As tensions escalate over the rightful ownership of Warri, a longstanding dispute has been reignited between the Itsekiri and Urhobo ethnic groups. Both factions are asserting their claim as the legitimate landlords of the oil-rich city in Delta State, leading to a resurgence of controversy and ethnic discord.
The Movement for the Protection of Iwere Homeland, Development, and History (MPIHDH) worldwide, representing the Itsekiri, initiated the controversy by proclaiming that the Agbarha Urhobo are merely tenants to the Olu of Warri.
In response, President of the Warri Agbarha Diaspora Network, Lennox Egavoja Gold, vehemently rejects this assertion, staunchly defending the Urhobo claim as the true landlords of Warri.
Gold issues a stern warning to MPIHDH, urging them to refrain from spreading what he deems as fictitious claims that could potentially incite ethnic tensions. Despite the desire for peace and development, Gold emphasizes that the Urhobo community will not stand idly by while unfounded claims are propagated.
According to him, from time immemorial as reinforced with documentary evidence, Agbarha Urhobo were the owners of Warri metropolis.
He pointed to several commissions of inquiries including Hon Justice Nnemeka Agu, Hon Hassan Idoko and Theophilus Danjuma, as mechanisms that resolved the lingering Warri crisis that spanned over 100 years.
Mr. Gold in a letter entitled: ‘Itsekiri False Alarm on Land Revalidation by Agbarha Warri’ People’ and addressed to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori, said Agbarha Warri Urhobo people cannot revalidate what was theirs, noting that claims by Itsekiri could trigger another ethic crisis.
“The Itsekiris referred to Agbassa (which is the ancestral headquarters of Agbarha Warri Kingdom) as Obomale, meaning Juju town. However, the question we should ask ourselves is, is it not the Agbassa people that owns the Juju? And this town is in the heart of the Warri metropolis,” he said.
He said the judgement in the case between Ometan (for himself and on behalf of Otovwodo) vs Dore Numa and others in suit No W/41/57 and W/121/57 did not extend or affect the other sub-clans of Igbudu, Edjeba, Ogunu, Okurode, Ukpokiti and Oteghele.
“However, we challenge the Itsekiri people to publish the content or paragraph of the judgment of the court that made the Agbarha Warri Kingdom a customary tenant to the Olu of Warri.”
Gold further contended that a Warri High Court gave a favourable judgement to Okere-Urhobo in suit number W/48/68 between Olu of Warri & others and Daniel Okumagba who represented Okere-Urhobo, adding that the said judgement was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Besides, he argued that the “Olu Palace belonged to the Ighogbadu, Oki and Olodi families of the Okere-Urhobo kingdom.
“We challenge the Itsekiri people to mention any prominent Itsekiri leader (dead or alive) that can trace his or her ancestry to Warri metropolis. The answer is none! But Agbarha people will do. The land belongs to us, so we are not going to revalidate what belongs to us,” Gold insisted.
He, however, stressed the need to focus more on fostering unity, collaboration and peace that will bring unprecedented development to the oil city rather than dissipating energy on conversations bothering on ownership.