There was palpable fear and pandemonium at the Ugborodo community area of Delta state on Sunday, after some policemen were said to have stormed the community, leaving three dead, with several others injured.
Sunday’s incident has brought to head, a simmering conflict between the community and the people of Warri kingdom over claims by both communities on the supremacy of the Olu of Warri on the community.
While the community claims autonomy and distinct identity from the Warri people, the Warri people are claiming traditional superiority over them.
It will be recalled that people of Ugborodo clan, who are domiciled under the Warri south west local government area of Delta state, have many times claimed that they have never been under the lordship of the Olu of Warri kingdom.
In a letter written recently to President Muhammadu Bahuri , they asked him to disregard any claim by some of the community leaders, “who call themselves Leaders of Thought in the community.”
The community has even protested against what they termed as “slavery” by the palace of the Olu of Warri kingdom, vowing to resist the unfair treatment and that they can no longer tolerate the level of the alleged injustice being meted to them by the Palace of the Olu of Warri.
Sunday’s attack was said to be the aftermath of this resistance by the people.
Confirming the incident to GbaramatuVoice from what he alleged was a hideout, the youth president of Ugborodo land, Mr. Ofeh Nene, narrated his ordeal and that of others in the community.
”Yesterday (Sunday) they (security operatives) came to our village at about 12 noon. As soon as they came everybody started panicking, and they just opened fire and killed one Tony Ogulaye, and Mofe Arubi instantly.
”They killed one other person whose identity is still hazy now. The police went away with the bodies of the two dead victims in their boat. He alleged the involvement of a particular politician in APC.
”One top APC politician was seen wearing a white singlet, in the company of seven other civilians with guns. Imagine a naval gun boat, and the Nigerian policemen issuing civilians arms to fire on armless people.
”After the killings, they went into the village and destroyed peoples’ properties. Even the Olaja-Olori’s house. The meaning of Olaja-Olori in Itsekiri language is King.”
On the historical rivalry between the two communities, he delved into the identity of his community, while also counting his losses in the violent encounter. ”Our Olaja-Olori had existed before their own king who they call Olaja-Olori.
“They burnt my house. I have jewelries worth over millions in my house. Many of our people are in the bush and many are missing as at the moment, as their whereabouts are unknown.
“It will be suicidal to even attempt to locate them now. They have done it before in 2014 and I am sure, he ( the politician) will still do it again.
“I was in the community and I was watching them, when they came and destroyed all my properties. They looted peoples’ properties.”
He affirmed that the attack took place and denied that his community people are involved in criminal activities, as they are been painted by their traducers. He added certain historical narratives to support his people’s claims.”If the federal government says that is not true, they should pay a visit to the place.
”We don’t have criminals in Ugborodo community. As a matter of fact, we have written many publications in which we have told the whole world severally, that we are not part of the Warri kingdom.
”We have also said many times that Ugborodo has existed for more than forty years before the advent of Warri kingdom. That is, before the arrival of their king from Edo state, and that we are two distinct people, because we are not from the same side.”
Mr. Nene said the present travails of his people began, when his people visited their neighbouring Ijaws in Gbaramatu kingdom. He said the visit has provoked angst among their opponents, who tried to dissuade them from the exercise.
He said his people predicated the visit on the need to be at peace with their neighbours, stressing that conflicts with them in the past, have only driven away companies in the area, who could have developed their area, a development that he said impacted negatively on them.
”On the issue of our visit to Gbaramatu kingdom, they tried to dissuade us from doing so, but we told them, ”No”,. We told them Gbaramatu people and us are brothers and that we have always been at loggerhead with them before, but we realized that all the companies in this area are leaving.
The youth leader said his community has not benefitted from the area and that all the monies given to some leaders in the past to develop the area have ended up in private pockets, while his community have been played in the scheme of things.
”Money was given to one of them for the reclamation of our place by the state government, about N800m (eight hundred million naira). He spent the money.
”Even, the first piling, money was given to some of them, but they misappropriated the money. ”We then stood up and said, that it is like we don’t know what we are doing. We don’t even have representation in the Olu palace, because we are different .
According to him, the decision to branch out and be on their own provoked the latest attacks on the community, adding that in a bid to give the dog a bad name in order to hang it, he and others are being labeled criminals in order to weaken their resolve.
”When we reasoned that way, they went to the Delta state government and they branded us, as killers and kidnappers, and set the state government against us. They told them to raid our community.
”We wrote a letter to Mr. President, asking him to intervene and dissuade the state government to stop invading our community.
“Chief Ayiri Emami categorically told us that the IG and the Chief of Naval Staff, are all their associates; that they are going to deal with us and they are going to use the Nigerian police to deal with us.” Nene, who calls himself a businessman, went down memory lane to recount another similar incident which happened in 2013, when similar violence was visited on him.
People after him now, are once his associates in the past, but now, they are maligning his name and youths of the community, in order to deal with them. “They all know I am a businessman. They burnt my house and car in 2013 and now, they are going about telling people that I am a kidnapper.
”People should check their phone numbers, they know us, we know them. We have been talking to these people before because, we live together.
”Because we now disagree with them, they started accusing us of being kidnappers, sea pirates and bunkers. If we are kidnappers, sea pirates, bunkers, for how many years have we been doing those things, who are they keeping us from? We have been talking to them.
”If we have anything that we have been doing that is against the law, the whole world should check their numbers; they should go to MTN, GLO, Airtel to know what we have been discussing with them, before this whole thing started”?
He also accused top government officials of trying to intimidate them into giving them contracts, and that the official has now turned around to haunt them.
”Even one of the top government functionaries, told us categorically that he wants a contract from the land, and that if we don’t give him the contract; he is going to use some of the boys to fight us. And that is what he is doing now. ”Now, he is harassing people, a lot of people (security agents) now invade the village. Nigerian policemen are there, the Nigerian Army are there, the DSS also there.
”He just decided to bring the federal government apparatus here to prevent people from protesting that the land does not belong to the Olu. The fact is that Ugborodo does not belong to the Olu.” Still on the ownership of the Ugborodo land, he pointed to a local law, that favours his community’s claims to the land.
He also repeated his earlier assertions that the community’s opponents, did not want his people to have any sort of alliance with the Gbaramatu people. ”In 1955, a court judgment then confirmed that land did not belong to anybody, apart from us, and that we are the owner of the land, because when they gazette the whole place, it was established that the Olaja-Olori which is the Chief Prince, is the owner of the Ugborodo land.
”We are the owner of the land and it does not belong to the Olu of Warri. And secondly our nature is different from theirs. Our letter head bears the palm, while theirs bears the crown and sword. ”They don’t want us having any form of alliance with Gbaramatu people.
”Because we went to visit the Gbaramatu people, they said they don’t want us to have any alliance with the Ijaws. Since 1996, we the Ugborodo people are the ones that have been losing everything. But they cannot decide for us, because I believe (as a muslim) that the Almighty Allah has made all human beings. Anywhere you are, is your land and that is what the Almighty Allah said.
”The Gbaramatu people, where they reside today is their land because they have a Pere that is taking care of them. Today the Warri kingdom people will say they are the owners of the land, is it possible”?
Dabbling into the raging controversy over the ownership of the land on which the Maritime University is sited, Nene supported the Gbaramatu kingdom as being the true owners of Okerenkoko, where the institution was sited.
”That is not even the problem. They are saying that place is Okerenghigho, but the people living there are saying it is Okerenkoko. Yes, in Warri, they have changed the names of a lot of places. If the state government has recognised that there is a Pere here, the traditional ruler has the right to do anything he has to do here. But that place is named Okerenkoko, not Okerenghigho; they are the owners of the place.
”You cannot tell me that there was Warri kingdom somewhere; and then after Warri kingdom, you now pass through Gbaramatu kingdom and moved to Ugborodo and that Ugborodo is under Warri kingdom. ”Up till this moment, I have not seen the Olaja-Olori, who is the owner of the land, according to the traditional and the chief law of 1955.
On whereabout of community’s monarch, he said he (king) has not been seen and that he is afraid he may have been murdered. He spoke on the issue of insecurity and lawlessness that have permeated the country, adding that these have led to agitations by different ethnic groups all over the country.
”I heard that he (king) has been killed somewhere. If the state governor and federal government cannot handle this issue, there is no need for us being Nigerians, because I don’t know what is going on anymore.
”Today, they will say it is the Fulanis that are fighting; tomorrow they will say it is the Boko Haram that are fighting. Next, they will say the Ibos are fighting. Why are they fighting?. It is because the people are not secured and there is lawlessness everywhere.
”How can someone, who calls himself a chief in Warri kingdom, carry around a gun, he has killed a lot of people before in 2014.
”They should tell their military to go away from our land, as we are not fighting. We are tired of being humiliated, so they should go away from our land. If they are from this land, they will not accept these humiliations. If there is no law in the country, they should let us know.
While he claimed that some people have threatened to snuff the life out of him, he waxed philosophically, that the end will come for everybody at some time, but maintained that his people are not violent.
”We are non-violent people and have not destroyed the government properties, as we are a peace loving people. They said they are going to kill me, that is not a problem; anyone can die anytime”.
When GbaramatuVoice contacted the Spokesperson of Operation Delta Safe, he denied the presence of his men in the community; he said; “We don’t have our operation in that area. It is not Operation Delta Safe”
Also contacted, the Police Public Relation Officer in the state, Andrew Aniamaka, he initially refused to respond to text messages sent to her phone line, but later flimsily responded that he was in a meeting.
THE ARTICLE AS PUBLISHED IN GBARAMATU VOICE