•Warns Buhari over consequences of actions of Ministry officials
•We must resist every move by our Itsekiri brothers-Gbenekama
•Change The Name Of Okerenkoko Maritime University At Your Peril, Gbaramatu Traditional Council Warns FG
•Calls On The Federal Lawmakers To Ignore The Memo
The alleged attempt by officials of the Ministry of Justice to alter the name of the Maritime University, has received yet another condemnation by the Gbaramatu Traditional Council of Chiefs.
A press statement by the Spokesman of the Gbaramatu Council of Chiefs, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who is the Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, explicitly and expressly negated the allusions of the ministry’s officials to a Supreme Court judgment and the memo raised by them to the National Assembly.
The traditional rulers detailed the genesis of the current attempt to give the Ijaws, the short end of the stick in the issue of the maritime institution.
According to the release, the Gbaramatu Traditional Council stated that they will not under any guise allow anybody to change the name of the Okerenkoko maritime university as the community is willing and ready to resist such moves coming from any quarter.
The Gbaramatu Traditional Council spokesman, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, the Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, stated in the release that changing the name from the known and existing name of Okerenkoko to any other name is capable of causing more crises than any other action and therefore warned Malami, H. A. Tahir and everybody that is signing the memo to the National Assembly that they are blowing the embers of crises in the Niger Delta.
In his words, “Let it be known that the Ijaw people of Gbaramatu Kingdom, the Ijaw people of Wari South West will not, cannot, shall not, allow their community name to be bastardized by a group of persons who are always looking from trouble.
“It is this changing of name and sitting of places that brought about Warri crises in the relocation of the local government from Ogbe-Ijoh to Ogidigben. Those who have not read about the Warri crises should know.
“From the publication, I understood that Malami and H. A. Tahir relied on a Supreme Court justice. The Supreme Court judgment was between one James Uluba and others v. E. E. Sillo and others. This is not the first time this is happening. The Itsekiris have always referred to this judgment,” the spokesman explained.
Giving details, Chief Gbenekama opined that it is a misnomer as the name of the Nigerian Maritime University has never been Okerenghigho; it has always been Okerenkoko.
“The bill that was submitted to the National Assembly carried the caption: ‘Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko’; it has never been ‘Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenghigho’.
“In Okerenkoko, there are other institutions like the Okerenkoko Secondary School, the Okerenkoko Cottage Hospital, the Okerenkoko Cherubim and Seraphim Church, the Okerenkoko Anglican Church, the Okerenkoko Primary School which was established in 1955.
According to him, “All these institutions carries Okerenkoko name. What of the delineation of wards? It is Gbaramatu Federal Ward with headquarters in Okerenkoko. In Gbaramatu Kingdom and all over Warri South West, there is no place that is called Okerenghigho.
“In the whole of Okerenkoko there is no single Itsekiri man. So how come they own the land? Were they driven out? Did the Ijaws capture the Itsekiris and killed all of them? When did that happen? Is there a historical fact to that effect? The Ijaws are the aborigines of Gbaramatu. One begins to wonder when this name ‘Okerenghigho’ is coming in. So, Okerenghigho is the imagination of evil forces to cause crises in Warri South West and Niger Delta at large.”
Continuing, the Traditional Council spokesman added that the National Assembly and the House of Representatives sent representatives and committee members to the university site and saw things for themselves.
“If there is anybody to advise anybody, it is the National Assembly that is supposed to advise the Presidency and the Ministry of Justice on what they have seen and not the other way round.”
Going down memory lane, Chief Gbenekama stressed that before the Nigerian Maritime University was sited at Okerenkoko, the then sitting governor who was an Itsekiri man, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, published in the Nigerian dailies the acquisition of Okerenkoko land, not Okerenghigho land. For 14 days and for months, Itsekiri people never came out to challenge the publication until the land was acquired by the government, damages paid to Okerenkoko people.
To further buttress their position, the Gbaramatu Traditional Council spokesman stressed that there is nobody with the name of James Uluba in the history of Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu people and in Warri South West.
“James Uluba is a non-existent name that the Itsekiris have used to get some frivolous judgment. That is their style. They have always instituted their own Itsekiri people for Ijaw people and frivolously gotten some frivolous judgment,” he explained.
In the same token, the release further explained that the Itsekiris relied on the judgment in Suit No SC/294/70 between the said James Uluba & others v. E. E. Sillo & others. The appeal rose from the judgment of Hon. Justice Obaseki of the High Court, Warri, Midwestern State of Nigeria Suit No W/29/1951.
“However, the Supreme Court judgment could not hold water because it was frivolously achieved in the absence of the unsuspecting Ijaw people. The Itsekiri people in a bid to make their judgment hold water re-litigated the case in the High Court of Warri in Suit No W/143/84 between Mr. Thomas E. Ugbameta for and on behalf of Omadino community v. James Uluba and two others for and on behalf of Okerenkoko community.
“Now if a case is won in the Supreme Court, it is supposed to end there. If someone is now bringing the case to a lower court, what does it mean?”, he queried.
Providing an answer, he said, “It means the Supreme Court judgment does not hold water. However, the outcome of the suit in the High Court presided by Onurhorho J. dismissed the claim of the Omadino people. This legal outcome leaves the condemning parties in the status quo. Since the case was thrown out, this old case has no effect whatsoever. The original people that stayed there are the original owners.”
The Gbaramatu Traditional Council chief, therefore, called on the APC government and indeed Buhari to call Malami and Tahir to order as the utterances of the people around him are capable of throwing the people of the Niger Delta into serious crises that can also throw the nation into a recession that they will struggle to come out of.
Buttressing this point further, Chief Godspower said, “Just last week, somebody from the Presidency made a very stupid statement claiming the Itsekiris are more than the Ijaws of Delta State. Some of us pretended like we didn’t hear because we didn’t want to heat up the polity. And before we woke up from that slumber, another appointee has said ‘What belongs to the Ijaw belong to the Itsekiri’. This is shameful; it is not something we can contain.”
The release further queried, “Are these people talking from their heads or from their minds? Have these people taken some elixirs to change their heads?
“The Itsekiris are in three local governments areas and none of them is homogenous. In all the three local governments, the Ijaws are there. In some, the Ijaws have 50 percent of the population. Then we also have exclusively Burutu local government area that is bigger than two of those local governments, Patani local government area, Bomadi local government area; these are homogenously Ijaw.”
The body of traditional council also called on the National Assembly not to be swayed with the memo written by a drunken man in his beer parlor who has nothing to advice, as he has never been to Gbaramatu and Okerenkoko.
“Let it be said that Gbaramatu people and indeed Ijaw people of the Niger Delta will not and cannot allow their community name to be bastardized by the appointees of Buhari.
“Let Buhari and his appointees tell us one institution that is named after Okerenghigho. Let them go to the river or anywhere in Delta State and show us the signboard of Okerenghigho. If there is any sign board like that, let them go and place the university they want to place there and let them leave our university for us,” he added.
To their Itsekiri brothers, the release stated, “We are not fighting for our own alone; we are fighting for everybody. We want the Niger Delta area to develop so that everybody can enjoy. But if they are not ready for development, let them look for where to stay because in the first place their own Dore stated the Benin River where they occupy is an Ijaw land. Escravos, the Ijaws were there before they came.”
Chief Gbenekama therefore appealed on the Buhari led APC government to do the needful including paying the N99.9 billion that is owed the Gbaramatu people.
“The APC government prides itself in doing the right thing. Till today the Federal Government is owing the Gbaramatu people N99.9 billion. The Attorney General that relies on court judgments, has he advised the Federal Government to pay that N99.9 billion from the court judgment that was given in the High Court, Asaba?”
The Gbaramatu Traditional Council finally reiterated their resolve of not allowing anybody to change the name of the Okerenkoko maritime university.
“If this is a style by the Federal Government to delay the take-off of the maritime university, if they don’t have the political will to develop the people of the Niger Delta, let them tell us. We have been enduring.”