Home CRIME Okuama: Group urges Gov. Oborevwori to resolve crisis to avert further bloodshed

Okuama: Group urges Gov. Oborevwori to resolve crisis to avert further bloodshed

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Slain soldiers in Okuama by Urhobo armed youths in Delta state.

By Cletus Opukeme, Warri

Concerned Ijaw Citizens have called on the Delta State governor, Chief Sherriff Oborevwori to resolve the crisis between Okuama community and Ijaw neighbouring communities in Bomadi LGA, Delta state to stem further bloodbath.

The coordinator of the group Mr. Seigha Manager made the call in a press statement which copy was made available  to Daily Watch in Warri, said, ” Two months and two weeks, since the infamous killing of 17 officers and men of the Nigerian Army by blood-thirsty and trigger-happy assailants took place in Okuama community (a sleepy riverine settlement in Ughelli South LGA of Delta State), sandwiched by Akugbene and Okoloba communities in Bomadi LGA of Delta State. It is also barely a month and three weeks since the soldiers left Okuama. ln our interface with Okoloba people to unearth their concerns, their community stated profusely that there has been an inexplicable array of unpalatable events rocking the trio of Okuama, Okoloba and Akugbene communities. As usual, they reported to the Police, DSS, and Army. They emphasised that if care is not taken, these unwholesome events and under-ground currents brewing tension will eventually snowball into a major catastrophe yet again. According to the community chairman of Okoloba, this is because Okuama which is in the eye of the storm for the alleged killing of the 17 soldiers appears to be repositioning themselves with a renewed vigour in their penchant to perpetrate more havoc as evidenced by the events of April 8, 2024, when they unleashed terror on several persons purported to be Akugbene indigenes with matchetes and guns, leading to the death of about three persons, with several others sustaining life-threatening injuries. He further said this has added to the precarious plight of Okoloba community presently wrapped in so much uncertainty. Okoloba community, he said lives in fear of possible attacks by Okuama people who have re-grouped in larger numbers, taken over the entire forest and fishing lakes, and fully armed to the teeth with dangerous arms and ammunition. Okuama, he further alleged, has threatened to carry out mayhem on Okoloba any moment, thereby worsening the already volatile situation on ground. He explained further that the fact remains that Okoloba people had never envisaged involving themselves in any form of fight with Okuama settlers, but for the grave concerns on the over-bearing and violent disposition of Okuama people whom they have repeatedly accused of trespassing on their land and threatening their corporate existence as a people. This precarious situation the Delta State government treated with kid-gloves and is surprisingly still paying lip service to by the unfolding events. This adamant treatment by the State Government undoubtedly led to the unfortunate build up to the ugly incident of March 14, 2024, as will be carefully enunciated below:

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I. The Okoloba Plight:
As concerned Ijaw citizens who are critical stakeholders in the overall well-being and peaceful co-existence of Ijaws wherever they may be dwelling and in tandem with our unflinching desire to work with government in resolving the lingering crisis, we engaged the Okoloba people and their leadership with an intent to bringing their complaints to the knowledge of government (state and federal) and of course other non-state actors so as to address them properly–the essence being to dig into the root-cause of the crisis and permanently nip same in the bud. In our engagement/interface, the revelations were quite startling. Okoloba people said they are deeply pained that: whereas,
i. It is Akugbene people that they (Okoloba) have had and maintained direct ancestral boundary with on that Southern flank of the River Forcados from time immemorial, but Okuama people haven migrated from Ewu land in search of safe havens and greener pastures and haven been given land by Akugbene for fishing and farming, have trespassed into Okoloba land. They have crossed the ancestral boundary line between Akugbene and Okoloba (which was undisputably in existence long before the Okuama strangers arrived, moved deep and aggressively into Okoloba side. The prediction of P. V. Main: A.D.O, Pg 56, pp 284 of his “Assessment Intelligence Report” of the Commission of Inquiry, under the heading “SOBO INVASION” wherein he predicted that stranger SOBO communities might one day claim ownership of the land belonging to the Mein- Ijo, and which formed the bedrock of the landmark 1945 judgement: is coming to fruition. They averred that this is the real bone of the dispute that has traversed several decades and resulted in the inferno that is still burning very fast but unnoticed, especially by the government of the day in Delta state, either deliberately or by error of omission. The Okoloba people informed they want this issue, put in its proper perspective and addressed going forward, to engender genuine and enduring peace:

ii. That though the soldiers were killed in Okuama community and that put Okuama on the radar of the soldiers, it is two communities that are involved in the crisis and as such for a lasting solution to be provided, the state government ought to visit the two communities and/or at least invite the two communities and their leadership to sit down and address the burning issues that led to the impasse. But that was not done. Rather, His Excellency the Executive Governor of Delta state visited Okuama only, and invited Its leadership to Government House and promised rebuilding Okuama and resettling them. The burning questions being asked by Okoloba people and they said are contributing to the brewing tension are:

a. As a father to all persons and ethnic nationalities in Delta state, is it fair, right, just and equitable for the governor to visit and/or talk with only one party (Okuama) to the exclusion of the other (Okoloba), which is a major party to the dispute in question?

b. Is it because Okoloba is an ijaw village, and not Urhobo, hence the governor feels comfortable to ignore Okoloba people?

c. On whose land does the Delta State government intend to resettle the Okuama people? Is it on Okoloba land that Okuama people have trespassed and which is the root cause of the crisis and all the attendant negative events that followed?

d. Is it because the state government believes it has the monopoly of power and so it can coerce and arm-twist the Okoloba people to their knees and resettle the Okuama people on Okoloba land against the wishes of the Okoloba people?

e. Even if the government succeeds in suppressing Okoloba now to achieve that goal, using the instrumentality of government power, has the state government really solved the problem on ground that has traversed several decades and several governments? Would the government not be postponing doomsday? What collective good/purpose will that defective conflict resolution strategy serve? With what happened, would it not be advisable the state government is more thorough in charting any course as far as resolving the Okuama/Okoloba quagmire?

f. Why has the state government turned blind eyes and deaf ears to the countless atrocities perpetrated by Okuama youths barely 24 hours after the army departed Okuama community, which Okoloba people said they have been reporting as usual to the security agencies and issuing several SOS calls to government?

g. Why has the state government not deemed it necessary to call the Okuama youths who have formed the habit of dressing in full military regalia, brandishing assorted guns and shooting sporadically in different directions by the entrance of the Mienturuabobor creek, carrying out illegal stop and search activities on any boat that passes their community looking for Okoloba people to kill? Why are the Okuama people allegedly sustaining issuance of threats of impending mass killings against Okoloba people, despite the fact that these criminal activities have been brought to the knowledge of the government and the security agencies?

h. Why has the state government not done anything to stem the tide of rising tension caused by the unholy activities of Okuama youths as reported, so as to improve the security situation in the Okuama/Okoloba axis of the River Forcados to enhance easy passage of passenger and market boats and thus boost socio-economic activities, knowing fully well that, same has grinded to a halt and the people are suffering grave hardship?

i. Is the government of the day in Delta State trying to play a script in favour of one party to the detriment of the other?

These are the burning issues, questions asked and the pains of Okoloba people, as we speak; demanding urgent attention in order to avert a situation where government efforts in putting millions of tax payers’ monies in pursuing a resettlement agenda that will not solve the problem and/or stand the test of time. And most importantly to avoid a replay of the events that heralded the ugly March 14, 2024 débâcle.

Your Excellency, we the Concerned Ijaw Citizens are for peace and peaceful co-existence of all ethnic nationalities in Delta state and Nigeria. While acknowledging your untiring efforts at returning peace to Okuama and of course the entire River Forcados area and indeed Delta state as a whole, we are inclined to view the issues and concerns raised by Okoloba people as germane, and state government’s inactions as chronicled by Okoloba people herein as unacceptable, and the Okuama resettlement plan as noble but ill-timed, particularly when the indices are not right, on the following premises:

i. Without first unearthing the root-cause of the Okuama/Okoloba crisis and addressing them exhaustively, pursuing a resettlement agenda hurriedly; though a well thought-out and noble idea; will be like embarking on a wild goose chase that will not end well for both the state government and the duo of Okuama and Okoloba respectively in the very long run.

ii. The State Government should first lay a clear and solid pathway to entrenching peace in Delta State by being fair to all, regardless of where and who is involved. And that brings us unavoidably to the DIEBIRI QUESTION.

Your Excellency, Diebiri people (an Ijaw community in Warri South-West LGA of Delta State) have cried out that they were sacked 29 years ago by Aladja (an Urhobo community in Udu LGA of Delta State) in a crisis(Aladja/Ogbe-Ijoh crisis), they never had an input and were not part of, and have been so displaced from their ancestral home since then, and all appeals to successive governments to assuage their plight by resettling them failed till date. The following questions by Diebiri people are begging for answers:

ii.Why has His Excellency ignored the plea of the Diebiri people to be resettled back to their ancestral home, even after personally using their plight as a campaign issue to win votes from them.

iii.Why has His Excellency not even offered any form of statement or explanation as to the Diebiri question till date: a plight they have suffered for almost three decades; but he is in a such a hurry to resettle Okuama whose displacement occurred barely three months ago and moreso, without addressing the root cause of the Okuama/Okoloba imbroglio?

c. Diebiri people are asking: “Is it because Okuama is Urhobo and Diebiri is ijaw community?” What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander, and a stitch in time saves nine.

Your Excellency, as Concerned Ijaw Citizens, we see every ethnic nationality in Delta state as brothers and sisters with a common cause and you, the Executive Governor as father to all. Therefore, any action or policy of government that is seemingly tilted towards one ethnic nationality against another is against the much cherished and preached ideals of equity, fairness and justice as even entrenched in your M.O.R.E agenda, and therefore should be eschewed in its entirety by government and all citizens alike.

In the light of the foregoing therefore, we want to appeal to Your Excellency to graciously use your good offices to do the following which we believe will help in engendering lasting peace in Okuama and other communities along the River Forcados axis and of course the Diebiri people in Warri South-West LGA:

i. Invite Okoloba people and their leaders, give them listening ears and let them bare their hearts on their challenges, pains and fears. Talking to just one party in a crisis situation and ignoring the other could give a sense of apathy instead of empathy and that could be counter-productive in the quest for lasting peace for Okuama/Okoloba crisis

ii. Address those challenges and pains and of course allay their fears, especially as it concerns the alleged threats of mass killings against them by Okuama people, and assuring them of government’s equal attention and protection at all times

iii. Get specific terms of commitment from them, particularly, their leaders to continue to co-operate and collaborate with the state government and security agencies in maintaining peace in their community, and of course along the River Forcados as a whole

iv. Listen to the cry of the Diebiri people as far as their resettlement to their ancestral home is concerned and take urgent and specific steps to addressing their plight.

With the above carefully articulated template, Your Excellency, you would have not just shown to Deltans that you are a father to all but you would have laid a solid and immutable roadmap to restoring enduring peace in the state, not just in Okuama/Okoloba case but everywhere else in Delta State.

We congratulate you on the achievements of your administration so far, within your one year in office as Executive Governor ,Delta State and pray for God Almighty to continue to guide and strengthen you in the discharge of your onerous responsibility as the Chief Executive and Chief Security Officer of Delta State

 

Coordinator,
Concerned Ijaw Citizens

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