State Government of Brigadier-General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, headed by one Mr. S. Jamgbadi, a Senior
District Officer and sat at Ekehuan. A report was issued in 1970, and we quote inter-alia: “It is however established that the Ijaws
have been resident in Gelegele for many years and that during these years they have acquired landed property and cultivated farms; but from the facts in evidence they qualify as TENANTS on the land – their-long period of occupation notwithstanding.
The matter went through the High Court of Justice and Federal Court of Appeal in Benin and the Supreme Court -in Lagos. The
Binis secured victory all the way. The following suit numbers are material evidences to buttress our claim to the land at Gelegele
1. High Court of Justice, Benin Judgment delivered on the 22nd December 1978 by .Justice. Ekeruche J in Suit No. B/I44/1970.
2. Federal Court of Appeal judgment delivered on the 16th December1981 by Abdul Ganiy Olatunji· Agbaja and 2 others in
Suit No. FCA/B/82/80.
3. Supreme Court unanimous Judgment delivered on the 19th ‘August 1983 by Muhamedu Lawai Uwais, former Chief Justice of the Federation and 4 others in Suit No. SC.131/1982.
Ijaws are only settlers on Benin land and have no legal, moral or historical support for their claims to be owners of where they find themselves
Delta State: Gbaramatu customary tenants to Itsekiris of Omadino.
In Suit No. W/20/46, Adurumokumor (Ijaw) acting for himself and on behalf of Bakokodia Ijaw Community took action against Kponu (Itsekiri) of Omadino for a declaration of title to the land described as Bakokodia. The true position is that the Ijaw inhabitants of Bakokodia and its environs came from Westem Ijaw and were permitted by Chanomi Iye on the authority of Omadino people to settle there. Ademola J. dismissed Adurumokomor’s action on the ground that the people of Bakokodia had failed to prove their title to the land claimed by them. As the Ijaws persisted in demanding tributes and rents from those using the land and fishing in the rivers, Omadino people, represented by Chief Sillo and Edremoda Golly, sued Adurumokumor on behalf of Bakokodia people in suit No. W/20/46 in Warri High Court and successfully obtained a declaration of title over Bakokodia and the surrounding lands and rivers. The court awarded damages for trespass against the Ijaws who, according to the Judge, were put on the land by Itsekiri Omadino people who acknowledged the overlordship rights of the Olu of Warri. The Ijaws went to the West African Court of Appeal and lost in WACA No 3707
After this, the Ijaws continued to disregard the above judgements, and Omadino people sued them for forfeiture at the Warri High Court. Ultimately at the High Court the Ijaws accepted a compromise judgement in which they clearly acknowledged Omadino’s ownership of the land. See Suits Nos. W/29/51, W/37/61, SC/393/64 and Nos. W/35/90 & CA/B/65/90.
Okenrenghigho, Ijaw settlement in Gbaramatu also fell under the axe of the Omadino people. In suit No. W/30/62 Chief Sillo (Itsekiri) versus James Uluba (Ijaw), Justice Obaseki held that the Ijaw of Okerenghigho are tenants of Omadino. The Ijaws then appealed to the Supreme Court presided over by Elias, C.J. Sowewimo and Ibekwe J.J.S.C. in suit No. SC/37/1973. They lost. The effect of these judgements is that the most of Gbaramatu area is populated by Ijaws who are customary tenants on lands owned by Omadino people under the Overlordship of the Olu of Warri.
In suit W/124/76 in which judgement was delivered on 24th April, 1996 Ugborodo Community – an Itsekiri Community in Warri North Local Government now in Warri South-West Local Government Council
won a land case against Gbaramatu Ijaw. The whole of the lands including, Benikurukuru and, bordering the Omadino part of Gbaramatu, is adjudged to be Ugborodo land.
Today the entire area call Gbaramatu belong to Itsekiri from judgement of competent courts of law.
OTHER PLACES OF IJAW TROUBLE.
In Port Harcourt, Ijaws have turned from settlers to Land owners claiming Borokiri axis , they have also wanted to claim Rainbow town in Transamadi from the Nkpogu people before Peter Odili stepped in and seized the land. This is same character lead to the land dispute between Rebisi and Okrika Ijaw in Port Harcourt, we can also recall the politics of waterfront where we have Ijaw settlers in Port Harcourt that resulted to a quarel between Ameachi and former president Jonathan wife
In July 1994, the aboriginal Ijaws wrote a letter to the Queen of England and forwarded a copy to the Attorney-General and Minister
of Justice in Abuja. In the letter, they wrote: “It was only by the Treaties of Friendship, Trade and Protection signed between Ijaws and the British Government on 25th of January, 1836, at Bonny with Lieutenant Robert Tryon on behalf of Her Majesty, the Queen of Great Britain, that our aboriginal territory of the Niger Delta became a British Protectorate and was proclaimed the Oil River Protectorate in 1885 and the Niger Coast Proctorate in 1893
respectively.” Signatories to the letter were representatives of Augalabiri, Angiama, Sagbama, Odiani, Ogbere, Akassa, Middleton, Bonny, Ogolomoa, Obika, Opobo. It is note-worthy that none of the communities named is in Itsekiri, Benin or Ilaje
In many instances the Ijaws came to settle as free-tenants in coastal land given them by other other ethnic groups, only later for them to start actions of claiming ownership of those lands as shown in references above, a situation which have resulted to wars with those ethnic goups.
IJAW TO PLACES OF OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS
According to historical facts and treaties with the british, the Ijaws have their core settlement in the present Bayelsa state and western Ijaw where they migrated to coastal areas of other states.
There are authoritative records that Ijaw later moved both west-ward and east-ward from their homeland about early 18th century, P.C. Lioyd in the journal of African History iv. 2 (1963) p207-231 says: “the Ijoh (Ijaw) coming from the southern delta, have moved as fishermen into the westhern delta area, extending northwards even to the modern Yoruba town of Okitipupa”. Other sources confirming Ijaw movement to the neighboring homelands include:
Intelligence Report of 1938 by Lt. com S.E. Johnson (R.N) Age. District Officer;
Intelligence Report of 1938 on Ekhuan District by Mr. H. F. Marshall, District Officer
Another on Ilaje by R.J.M Curwen, District Officer in 1936
Prof. E.J. Alagoa, G. T. strke & C. Ifeka etc
In the course of these migration some Niger Deltans settled in one another’s homelands. Until recently, we had all lived happily among ourselves, respecting one another’s customs and traditions. The new expansionist agenda of our Ijaw brothers began early last decade, leading to a series of inter-ethnic crises between 1997 and 2003. this state creation proposal by the Ijaw to Forcefully claim our lands –the subject of this [petition-is part of this new agenda,
The Ijaws have had ethnic wars with Itsekiri, Ikwere, Ilaje, Bini, Urhobo etc Doing everything to forcefully take over lands belonging to other ethnic groups (non-Ijaw communities) in their claim of Niger Delta lands in several case with the destruction of lives and properties of peace loving people.
A source of this Ijaw agenda to take the Niger Delta can be found in an advertorial by the Ijaw National Congress INC (an umbrella organization of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality) on page 50 of the Vanguard of Tuesday, May 14, 2013. In the advertorial, the INC recommended a political restructuring of Nigeria into ten ethnic-based regions with the entire Niger Delta, excluding Effik/Ibibio, labeled Ijaw. Another source was from the article, “Boro and Jackson: Alliance across the Atlantic” written by Professor G. G. Darah and published in The Guardian of 3rd- 5th June 2013, but look at it, the Niger Delta was never meant to be Ijaw.
Niger Delta, from 1849 when it was part of the Oil Rivers to 1885 under Oil Rivers Protectorate and later in about 1897 under Niger Coast Protectorate, 1900 under the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, 1906 under the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and Nigeria in 1914, the Niger Delta was never contemplated to be an Ijaw colony. Many ethnic groups live on this space including Ikwerre, Ijaw, Ekpeye and Ogba, Ogoni, Effik, Anang, Ibibio, Etche, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Isoko, Edo, etc.
Ijaw’s ambition of taking places that does not belong to them also explains why it does not have respect for other ethnic groups in the region and at the same time cunningly and indirectly appropriating the resources of other ethnic groups for their selfish interest.
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