By Ebi Perekeme
The Gbaramatu Youth Development Association A.K.A Gbaramatu Youth Council has replied the Itsekiri Liberation Group, ILG.
In a strongly worded rejoinder made available to the GbaramatuVoice newspaper on Thursday April 15, 2021, the group, speaking through its president – Comr. Shadrach Onitsha Ebikeme, said: “Our attention has been drawn to a publication credited to Itsekiri Liberation Group (ILG) signed by its Chairman and Secretary Comrades Mone Oris and Omagbemi Ajofortan who erroneously claimed that the Abiteye Otunana Makaraba 16 inch Pipeline where the suspected oil spillage occurred is under the control and over lordship of the Olu of Itsekiri people.
“It also claimed that the good Ijaw people of Gbaramatu Kingdom are ‘customary tenants’, with a further view that Abiteye Flow station belongs to Deghele and Bateren communities while Otunana and Markaraba fields belong to Omadino people. Whilst we find these claims highly provocative, we consider this the last straw that could likely break the camel’s back.
“For the avoidance of doubt and regardless of any prejudice, Abiteye, Otunana and Makaraba Fields belong to the good Ijaw people of Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Ijaws within those areas are living in Gbaramatu ancestral lands given to them by God Almighty. If anyone is to be referred to in such condescending manner, it should be the Itsekiris that fits properly into those shoes. In the spirit of covetousness, the Itsekiris have obtained several fraudulent court judgments to covet the lands and properties of their benevolent neighbors and history has alluded to this fact.
“According to a petition written by Urhobo/Isoko Native Authority Council dated 20th December, 1952, ‘in the Matter of the Change of Title of the Olu of Itsekiri’, the foremost Urhobo socio-cultural group attests to the fact that ‘the Itsekiris came to the present day Warri from Ode Itsekiri to meet the Ijaws and Urhobos already carrying on trade.’ This fact was further substantiated by an heir apparent to the Itsekiri throne – Prince William A. Moore, who insisted in all honesty that prior to the advent of Bini Prince Giniwa to Ode Itsekiri, the area now known as Warri was occupied and owned by the Ijos the Sobos and the Meins. This means that even before Giniwa was driven away from Bini amounting from him sleeping with his father’s wife which marks the first migration of this people to Ode Itsekiri, the Ijaws and Urhobos have been since living and carrying social, economic activities in all of these areas. This clearly shows that if anyone is fit to be called a customary tenant and stranger in Warri and environ, it is the Itsekiri people that appropriately fits into this shoes as they are total strangers in some of the lands they are currently occupying and laying claims to.
“While our ancestors, just as the Urhobos did, lived with these people with open minds and tried to live peacefully together, the Itsekiris try to incessantly make efforts to aggravate us by calling us all sorts of abominable names, insulting our cultural heritage and questioning our very existence as a people. Although our fathers lived with these insults, we the youths of this generation will surely put a stop to this trend as we will not bequeath this ugly and embarrassing status quo to the future generation of Gbaramatu people.
“Despite this obvious fact, the Ijaws of Gbaramatu Kingdom have always maintained peace in the spirit of live and let’s live regardless of the endless provocative claims made by the Itsekiris who are used to calling people all sorts of derogatory names shunning civility at all levels.
“The said consent judgment the Itsekiri communities are holding unto to lay claims over Abiteye field which rightly belong to people of Benikrukru community of Gbaramatu Kingdom was a gentleman’s resolve over a defined disputed portion of land between families and to reach a temporal truce, the representatives of the Benikrukru community reached a gentle man’s agreement with the parties involved in order to have mutual benefits over the disputed portion of land and this resolve is subject to review when one party seem not be comfortable with the arrangement anymore and present superior facts. More so, it was stated clearly in the said consent judgment that ‘the parties hereby agree and declare that the settlement herein reached is without any prejudice to the question of ownership of land’ between the signatories to the said consent judgment. Most importantly, the said area where we have identified that the oil spill goes beyond the portion where the consent judgment covers as evident in the survey done on the area and the map presented to the Delta State Government on Monday 12 April, 2021.
“While the above submission buttress the fact that our representatives then who consented to that judgment were left without much choice but to consent to a sharing formula with the people of Deghele and Bateren for the purpose of peace despite the fact that there was no justice, perhaps because they were for one reason or the other incapacitated to pursue the case to the latter and not necessarily because the said disputed portion was jointly own by the Ijaws of Benikrukru and the Itsekiris of Deghele Bateren. Hence moving forward, there will certainly be a review of this agreement through the desk of necessary state and federal apparatus which will set the people of Benikrukru free from this sharing arrangement with the Itsekiris.
“For the people of Omadino who are Gbaramatu people living in Gbaramatu land and descendants of Oweigibi who is a Gbaramatu man but chose to call themselves slaves by ignorantly dragging their father’s property under the Itsekiri kingdom, let it be known that if Omadino people come to Oporoza and appeal to the Pere and proclaim that they are ancestrally from Gbaramatu, they will certainly get restitution and be forgiven of all their iniquities against the good Ijaw people of Gbaramatu kingdom. But if they refuse this option and choose to continue to play hanky-panky game with us, we will have no other option but to stop them from having any access to Jons Creek fields as they will be barred from stepping foot in Gbaramatu kingdom which in turn means evacuating the land they are currently occupying because it is owned by Oweigibiri – a descendant of Gbaramatu Kingdom.
“It is obvious that there are certain characters within the top management rank of Chevron Nigeria Limited that are fueling their ethnic agenda and this they value more than protecting the interest of CNL through unbiased intervention. These personnel are fueling ethnic crisis between the Ijaws of Gbaramatu and the Itsekiris without recourse to the fact that you cannot deliberately set fire in your own house and expect to live in peace without been consumed by it. Let it be known that the last Warri crisis between the Ijaws and the Itsekiris is quite fresh in mind and is not a befitting scenario to taste a repeat. It is on this note that we the youths of Gbaramatu kingdom under the aegis of the GYC call on the Federal Government, the Delta State Government and CNL to call Mr Esimaje Brikinn and Mr Samuel Edaibo to order as CNL will certainly be the first casualty of the ethnic conflict they are both fueling.
“Concrete hint has it that these persons are using their influential position in CNL to ensure that their tribes men are involved in the JIV in an area that exclusively belongs to Gbaramatu people, and are the sponsors of the ill talks from their tribes men against the Gbaramatu people. Therefore, we want the general public and all relevant authorities to note and hold Mr. Brikinn and Mr Samuel responsible for whatever their ill-conceived actions snowball to. The Delta State government should also take a stand on this matter as any crisis within the state might likely have a devastating effect on the revenue of the state and will truncate the developmental agenda of the SMART government.
“It was evident before the Delta State government that CNL personnel sent to intervene in this matter at the meeting with the Secretary to the State Government and the oil and Gas Commissioner at the SSG’S office, Asaba on Monday, 12th April, 2021 were holding brief for the Itsekiris rather than addressing the underlying worries of the people. It is for this reason we pass a vote of no confidence on the duo that came to represent CNL in that meeting as they are obviously interested parties in this matter and lack the capacity to bring about justice in this matter. Hence, CNL should send delegations that are not biased to handle this matter forthwith.
Not yet done, the group stated: ” Against the above backdrop, we reiterate our clear position.
“While we agree that there are impacted neighboring kingdoms affected by the oil spillage as a result of the flow of the river which is beyond human control, we insist that the JIV involving Gbaramatu territory of the spill be done separately from the spillage claimed to have occurred in Itsekiri territory as THE JOINT JIV WILL ONLY AMOUNT TO UNDERMINE THE TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF THE GBARAMATU KINGDOM. And we the youths, having a clear sense of knowledge and understanding of the implication of such barbaric and sacrilegious act, are firm to ensure that the above position is maintained in the entire process of getting justice for our people in relation to the oil spillage. Even though joint JIV was the previous culture, status quo must change for the future of our people and land.
“We wish to use this medium to inform the Delta State Government and all security operatives that we have evacuated all Itsekiris living in Gbaramatu communities and lands in keeping with our effort to forestall these sort of provocative claims they are continually making about us, our lands and territory as we are not going to adopt the benevolent tradition of our forbearers in order to save our children unborn from this avoidable stress and insults. We reiterate that any Itsekiri man or woman who dares to return back to the communities where they have been asked to evacuate, does so at his or her own risk.
“While we are aware that CNL is deliberately delaying the process of getting justice for our people in order to have enough time to execute plans that could likely forestall our people from getting justice in any case, we are giving CNL a 24 hour ultimatum to come and conduct the JIV that involves Gbaramatu Kingdom alone in order to kick start the process of achieving environmental justice for our people, or else, we shall cause the total shut down of all CNL operations in our territories which will include the North IP line and every of their patrol boats.
“A stitch in time saves nine,” it concluded.