New LCDAs: Delta Communities Protest Annexation to Ondo

 Sylvester Idowu in Warri

The people of Opuama, Tsekelewu and Okirigbo communities of Egbema Kingdom in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State have protested against the alleged annexation of the communities into the newly created 33 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) by the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu.

Leaders of the Delta communities in a petition jointly issued by Hon. David Ugedi, Dr. Bright Abulu, Reverend Doyah Clement, Chief December Aweh, Chief Felix Adanse, and Sir Christmas Ukugha respectively, and made available to journalists in Warri yesterday, accused the Ondo State Government of illegally annexing the communities into Ilaje East LCDA under Ugbo Ward 5 of Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State.

 The Delta communities noted that they would continue to resist any attempt to illegally merge them with Ondo State no matter what it might cost them, insisting that they remained part and parcel of Delta State.

According to them, “We say no to any annexation! Delta State is our own home. The public, federal, state and local governments should intervene and emancipate us from this conceived/attempted slavery of a people like us for economic benefits derivable from our lands. We would continue to resist our merger with Ondo State no matter what it may cost us.”

They noted in the petition with concern that their attention was initially drawn to a map produced by the Ondo State Government Performance and Implementation Monitoring Unit, “fencing Opuama and Tsekelewu communities into Ilaje and Ese-Odo LGAs of Ondo State.

“At the point of us wanting to react, we came across a statement released by Hon. Donald Kimikanbo Ojogo, member of the House of Representatives, Ilaje-Ese-Odo federal constituency which was dated August 12, 2023.

“Though he was particular about the protests by Arogbo-Ijaw Kingdom and Apoi-Ijaw due to the perceived ceding of their ancient towns to Ilaje and Irele Local Government Areas respectively, he, however, affirmed that there were obvious flaws in the said map, but that they were not intentional, and he was already interfacing with relevant officials of Ondo State Government with a view to clearing all grey areas.

“The Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, also reacted to the protests on August 12, 2023, by assuring us that no land in the said map was ceded or awarded to any community as it did not belong to Ondo State, and that the map in question was merely part of instructional materials and textbooks produced in 2022 and was distributed recently to public schools but was swiftly withdrawn by the Ministry of Education on the discovery of the errors.”

The Delta communities noted that the reality eventually dawned on them by the fresh publication of the Ondo State LCDAs Administrative Map covering 33 newly created LCDAs and 18 LGAs, adding: “In this fresh map, our communities that were earlier found in the first erroneous maps are captured in Ilaje East LCDA, under Ugbo Ward 5 of Ilaje LGA. Could this be a further error or a daring affront and invitation for war?

 “This unhealthy political development has been a concern to Opuama, Polobubo (Tsekelewu), and Egbema at large, as this is not the first time the government of Ondo State has attempted a merger of the towns (Opuama and Tsekelewu) with Ondo State.

“For the records, in 1977 and 1978, the government of Ondo State contemplated and attempted transfer of the aforementioned towns and lands inherited from our forefathers to their state.”

 The Delta State communities said they have strong feelings of insecurity of their towns and lands due to past experiences and that it was upon that background that they are categorically saying that the government of Ondo State, the Ilaje/Ese-Odo Local Council Authorities and any other group of persons or individuals should desist from incorporating Opuama and Tsekelewu into any political arrangement/creation in their state since the two towns are ‘integral component of Delta State.

“Ethnically, Opuama and Tsekelewu are Izon communities-two of the numerous communities that constitute the Egbema Kingdom in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State. Culturally and linguistically, the towns do not have affinity with the Ilajes who speak Yoruba and Ilaje; though, we are South-western neighbours, we desire to be with our own original kin and kith of Egbema Kingdom.”

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