By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
THE Ijaw in Okomu, Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State, yesterday, declared that. contrary to the claim by the Binis that they own all the land occupied by the Ijaw in the state, the Binis are actually the settlers in their land, vowing that they will use all they have to protect their territory.
They accused Edo State government and the palace of the Oba of Benin of an attempt to deny them of their ancestral rights and ownership of Okomu land.
The Ijaw then admonished Binis to read the historical background of the entire Ijaw land in Edo State as written by a Bini son, Dr Egharevba, adding that they will find out that the land belongs to the Ijaw.
Chief Sunday Ajele, the Fiyewei of Okomu Kingdom, explained the position of the Ijaw while speaking to journalists in Okomu. He listed the moves to deny them their rights to include their denial of a permanent seat on the Board of Directors of Okomu Oil and Rubber Plc, reportedly approved by the Presidency for Okomu Kingdom, the discriminatory employment policy against indigenes of Okomu in the last 40 years by the state government and the refusal of Osse Rubber Company, located in their land, to visit their host community because of pressure from the Edo government on the firm to recognise Udo, a neighbouring Benin settlement.
He said: “The administrative headquarters of Ovia South West Local Government Area, which controls Okomu and Benin area of the council, is nothing but an outpost of the Benin Empire; it has been the viceroy of the Benin monarch and that of Edo State government in carrying out repugnant policies against the people of Okomu Kingdom by using the staff of the local government, who are of Benin descent, to indulge in illegal and immoral act of change of company names located in Okomu Kingdom to reflect Benin ownership by adding the Benin settlement of Udo.
“Thus companies formally incorporated with only Okomu as host community now carry the affix, Okomu Oil Plc – Okomu-Udo; Osse Rubber Estate Osse-Udo; and Okomu National Park – Araukhan-Udo”.
Ajele, flanked by other chiefs and indigenes of the area, asserted that provocation by Edo State government and the Benin monarch led to the conflagration of July 30, 2015 between the Okomu community and Okomu Oil PLC, which necessitated the intervention of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) after the state Peace and Conflict Committee failed to remedy the situated.
In a reaction, however, the Oba of Benin, through his Chief Press Secretary, Comrade Desmond Agbama, said it is wrong for the Ijaw whether from Gelegele of Okomu, to claim that the forest reserves and the land accommodating various companies in the area belong to them.
He said the entire Okomu area is part of Benin Kingdom with one paramount ruler, the Oba of Benin, adding that, by so doing, it is natural that any royalty accruing from such must go to the state government and whoever is the traditional ruler overseeing the entire place.
Source: Vanguard News