As the Delta state government and security agencies intensify efforts to curtail the raging crisis in Ndokwa West council area of the state, Ugiliamai Community has brazed up in the heat of the crisis to clarify some grey issues.
A statement made available to Blank NEWS Online on Tuesday, August 05, 2014 and signed by the traditional leadership and community heads of the community reads:
“OUR POSITION ON THE IBABU/ISELEGU WAR: UGILIAMAI SHARES BOUNDARY WITH ISELEGU NOT IBABU
“Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.” – Matthew 5
“War should belong to the tragic past, in history. It should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future.” Pope John Paul II.
We thank all those who are interested in restoring peace to Iselegu and Ibabu communities. We are confident that your actions in the long-run will ensure a peaceful society, a society where neighbours will see themselves as one and work in the interest of one another.
Ugiliamai desires a clear boundary demarcation with Ibabu and not between Ibabu and Iselegu because, we believe that with clear boundary demarcation, good neighbourliness, love for one another will be entrenched between the two communities.
Origin of Ugiliamai/Ibabu
Ugiliamai and Ibabu are two communities in the present-day five villages (quarters) of Onicha-Ukwuani Clan in Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State.
Originally, Onicha-Ukwuani had four villages; Ike-Onicha, Eweshi, Ugiliamai and Amoji.
Our (Ugiliamai) ancestors descended in two processions from Amai in Ukwuani Local Government Area and Ashama in the present-day Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State and settled at Ugiliamai Uno (Obi Aka). As good farmers, we have common boundaries with Eweshi, Amoji, Ike-Onicha, Utagba-Uno, Ossissa, Obikwele, Iselegu and Afor clan.
The people of Ibabu migrated from Nsukwa in Aniocha South local government area and came to settle at Onicha-Ukwuani. The other three villages; Ike-Onicha, Eweshi and Amoji, despite the entreaties of Ibabu people to be given land, refused their entrance into Onicha Eno (Four quarters of Onicha-Ukwuani) then, and refused to give them accommodation.
But, Ugiliamai community went ahead to offer them accommodations with conditions that have long been flouted; that is,
(i) Going beyond the areas offered them by our forefathers,
(ii) Payment of royalty which they have stopped.
Ibabu people, as if they were angered by the fact they were accommodated, displayed uncanny aggression and encroached on land not earlier offered them. Our people did not find peace with them due to their incessant harassment, interception and assault on Ugiliamai people when returning from or going to their farms.
These provocative actions have continued to date which is one of the reasons we are seeking a clear demarcation of boundary between us.
Till date, Onicha-Ukwuani has one major market; Nkwo market, which has four entrances to it. The four roads to the market are from the four different communities that made up Onicha-Ukwuani then: Ike-Onicha, Eweshi, Ugiliamai and Amoji. Ibabu has no link road to this historical market where the people of Onicha-Ukwuani perform both cultural and social rites.
Also, because of the growth in population of the people which cannot be denied them because of procreation, they have continued to encroach on land belonging to Ugiliamai.
Ikilike, which is one of our Shrines, is situated by Ibabu Primary School and till date, Ugiliamai Community still perform the rituals as in the past. Also, Ebi Shrine which is situated at the outskirt of Ibabu is Ugiliamai’s revered god for the promotion of long life and annual rituals are still been performed there. Furthermore, in the practice of our age grade, the Okpala-Uku of Ogbe Owa installs the Onotu Uku (the head of the administrative council of Ugiliamai Community) every seven years in the presence of the god before other processes for age grading takes place. The practice still subsists to date.
It is a fact that Ibabu people are perpetual tenants to Ugiliamai community. They have no land of their own, as such, they cannot go to war with any community based on land issue, or lay sustainable ownership claim to any parcel of land.
When the issue of land dispute arose for the first time between Iselegu and Ibabu, our people intervened by inviting Ibabu people to state why they should be involved in land dispute with Iselegu. Precisely, this was on March 23, 1953. Ibabu Community was led to the meeting by late Ezhedi Jato. At the meeting, Ibabu people were advised never to have land dispute with Iselegu because if there were to be any land dispute, it has to be between Iselegu and Ugiliamai. This advice has been ignored by the people of Ibabu.
Ugbo-Ocha (Obi Ukpo) where Ibabu people are laying claim to which was the reason they are fighting with Iselegu belongs to Ugiliamai. In the early1950s, late Chief Patrick Ibobo Ozah, an indigene of Ugiliamai was the first person that resided in the village. At a time, some discharged lepers from Ossissa segregation camp joined Chief Ibobo Ozah in the hamlet. The land belongs to Ugiliamai and the boundary between Ugiliamai and Iselegu is well known and respected by the two communities (Ugiliamai and Iselegu).
Iselegu and Ugiliamai know their common boundary at Ugbo-Ocha (Obi Ukpo).
The need for clear demarcation of boundary between Ugiliamai and Ibabu
Today, Ibabu community is located in the middle of Ugiliamai. This is because, on one side of the village is Ugiliamai-Uno while on the other side is Ugiliamai town.
We are aware that their population has risen which has caused them to be desperately in need of more land. It is worthy to state here that gone is the era where might is law. Our patience should not be misconstrued to be cowardice. We have only been magnanimous and accommodating.
Since 1953 when our forefathers urged Ibabu people to stop engaging in actions against Iselegu people, they have turned against us; their landlord. On 12th February, 1957, their activities led to war between the two communities and, of recent, but, for maturity and restraint, war would have been going on between the two communities (Ugiliamai and Ibabu).
This is because on 17th March, 1989, Ibabu people killed an indigene of Ugiliamai, Chief Ossai Esume and in March 23rd, 1993 our sons were attacked by Ibabu people and they sustained different degrees of injuries. On 29th May, 2005 there was also, another attack which led to our children losing their valuables, while on 31st December, 2007, there was another attack on Ugiliamai people by indigenes of Ibabu. This almost resulted in war between the two communities as vehicles belonging to Ugiliamai people were destroyed. Also, on 14th January, 2008 there was another attack and motorbikes (Okada) belonging to indigenes of Ugiliamai were seized by Ibabu people. On October 11, 2009 there was also, another attack and apart from the valuable items been lost as a result of these attacks, our people have also, suffered bodily, psychological and emotional harm. All these are enough for retaliation from our children and such could have led to a shooting war.
It is wrong for them to believe that by their unreasoned aggression and virtual warfare, more land can be acquired by them. It is time for them to apply dialogue and peaceful moves.
We have continued to see Ibabu as our tenants, who ironically, see us as landlords they can forcibly take their landed property from. This is wrong because, “war is the greatest plaque that can afflict humanity; it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it,” says Martin Luther King. With a body such as the Boundary Committee and the fact that might is no longer law, we see no reason why we should not explore dialogue to ensure that there will be mutual respect for one another, in full recognition of the true ownership of the land in question.
Since the people of Ibabu have gone beyond where was originally given to them by our ancestors, we pray that to ensure lasting peace between the two communities the people of Ibabu should not exceed the Ebi shrine towards Ugiliamai town.
As it concerns Iselegu and Ibabu, it must be clearly stated that Ibabu has no boundary with Iselegu, as such, it cannot have boundary dispute with Iselegu, only Ugiliamai can have such dispute because Ugiliamai has common boundary with Iselegu.
We however, urge any interested individual, group or government who is intervening for peace to reign in the area to take a day off and visit the communities. If this is done, we believe that you will be in a good position to give good advice on the way forward and forestall looming break down of law and order. No sacrifice is too small to pursue the course of lasting peace.”
HRH FREDRICK OPIA EGILIGA -OKPALA-UKU OF UGILIAMAI
CHIEF JOHNSON IGWE -ONOTU-UKU OF UGILIAMAI
OKWA PAUL OKENNE