* Govt: There’s no such plan
By Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and Ijaw elders in Edo State at the weekend raised the alarm over an alleged plan by the state government to deploy soldiers to Gelegele and other Ijaw communities in the state, including Okikoro where they have their Egbesu shrine, saying such action will be a declaration of war against the Ijaw nation which will be resisted.
The National President of the IYC, Eric Omare, who raised the alarm at a press conference in Okomu, Ovia South West Local Government Area of the state, stressed that Ijaw people are not settlers in the state, “Ijaw people are indigenes and owners of the land that they occupy in the 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.
“Only this afternoon, we got a message that the state government, in collaboration with the Benin Traditional Council has perfected plans to send soldiers to Ijaw communities starting from Gelegele and the Egbesu shrine in Okikoro. We want to advise that if they do that, it will be a declaration of war against the Ijaw nation, they should not take the Ijaw’s silence for weakness. The Ijaw nation has the capacity to defend their people anywhere in Nigeria.”
But the state government, through the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said there are no such plans, 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 property are protected. If the IYC are law-abiding people in the state, then they have nothing to fear about,” he said.
On who own the lands within the coastal area of Benin, Omare declared that the Supreme Court judgment which the Benin people said gave them the right to the land was a disputed land between two individuals in Gelegele and Ughoton.
According to him, “I have read the judgement they are referring to. The dispute was 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 state government to behave like a government and not an extension of Benin palace.”
Also speaking, Dr. Tommy Kolodowei, Otunba Kalasowei of Ijaw Apoi nation, insisted that entire land in dispute belong to his ancestors.
He said: “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 the 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 anybody. I want Nigeria to solve that puzzle for me.”