Resolving Aladja, Ogbe-Ijoh crisis: The Need for Independent Mediators, Land Law experts
By Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe Esq #NewsRazor-NG
The lingering Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh land dispute requires urgent and result oriented intervention to guarantee permanent solution and peaceful coexistence among our people in the two waring communities.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Aladja people in Udu Local Government Area and the Ijaws in Warri South West Local Government Area, are interrelated through cross breed marriages over the years. They have, to a large extent, cultural affiliations, speak each other dialects and share good times together in years past, when the going was good.
The origin of the crisis can be traced and resolved holistically through independent mediators who must be renowned experts in Land Law, Boundary Adjustments and must be unbiased in the discharge of their assigned responsibilities, devoid of undue interference by political gladiators and interested parties within government.
At this point in time, involvement of senior government officials must be limited to “mere observers,” so as to avoid political considerations, because we cannot afford to play politics with the precious lives of our people.
It is common knowledge that part of the Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh decades long crisis is connected to political interests of some powerful gladiators who hide under the crisis to oil their political egos and relevance in Udu and Warri South West Local Government Areas, respectively.
Therefore, finding lasting solutions to this embarrassing crisis which tend to negatively impact on the peaceful coexistence of our people in the aforementioned local governments must be devoid of political solutions, for it to be tackled headlong for the attainment of a permanent solution.
In resolving the crisis, attention must be paid to historical and traditional land ownership in the affected land areas, consider the four land tenure systems, namely; Communal Ownership System, linked to historical facts, Inheritance Tenure System, based on traditional settings, Leasehold Tenure System, touching on all legal ramifications, Rent Tenure System, to ascertain true ownership by identifying who was and still the landlord, and who is the tenant among the two contenders, Gift Tenure System, as to whether or not the land in dispute was an outright gift by one of the parties to the other, Freehold Tenure System, and finally, the Tenant at Government Will System, to determine whether or not the state government can take possession of the disputed land to bring about permanent peace and peaceful coexistence among the waring communities.
In doing this, the Independent Mediators must also look at the “Peace Accord” signed by the parties in September 2022, at the Government House Annex, Warri which declared that the Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh communities would no longer attack each other over the disputed land. The mediators must of a necessity probe further to know why the “Peace Accord” collapsed, and the way forward as part of the permanent solutions.
The Aladja people claimed that the land in dispute which is currently occupied by the Ijaws of Warri South West Local Government Area, was given to them after they (Ijaws) were forcefully evicted from their original land in Warri GRA by a British Captain, simply called – James in 1908, while the Ijaws in Ogbe-Ijoh also have their story to tell as to why they owned the disputed land.
Therefore, the Independent Mediators must of a necessity be experts in Land Law, Boundary Adjustments and Traditional Historians, so as to do transparent justice to the dispute for peace to reign. Undue influence and bias must not be allowed to rear it’s ugly head during the reconcilation process.
Some renowned Land Law experts in Nigeria includes; Prof Sagay, Prof I.O Smith of University of Lagos, Prof Y.Y. Dadem of the Nigerian Law School, and several others. Land experts within Urhobo and Ijaw nations must not be involved in the reconcilation process, to avoid undue influence and foreseeable bias.
These professionals, randomly selected from outside Delta State, and few others can be constituted to work independently, while Representatives of Government are to be included as “mere observers” and to produce the “White Paper” after peaceful and flawless settlement.
The Secretary to the State Government, who happens to be the head of government secretariat, Dr Kingsley Emu, may serve as Secretary and observer.
Community leaders and Youth leaders of the waring communities must also be included in the settlement process, to find permanent solutions to the lingering Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh land dispute.
In the same token, Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, and the Ijaw Leaders Forum, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, and other organised sociocultural organisations in Urhobo and Ijaw nations must work together peacefully and harmoniously; and in one accord with the State Government, Independent Mediators and/or Land Dispute Settlement Consultants to find permanent solutions to this unwanted crisis, because “Peace” is priceless.
In conclusion therefore, the State Governor, Elder Sheriff Francis Oborevwori, who is also a Justice of the Peace, should do everything within his constitutional powers to permanently resolve the Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh crisis that has claimed several lives, and property worth millions of Naira.
It is strongly recommended that the immediate past governor of Delta State, and our national leader, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, CON, should be involved in reconcilation process, and to also work closely with the Independent Mediators, because he has deep knowledge of the root causes of the land dispute, judging from the negotiations that led to the signing of the “Peace Accord” of September 2022, and the subsequent issuance of a “White Paper.”
To be candid, resolving the Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh land dispute truly requires uncommon willpower, deployment of human and material resources to effectively deal with this frightening crisis that is constantly threatening the security and peaceful coexistence of our people in that part of the state.
Governor Oborevwori should use this highly problematic crisis to display his amazing street credibility and visionary leadership to the admiration of all Deltans. I trust his capacity to so deliver.
The writer: Olorogun Dr Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, is a lawyer, Justice of the Peace, Communication Consultant and immediate past Executive Assistant on Communications to Delta State Governor under Okowa administration. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Information and Strategy Management, CIISM and a Full Member of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, et al.