By: Patrick Ochoga, Benin City
An umbrella youth group, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and Ijaw elders in Edo State, weekend, raised the alarm over alleged plan by the state government to deploy soldiers to Gelegele and other Ijaw communities in Edo state including Okikoro where they have their Egbesu shrine, saying that such action will be a declaration of war against the ijaw nation and will be resisted.
However in a swift reaction the Edo state government through the Special Adviser to the governor on Communication, Mr Cusoe Osagie said there are no such plans yet, adding however that the state government will ensure that lives and property of indigenes of the state living in those areas are protected in the event of any threat to peace in the area.
“I am not aware of any deployment of soldiers to that area. However the state government deserves the right to protect all law abiding citizens in the state. But no breach of peace has been reported yet but if and when that is done the state will ensure that lives and properties are protected. If the IYC are law abiding people in the state then they have nothing to fear about”
However, the National President of the IYC, Eric Omare, who raised the alarm during a press conference in Okomu, Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State, stressed that the Ijaws are not settlers in Edo state, ¨Ijaw people are indigenes and owners of the land that they occupy in Edo state. Let me also make this point, any threat or attack on Ijaw people in Edo state is an attack against the entire Ijaw people in Nigeria”
He said, ¨Only this afternoon we got a message that the government of Edo state in collaboration with the Benin Traditional Council have perfected plans to send soldiers to Ijaw communities starting from Gelegele and the Egbesu shrine in Okikoro. We want to advice, if they do that it will be a declaration of war against the ijaw nation, they should not take the ijaw nationś silence for weakness. The ijaw nation has the capacity to defend their people anywhere in Nigeria”
Reacting to the Supreme Court judgment which the Benins said gave them the right to the land, Omare asserted that ¨I have read the judgement they are referring to between two individuals in Gelegele and Ughoton, that judgment has nothing to do with the entirety of the land owned by the ijaw people of Edo state. You cannot use a land dispute between two individuals from two communities to rope the entire nation, it is ridiculous. So that judgment has no relevance to the issues at stake. we want to warn the government of Edo state to behave like a government and not an extension of the palace¨.
Also speaking, Dr Tommy Kolodowei, Otunba Kalasowei of Ijaw Apoi nation, insisted that ¨this land belong to my ancestors. The Apoi ancestors occupied this land for centuries. The Apoi in Ondo state today moved from Okomu to Ondo state. Now if Apoi people left Okomu to Ondo state and in Ondo state today, Apoi has ten kings, all approved Kings and where they left from does not have a king, that does not make sense to any body. I want Nigeria to solve that puzzle for me.
“Benin people live on land they don’t know anything about water, now they are claiming they own water. How can you own something they know nothing about? They should allow Ijaw people own their land. How can the Edo state government be claiming ownership here when they have not done anything here. No primary school, no secondary school, no road, so if they own this place how come they don´t provide any basic amenities here. We have been crying since but nothing has been done. So the Ijaws own Okomu and anyone who thinks he can take the land from them is joking, the whole might of the Ijaw nation will deal with such a person¨ he stated.