By Patrick Ochoga
As Controversy over the true ownership of Gelegele land in Edo State between the Bini’s and the Ijaw rages, Concern Indigenous Benins yesterday said the claim by the latter to appropriate the land was informed by proposed establishment of Export Processing Zone, Oil and seaport.
The body in an apparent reaction to the Ijaw People’s Development Initiatives, IPDI, “when it declared that Ijaw people had settled in the present-day Edo State before the Bini, said such assertion lack historical facts and a demonstration of ingratitude by the Ijaw to the Bini who had accommodated them over the years.
Coordinator, Concern Indigenous Benin’s , Imasuen Amowie Marvis, in a signed statement and made available to newsmen noted that the “ Benins believe and rightly too that the reason for the appropriation of their land by the Ijaws is for the reason of cutting off our coastal boundaries that have provided Benin Kingdom since the 10th century AD access to maritime business.
“We also believe that their actions are very much about Oil, EPZ, proposed seaport and who controls the resources. In both cases, the Ijaws would be grossly unfair, first to themselves in the incongruous preposition of biting the finger that fed them and to the Benin people especially when they (Ijaws) have unhindered access to the coastal areas bordering their homeland.
“The Benins have the remarkable record, more than any other Ethnic nationality, of exhibiting extreme hospitality and pliability in the propensity for allowing strangers free rein in their midst.
“Sadly, it is this supposedly commendable and wonderful attribute, worthy of emulation by all; that the Ijaws have seized upon to use as platform in their unattainable design to disinherit the ancient kingdom and its people of their natural endowment and to also achieve their pipe dream in creating Toru-Ebe State from any part whatsoever of Edo State. They will be mistaken if they believe that the Benins will just fold their hands to be so “conquered”.
Giving a historical perspective of how the Ijaws came to be in Iko said Oba Orhogbua had planned a voyage across the seas between 1550 and 1579. Because his Benin people are not sea-farers, he needed people who could paddle canoes.
“The Oba had Ijaws who were his sea faring subjects; always on call and summoned them to be brought for the purpose from the Benin River to Iko where he and his troops embarked on the voyage.
“Those were the first group of Ijaws in Iko, on Benin land and he promptly dispatched them on his return from the trip. To further buttress my point on this so called marauders called Ijaws in Diaspora on December 11, 1998, the homeland Ijaws held a convention in Kaiama, in which the Ijaw settlers agitated that they have been neglected and so wished to return back to their kith and kin in the River states in a statement now known as the “Kaiama Declaration”
“The agitation itself shows that they were aware that Bendel State is not their home and this was even after the creation of Bayelsa State on October 1st, 1996 ostensibly to placate these homeless vagabonds.”