Friday, December 9, 2016

NEWS: URHOBO, IJAW conflict: How Clark took wind out of militants’ sails

Posted By: young kizzye - 10:18:00 PM


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 •Ogbe-Ijoh, Aladja at war again!
 Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South 

FORMER Ijaw militants drawn from Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Bayelsa and Ondo states, met, penultimate Thursday, at Port Harcourt, Rivers State, threatening reprisal if Urhobo people went ahead to harm any Ijaw indigene following the now suspended 14-day ultimatum slammed on Ijaw residents in Udu Local Government Area of Delta State by Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, Youth Wing, Udu chapter.

It was not easily comprehensible what the state government had done at the time to checkmate the looming crisis, as a top Urhobo youth leader, who spoke to Vanguard, hours before the suspension, had reeled out four conditions for Udu UPU to shelve the ultimatum. The two-week ultimatum issued November 17 was to expire November 31, but unusually, many were of the opinion that it was to expire on November 24, which made them more apprehensive, especially as the parent UPU body did not publicly denounce the ultimatum.

But less than three hours after youth leader gave the conditions, the ultimatum was suspended following strategic engagements facilitated by the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, who is an Ijaw from Delta state. In fact, ex-Ijaw warlords, who had mobilized to launch attack on Urhobo were disappointed that Clark prevented the “war” they had prepared for. Okowa meets Clark in Abuja Unknown to some persons in the state, Clark had phoned the state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and his deputy, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, also an Ijaw from Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West local government area, from his Abuja base to immediately intervene. Our source said: “The governor, who was in Abuja at the time, told him that he was in town and he came to meet chief in the house. He briefed him (governor) on the reports he was getting and the need to act swiftly before the situation gets out of hand. He (Okowa) assured him that the state government would handle the matter.” Crisis deepens “However, days after, Clark was receiving series of calls that the matter has degenerated, as Ijaw residents were fleeing Udu and other Urhobo communities in their hundreds, while Ijaw youths were also mobilizing for payback. Among those who called him were local government chairmen, top politicians and community leaders.

“A week or so after the ultimatum, the former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, called him to intimate him that tension had really mounted and anything could happen at any time. He (Clark) directed him to summon a meeting of Ijaw communities in the affected communities at his (Bozimo) residence. That was Thursday, last week, while him (Clark), flies in from Abuja, same day. “Chief Clark flew in from Abuja to Benin, last Thursday, as planned, and as he disembarked at Benin City Airport, Bozimo’s call came through that Ijaw communities were already in his residence and anxiety was high,” he said. Meeting at Bozimo’s house His words:

“The arrangement was for Bozimo to brief Clark later in the evening at his Warri abode, but due to the urgency, Clark drove from Benin City straight to the venue of the meeting at Bozimo’s house in Warri. After listening to the leaders of the communities, he insisted that they must maintain peace and in their presence, called the governor, Senator Okowa, who said that government was not sleeping over the matter.” “But he (Clark) told the governor that the tension on ground was different from what he was talking and urged him to visit the affected areas to see things for himself or delegate a capable official to do so without much ado.

The Ijaw leader also told him that he would not say he was doing something while staying in Asaba, whereas matters were worsening in Warri,” the source added. The Ijaw representatives overheard his interaction with the governor, who re-assured that government would take additional steps and spoke with some of them on phone. While meeting with the Ijaw communities, he also put a call through to Urhobo leaders for a meeting in his house later that evening. National secretary of Urhobo Youth Leaders Association, Mr. Vincent Oyibode, and the leader of UPU, Youth Wing, Udu, Mr. Sunday Subi, who gave the controversial ultimatum, attended the meeting at Clark’s residence later that night. The informant said: “They told Clark their grievances with the state government, which at the time had not bothered to visit the affected Ayama and Epame communities and he pleaded with them to simmer down, condemning the burning of communities.

He, however, stressed that Ijaw and Urhobo are brothers and cannot shed blood.” Our informer asserted: “He secured a commitment from Okowa during his meeting with the Ijaw and so, when he met with the Urhobo people later, he also called him (governor) again and Okowa spoke with some of them, as he did with the Ijaw.” “The governor informed them that the state government addressing the issues. It was following Clark’s intervention that it was resolved that the Secretary to the State Government would visit the razed Ayama and Epame and meetings of the warring communities would be convened,” the source hinted.

Our meeting with Clark- Urhobo youth leader
Urhobo youth leader, Mr. Oyibode, who was at the meeting, told Saturday Vanguard: “The peace process was actually brokered by Chief Clark, he invited the youths of Udu, having heard from us, he condemned the attack at Ayama and Epame and killing of Sunday Obruche, which many people have ignored until the time.” “He asked the youths to live in peace and also called the deputy governor, Mr. Kingsely Otuaro, who spoke to us and he asked the governor to direct his team to visit the two communities burnt down as demanded by the youths. “Pa Clark told the governor to ensure that he fulfilled the demands of the youths and condemned the activities of oil thieves in the area.

This was what really calmed the youths. Other Ijaw leaders should play the same role of condemning the act that led to the killing of Sunday Obruche and the burning down of Ayama and Epame communities, “he said. Oyibode asserted: “As much as we have embraced the peace process, the provocative press statement by the Ijaw National Council, INC, should be guided.
 We call on Chief Clark to caution INC leadership on such statement because we are still working hard to calm the situation, most especially those whose persons are still held captive believing that they have been killed.” His words: “It should be noted that Udu youths did not give ultimatum over land dispute, but it was as a result of the activities of burning down of two Udu communities and Udu never intruded on land disputes between Ogbe Ijoh and Isaba because we know they are brothers.”

 SSG’s visit that sealed the peace accord Penultimate Friday, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Festus Agas, actually led government delegation to the burnt Ayama and Epame communities, which the Urhobo youths had earlier demanded and promised to rebuild and resettle the internally displaced persons, IDPs and send relief materials.
At a peace meeting in Warri, last Saturday, presided over by the SSG, he got the president general of UPU, Udu youth wing, Mr. Subi, to suspend the ultimatum. Part of the demands by Urhobo youths were that their area should not be used for oil bunkering and the government had reportedly acceded to creating a military checkpoint in the area.

Consolidation meetings ongoing Saturday Vanguard learned that Governor Okowa had called Chief Clark to commend him for his assistance in resolving the dispute. However, meetings are still going on to sort out other touchy matters, including the release of the captives by both sides. The Urhobo people claimed that their abducted kinsmen, including Mrs. Baby Ofuru College and her son, Edirin College; a couple Mr. and Mrs. Austin Ovedje Oduaran and Mr. Pudin have not been released. Isaba not the devil they paint it – Ogugu President of Isaba Youths, Mr. Moses Ogugu, whose community was accused of killing Obruche, took exception to the allegation, saying that Ijaw people were not the devil they were being painted as some of its indigenes were also kidnapped. He asserted: “We the people of Isaba kingdom are peace loving people and we have been living peacefully with the people of Aladja until recently.

We won the case against them (Aladja community) in 1934 in the lower court. Aladja attacked us in1979 and burnt down Isaba Grammar School, Isaba. In 1996 when Aladja had fracas with Ogbe-Ijoh, they battered the late chief Bramor Matthew’s head and several Isaba persons were brutalized.” On June 3, 2016, George Kpabuluku was battered on his head. 7th of July 2016, the Aladja people attempted to kill the traditional ruler of Isaba, HRM. Pere Donokoromo II (J.P) the Pere of Isaba kingdom and his car was vandalized.


On the 19th of October 2016, Aladja attempted to bury Mr. Isaiah Tobisi. “On the 11th of November 2016, the people of Aladja attacked and burnt down Ayama community under Isaba kingdom and Pamia community under Isaba kingdom, in the process of the attack, one of our sons, Prince Ebidenwei Esukuseide was missing till date.
We have reported all these incidents to the security agencies of Delta State and nothing was done till date,” Ogugu claimed. He added: “All these evil things are happening because the only access road to Isaba passes through Aladja community. The only solution to stop this evil heart of the people of Aladja is to create new bypass road from the DSC Expressway to Isaba road and cut across to Ogbe-Ijoh as well so that, we and the people of Ogbe-Ijoh will not pass through Aladja community again.

We are appealing to the government of Delta State to please construct the bypass for lasting peace,” he pleaded. Ogbe-Ijoh vs Aladja However, just as people were breathing a sigh of relief over the Aladja, Isaba face-off, hostilities broke out again between Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh over the beheading, last Saturday, of a 40-year-old Ogbe-Ijoh carpenter, Samson Bebebo, behind the secretariat of Warri South-West local government council in Ogbe-Ijoh. Aladja community denied the act, but Ogbe-Ijoh alleged that it was its handiwork and on Monday, two days after, Ogbe-Ijoh youths abducted an Isoko youth, who they thought was an Aladja youth.

 The victim was released on Tuesday evening. Again, Chief Clark, asked Chief Bozimo to mediate with Chief P. E. S Ideh, an Urhobo leader, as they would not be alive and allow Ijaw and Urhobo youths to go to war. The leaders had since waded into the matter to broker peace.

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