ITSEKIRI INTEREST GROUP PUTS THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE AS THEY SCHOOL IYC OGBE-IJOH

ITSEKIRI INTEREST GROUP PUTS THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE AS THEY SCHOOL IYC OGBE-IJOH

The Ijaws in the 3 Warri Local Governments are privileged to be part of the Warri Federal Constituency which was a product of the Warri Division that was created solely from Itsekiri homelands. The Ijaws of Ogbe-Ijoh have always been in self denial and have continued to deny their status that is still reflecting in the name “Ogbe-Ijoh” which means Ijaw Compound in Itsekiri Language. One of the major reasons why the crisis between Ogbe-Ijoh and Ogbe-Sobo (Aladja) has continued is because both parties have rejected the judgement of 1935 where both parties claimed that they were given lands by the Olu of Warri but never invited him as witness. As we are known for peace we want to take our time to educate our ignorant tenants on the perspective of the law in the following cases.

SUIT 1
In 1928 Chief Apoh (Itsekiri) sued Perememighan (Ijaw) of Ogbe-Ijoh claiming ownership, under the Olu of Warri, of Arutieghan Creek together with all the surrounding lands. The Warri Native Court which found in favor of Apoh (Itsekiri) significantly had, as a member, one Chief Buluku (Ijaw of Kiagbodo). Then in 1938 the same Chief Apoh and Chief Okotie, Itsekiri Chiefs of Irigbo in Ode-Itsekiri, sued the Pere, the head of the Saba community in Ogbe-Ijoh area claiming an injunction restraining the Ijaws of the area from fishing in certain rivers and using lands described as Ofulu, Utonileme, Utongboro, Krokoto etc., being Itsekiri rivers and lands.

While not disputing the claim of the Itsekiris, the Pere maintained that as Pere he was entitled to fish on the rivers without paying tributes. The Court found inter alia:

“…The Court will not make an order to eject the defendant from using the rivers and lands but an Order will be made restraining the defendant from using the rivers unless with the special and unanimous permission of the plaintiffs to whom the Olu has vested occupancy rights.

Defendants used to fish over the areas with plaintiffs’ permission. This system must continue”.

SUIT 2
In Suit W/116/56, Eyin Pessu, Akowe Apoh (Itsekiris) and the Olu of Warri versus Brigbo and others (Ijaws), Justice Obaseki found in favor of the Itsekiris in the case of declaration of title over Aruteghan Creek together with all the surroundings lands, The learned judge held:

“It is clear from the evidence before me that the friendly intercourse between the Itsekiris and Ijaws extends backwards over very many generations. With regard to the case put up by 8th and 9th defendants, I find that I cannot accept the traditional evidence given by the 8th defendant and his witness as true. I think it is a deliberate fabrication to deny plaintiffs’ title (1) to the land, and (2) right to put tenants on the land and creek in dispute.

It is a matter of regret that the title which 8th defendant’s grandfather, Numa, never disputed is now being disputed by 8th defendant, Torowei Numa. It is only the title which a father has that he passes on to his son. It is clear from the past cases that Numa was only averse to the idea of money rent payment. He acknowledged that the title of ownership resided in the Olu and that he gave catch of fishes to the Olu’s son, Egbegbe”.

Finding the plaintiffs case proved, Justice Obaseki entered judgement in respect of the declaration of title in favor of the plaintiffs as follows :-

“The 1st and 2nd plaintiffs (Itsekiris) are, however, entitled to a declaration of possessory title to the land, excluding streams and watercourses, including Aruteghan creek, described in Ex. “A”. The 3rd plaintiff (Olu of Warri) is entitled to the radical title to the land. The defendants who were dissatisfied with the judgement went on appeal to the Supreme Court and eventually lost. By that judgement, the dispute about ownership of the entire area of land which extends from Aruteghan near Ode-Itsekiri to the boundary of Warri Division near Burutu was brought to a close. It is now legally recognized that the whole area is the property of Irigbo people (Itsekiris) under the overlordship of the Olu of Warri.

SUIT 3
Another case of most considerable importance was the action in Suit No.W/148/56 taken by Chief Isuokumo Oloiki and others (for themselves and on behalf of Ijaw settlers in Ogbe-Ijoh in Warri Division) against Itsekiri Communal Land trustees & Anor.

In the action the Ijaws, not without the prompting of the Urhobos, claimed a declaration of title to most of Warri Division including Warri township. After much of legal arguments and seeing the futility of their actions, the plaintiffs, that is the Ijaws, eventually decided to discontinue the Suit, and Rhodes Vivour J. delivered a judgement part of which reads as follows:-

“On the 9/7/64 this Court delivered its ruling refusing the plaintiffs’ application to discontinue after the trial date had been fixed to the knowledge of the parties. The plaintiffs have now asked for leave to discontinue under Order 28 Rule 2 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules Cap.44 Laws of Western Nigeria 1959. The Plaintiffs are hereby precluded from bringing any further actions or action against any or either of the 1st and 2nd defendants in respect of the claims of which specific particulars were given in the Writ of Summons, Statement of Claim and amended statement of claim in this action. Leave is accordingly granted the plaintiffs to discontinue this action.”

As the Ijaw people were aggrieved by this order which forever barred them from re-opening this case against the Itsekiri Communal Land Trustees, they appealed to the Supreme Court, which on 24th April 1967, with Sir Lionel Brett Ag, C.J. presiding, summarily dismissed the appeal in Suit No. SC/450/65. So, the Ijaws of Ogbe-Ijoh should never be heard to say anything about ownership of Ogbe-Ijoh lands or any lands in Warri Divisions again.

SUIT 4
Hon Justice Umukoro in 2013 barred Ijaws from contesting any land in Warri and ordered that they respect their landlords and the overlordship of the Olu of Warri.

SUIT 5

W/147/2020 Between: W/147/2020 HRM Amaokosu Mobene
Vs. The Executive Governor Delta State & 5 Ors
This was the case that was commenced in 2020 by the Ama-Okosu of Ogbe-Ijoh claiming to be entitled to royalties in Warri South Case.
The case was finally decided in favour of the Itsekiris and preliminary objection was upheld and the entire case struck out. This case stopped Ijaws of Ogbe-Ijoh from claiming any royalty in Warri South Local Government.

Ijaws of Ogbe-Ijoh of Warri South West Local Government are tenants to the Olu of Warri and nothing can change this so they should give peace a chance.

SIGNED

GBUBEMI AWALA
CHAIRMAN ITSEKIRI INTEREST GROUP

WEYINMI YALAJU
SECRETARY ITSEKIRI INTEREST GROUP

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