There is palpable tension in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta state, following the newly created ward in the council by the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC).
Hundreds of women and youths of Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Urban community in the council area on Monday marched along the Old NPA axis of the Warri-Sapele Road to the Warri South council secretariat, calling on the Delta State Government to create a ward for the Ijaws of the area.
According to them the ward which was created in the LGA should have been given to the Ijaws, who have no representation in the council.
Describing the development as an “injustice to the people and a breach of their constitutional right, they stressed that the council area has three ethnic groups, hence it was fair they got a representation.
The DSIEC announced the creation of 34 additional wards across 10 Local Government Areas in the state, last Tuesday, in Asaba.
The distribution of the new wards as obtained from the commission’s website are as follows: “Aniocha North (six), Aniocha South (six), Bomadi (one), Ika North East (one), Ika South (two), Oshimili North (six), Oshimili South (six), Patani (one), Ukwuani (four) and Warri South (one),” rounding up the numbers of wards in each of the LGAs to 20.
Youths of the Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Kingdom had last Thursday, demanded the immediate reversal of the ward to be solely for the Ijaws, claiming that until the creation of the LGA, Ogbe-Ijoh had two wards.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, an opinion leader from the community, Friday Deinghan called on Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to address the situation before it escalates and truncates the existing peace in the already volatile oil city.
He stated that neighbouring Itsekiri and Urhobo people who have 10 and nine wards respectively, in the LGA should show “a sense of friendship and fairness, that this person (Ogbe-Ijoh urban area) really need this (ward)”.
The protesters bore placards with inscriptions that include “The Ijaws, the Itsekiris are one. Okowa don’t truncate the peace,” Okowa DSIEC gives us our right; Ijaw youths say no ward in Warri South LGA, no election in the riverine communities,” Okowa/DSIEC Warri belongs to three ethnic groups, give us our ward in Warri South LGA,” Okowa/DSIEC do not stir up the hornet’s nest. Keep the peace”.
The protest witnessed the heavy presence of military and police officers, giving fears of a resurge of the #EndSARS protest.
Chairman of Warri South council area, Michael Tidi, pointed out that the new ward emerged from two Federal wards, Okere and Bowen wards, which were merged by DSIEC, adding that the electoral body may have been constrained by that fact.
According to him, DSIEC organized stakeholders meeting in the council and people brought their propositions regarding the call for the creation of one additional ward.
“Don’t forget the law says a maximum of 20 wards to be created at the moment.
When DSIEC came, various interest groups tendered their positions and of course, they went back to do their own findings. And just last week, a publication was made depicting the various wards that were created.
“In Warri South, today we have 20. The additional ward that was created was two Federal INEC wards. Okere and Bowen wards were merged together as one DSIEC ward. I believe the wisdom of the DSIEC officials was to separate those two wards, just the way they are within the INEC template,” Tidi said.
Appealing to the people to be patient, remain peaceful and law-abiding, he assured that their demand will be forwarded to the relevant authority, stating that they may have been “misinformed, thinking DSIEC could still give an additional ward outside the 20 wards.
“The present law cannot accommodate that their request because you cannot see an existing INEC ward being merged to create wards from another place. So you are constrained by that one space, hence the good job that DSIEC has done”.
It will be noted that wards are not created along ethnic lines but through demographic considerations.