16 June 2014, Warri – Indications have emerged that the tension generated between the Itsekiri and the Ijaw ethnic groups in Delta State, over which community has rights in the multi-billion dollar Nigeria Gas City project is not yet over.
This follows a warning from an Ijaw group that the Itsekiri leaders were making arrogant and provocative statements in various media, allegedly claiming ownership of much of the land earmarked for the $16 billion gas city project, believed to hold immense economic potential in Warri South-west Local Government Area of the state.
In a statement in Warri on Sunday, the Chairman, Warri Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG), Chief Patrick Bigha, said the Ijaws warned Itsekiri leaders to stop the media hype suggesting that the Itsekiris own the land rights over much of the area designated for the Ogidiben Gas City project.
The statement titled: “The EPZ Project and the Ijaw Stake” warned the Itsekiri against threatening the prevailing atmosphere of peace in the area.
The statement read in part: “We write to warn our Itsekiri neighbours of Ugborodo to be careful with their statements in the media so as not to take us back to the dark days in Warri.
“They should remember the days of crises in Warri; they should remember that the ill wind does no good to anyone. The Itsekiris should stop the unsubstantiated claim of ownership of Warri lands.
“We wish to remind them of the statement of the late Chief Dore Numa in 1923 that the Itsekiris have no land in Warri that when he came from Benin River, which is Ijaw territory to Warri urban, he found the Ijaws and the Urhobos dwelling in Warri. And that it was the colonial masters that gave him land. So, what kind of claim are the Itsekiris making about all lands in Warri and its environs?
“It is true that out of the 2,800 hectares of land earmarked for the EPZ project, the Ijaws of Gbaramatu and Ogulagha have 2,500 hectares. If not for the influence of the state governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, on the project, the project wouldn’t have started from Ogidigben, which has made them to name the project after Ogidigben.
“As we remind the Itsekiris of the saying that he who wins all land cases and does not win peace, has not won anything,’ we call on the Itsekiris to follow the path of peace with all men because that is when all will be well with them.”
Meanwhile, the recently constituted Nigerian Security Agencies Committee (NSAC) on Saturday commenced the disarmament of the Ugborodo communities in Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State.
The committee comprising of the Nigerian Navy, the Police, Air force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, is carrying out the exercise in line with the Delta State Government’s directive to mop up all illegal arms from the warring communities who had been engaging one another in fighting
The communities involved in the dispute include Ajudaigbo, Madagho, Ogidigben, Jala and Aruton.
It was alleged that the communities were fighting over the control of the 16 billion dollars federal government Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project cited in Ogidigben.
The security agencies led by Captain Musa Gemu, the Commanding Office (CO) of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta, Warri Naval Base, addressed the five communities one after the other who denied being in possession of any arms.
The exercise started at Madagho community where the CO addressed the youth on their mission and urged them to voluntarily surrender their weapon in the interest of peace.
”Our mission here is for peace, I want the youth to surrender their arms voluntarily, we will not victimise anybody, but if you refuse, we will go into the community and search. After the fighting in the communities, we believe that the weapons are still there with you, bring them out as today is the only opportunity to do that,” he said.