Leaders of the Okpe nation have stated that they have no intention to articulate any means of conflict and crisis with the Itsekiri, or to engage them in any battle. However, they accused Itsekiri leaders of designing evil scheme to instigate crises and communal battle in Okpe land.
In a statement issued on behalf of the Okpe nation and signed by Prof. Emurobome Idolor (President, Okpe Union, Sapele Branch) and Mr. Isaac Ohwosoro (Secretary, Okpe Union, Sapele Branch), the leaders said the Itsekiri came to the Okpe communities as individual traders who were generously allowed to stay for exchange of commodities.
“Apart from trading in specific locations on the river banks of Okpe communities, the Itsekiri came to Sapele and some other Okpe communities as refugees of ‘the Nana war’ in the late 19th century; and the Itsekiri refugees paid homage to the Okpe in Sapele and the other Okpe communities.”
“As refugees of the Okpe from the time of ‘the Nana war’ to the recent time of ‘the Itsekiri-Ijaw war’, the Itsekiri conduct themselves with undue arrogance as they turn around to make claims to the ownership of the territorial asylum”.
They described the Itsekiri as opportunists who took advantage of positions that their sons had in the colonial and subsequent administrations even to date to cause conflicts and crises in the Niger Delta region, and which accounts for the number of communal battles and wars they had fought with their neighbouring Urhobo, Ijaw and Okpe.
Recalling how in 2004 the Itsekiri tried to incite the Delta State Government against the Okpe immediately after the grave attack they launched against Ugbukurusu, an Okpe community, they said since Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan became governor of Delta State, Itsekiri have made many attempts to incite the government of the state against the Okpe in attempt to use the contemporary administrative forces to cede all Okpe land to the Itsekiri.
They alleged that the Itsekiri have a substantial fund in Texas, USA, which they set up over the years with a view to invading their neighbouring communities in order to take over their land.
“We are aware too that they have utilized this fund to acquire weapons of warfare, stocked in strategic warehouses within and around Okpe territory, which they intend to try out in scuffle, with the hope that the Delta State government would support them with public funds, security forces and other resources. “
They urged the Itsekiri monarch, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought and the Itsekiri Establishment, as well as the Delta State government to call to order, those who are contriving evil of deliberate communal provocation in Sapele in particular and in Okpe Kingdom in general.
“It is pertinent to remind the Itsekiri elders and leaders that, over the years, the Okpe had provided them refuge at times of their battles and needs. There is the fact of complexity of inter-marriages and family networks between Okpe and Itsekiri.
The leaders also described as spurious and provocative the claim that the Okpe nation is a ‘stateless society’ and that the Itsekiri founded all the major Okpe towns including Sapele, Elume, Mereje, Orerokpe and Aghalokpe.
The Itsekiri’s continual provocation, according to the Okpe leaders, is again manifested by their erroneous claim that the 1942/43 Sapele land case was inconclusive in the Law Court.
“These claims are indeed sly-dogs to tell to the marines. Chief D.O. Dafinone provided explicit and incontrovertible evidence of how the Sapele land case was concluded at the High Court of the Warri Judicial Council and the West African Court of Appeal. There is no doubt that the Itsekiri live in Sapele. As to how they came to live in Sapele, both the trial Court as per Justice Jackson and the West African Court of Appeal found that: “After the Nana war which took place in 1894, a large number of Jekkris ran for refuge to Sapele and obtained permission of the Sobos (Sapele Okpe people) to settle, giving customary dashes for the customary privilege”. The verdict of the trial and appellate courts based on this finding is reported in 9 WACA at page 85. The historic verdict that Sapele land is owned by Sapele Okpe people cannot, therefore, be dismissed by the Itsekiri.”
“If indeed the Itsekiri arrived in the Okpe territory before the Okpe people as Prof. Jennifer Alao claims, where is the history of the warfare between the Okpe and Itsekiri, or of the displacement of the Itsekiri by the Okpe as of that time? How many Itsekiri were in these Okpe towns before the fictitious late arrival of the Okpe, and how were the Itsekiri roots completely expunged from all available historical, legal and administrative records, including oral tradition to prove that these places are not Okpe communities from their origin till date?”