(I) We want a final or permanent solution to this recurring Warri crisis.
(II) Republic of Niger Delta:- Since 1994 the Ijaw have in their petitions to the British Government. through Her Majesty the Queen and to President Bill Clinton declared their intent to establish their Republic of the Niger Delta on the Nigerian Coast from Ondo state to Akwa – Ibom i.e swallowing our homeland of Warri Kingdom. Their several other publications have said the same thing. Thus the Ijaw armed aggression against Itsekiri, Urhobo communities of Gbarigolo etc. Benin and Ilaje over the past five years is a translation into reality of their intent.
(III) The recent ethnic cleansing in Warri involving the burning down of over 30 Itsekiri towns and villages, loss of over 100 Itsekiri lives (including security personnel) invaluable property and Oil Installations is the process of carrying out their agenda for the Ijaw Republic.
· We can not continue to be cannon – fodders to the Ijaw warriors under the Ijaw National Congress (INC). Itsekiri population is about 450,000; Ijaw over 7 million
IV HOMELAND: In Nigeria ethnic nationalities have their homelands where they have their roots, their myths and traditions. It’s not only Itsekiri; all others. Warri is Itsekiri homeland. All history, traditions, Intelligence Reports, Treaties and Court judgments say so. Today our homeland is the single largest oil producer in the country. We don’t want to lose it to the Ijaw Republic; we are part of Nigeria Our homeland is generally clearly delineated as ‘Warri’ or ‘Itsekiri’ on all ethnic maps over the last 400 years.
* 1952 Census (Warri Division)
The Ijaw of Gbaramatu and Ogbe Ijo 232
Source: the Benin Kingdom with a section on the Itsekiri by P.C. LLoyd
* First – ever local Government elections in Rural Warri Division, 1955
Benin River 11 wards
Koko 6 wards
Gborodo 5 wards
Gbaramatu 3 wards
Egbeoma 5 wards
Ogbe Ijaw 3 wards
Sources: WRLN NO, 176 of 1955
* No of wards at creation of Warri North, 1991
Itsekiri wards 7
Ijaw wards 4
* No of wards at creation of Warri South West , 1997
3 Itsekiri wards and 2 Ijaw wards taken form Warri North.
The 3 Itsekiri wards factored by 2 to 6 wards
The 2 Ijaw wards factored by 2 to 4 wards
* 1963 Population Census for Warri Division
Ethnic group Population % of total
1 Itsekiri 92,711 64%
2 Ijaw in 3 enclaves 20,702 14%
3 Urhobo of Agbassa 2,000 1.4%
4 Urhobo of Idimidobo, Okere 480 0.3%
5 Others – Urhobo, Edo, Ibo
Hausa etc 29,167 20%
NISER Population Projection 1980
Warri Division 400,000
Itsekiri 250,000 est
Ijaw 50,000 est
The Itsekiri population has never been given or shown as less than the Ijaw population at any time in Warri Division. The Ijaw population in their 3 local Government Areas of Patani, Burutu and Bomadi on the Western Delta plus Bayelsa is about 7 million. No group except a lawless one would talk of change to wards in Warri South West Local Government Area when the local Government is not up to ten years old.
The Purported Urhobo Treaties between the British and Agbassa, Ogunu and Ejebba in 1893
They are fake Treaties not signed by the Representative of Her Majesty’s Government. They carry the stamp of British Vice–Consulate Forcados. Forcados was under the jurisdiction of the Royal Niger Company (RNC) which had no British Vice Consulate declared’
Flint, an official of the RNC, has declared : “Forcados Treaties were forged”.
Source:- Obaro Ikime – Merchant Prince of the Niger Delta 1968 page 63
There are six Idimis (Quarters) in Okere, an Itsekiri Community within the Warri metropolis. They are: Idimi Ode–Kporo, Idimi Jakpa, Idimi Ode – ile, Idimi Ogun obite, Idimi Ajamogha and Idimi Sobo, the last being the newstand for settlers. Chief Benjamin Okumagba family belongs to one Urhobo family (out of the lot in the quarter) that won a possessory title to 281.1 acres of farmland off Okere proper. The Itsekiri of Gbolokposo enclave won over 1,000 acres of land – a radical title, in this case in Uvwie (Urhobo) Local Government. With his connection to his faction of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) he seeks to lord his family over the whole of Okere. Whereas his quarter in Okere is known as and called Idimi- Sobo, he calls it Okere Urhobo clan, or Okere Urhobo Kingdom which names had never been used in Okere nor featured in the litigation that ceded a possessory title to their family. In 1992, less than a year after the creation of Delta State, an Urhobo Governor Chief Felix Ibru enthroned Chief Okumagba as Otota of Okere Urhobo clan. In the suit M/51/92, the Olu challenged the state Government on this aberrant action successfully. Although the court restrained the state Government and Chief Okumagba from using the title for a non –existent clan, till today the lawless Chief is still using the title even though his appeal is lying unresurrected in the Appeal Court. In the over 450 years of Okere history, no family members of Okumagba’s settler family has filled the headship of Okere. The headship of Okere is based on an ancient patri-lineal system traceable to Ekpen, the warrior form Benin and Founder of Okere.
Ibori’s State Government
To the Itsekiri, Ibori’s Government has become the worst nightmare in their experience of deceit, inconsistency and brutal suppression.
Governor Ibori came in, in the middle of the peace process. At a point where the Itsekiri had reached some areas of understanding with the Ijaw and Urhobo, especially the former, Governor Ibori suddenly somersaulted and unilaterally took some actions whose results have produced the present problems. For example:
a) Impartial panel of experts
It was agreed that impartial retired judges or lawyers from outside the State (possibly) be empanelled to be assisted by representatives from each of the ethnic groups to assess the court judgements on Warri lands. The intent was for Government to decide firmly once and for all that court decisions be adhered to religiously in the areas affected. Nothing has been done on this as decided.
b) Final position papers
While the governor adjourned the sittings for both Itsekiri and Ijaw groups to produce their position papers making concessions to each other so as to agree on a place for the Warri South West Local Government headquarters, Ibori suddenly without re-scheduling any further meeting relocated the headquarters to Ogbe-Ijaw from Ogidigben. Today this illegality still remains, because no further meeting was held to reach a consensus that would enable the National Assembly amend the relevant laws.
· Ibori’s government has today not assisted in rehabilitating any of the over 35 Itsekiri towns and villages destroyed in 1997- 1999 as Ondo State Government has done in Ilaje.
· Ibori’s government has recognised other traditional rulers in Warri Kingdom – a most unedifying action taken to destroy the Itsekiri psyche. In fact Ibori has flagrantly contradicted the two Government white papers on the Judicial Commission Reports of Justice Omosun and Justice Nnameka Agu that decreed against splitting Warri (Itsekiri homeland) among three ethnic groups.
· On January 31st 2003 when Chief Okumagba’s warriors withdrew from the P.D.P. primaries in the Warri stadium to burn over 22 Itsekiri houses in Okere, Governor Ibori said nothing. When the mayhem continued on Saturday 1st February, Asaba continued to remain silent. Then on Sunday evening when the Itsekiri youths went on a revenge rampage and destroyed property in Okumagba estate, Ibori grew upset and angry to the extent that when he dashed to Warri to inspect the extent of damage, he refused to meet the Okere Itsekiri who were waiting for him. He went to commiserate with his UPU chairman.
· Governor Ibori has condoned the brutal oppression of the Itsekiri by the Ijaw settlers of Gbaramatu who have changed all the original names of the towns to Ijaw. All maps up to the 1980s still bear the correct original names, but the new maps by his ministry of Lands and Survey have used the new Ijaw names such as:
Okerenkoko for Okereghigho
Kokodiagbene for Ba Kokodie
Pepe gbene for Aja ipepe
Opuedi for Uremure and so on and so forth
· In the recent Ijaw invasion to ethnically cleanse Warri of Itsekiri people, Governor Ibori had played a most passive but suspicious role. While he rode from place to place campaigning for his second term in a business-as-usual manner, Ibori most unfortunately interfered in the improper release of Ijaw leaders caught red-handed in boats loaded with weapons. Over 30 towns and villages have been burnt down and up to the time of writing this paper Governor Ibori has not visited any of these places where the bulk of the funds for his “Resource Control” gimmick are derived. And he has neither condemned this pogrom and ethnic cleansing nor has Ibori shown an interest whatsoever in the refugee problem arising from the Ijaw mayhem.
· Itsekiri Leaders Forum had complained to Governor Ibori that Itsekiri could no longer easily bury their dead in Warri. He promised to look into it. Till date he has done nothing after over ten months. Until force is used to bury our dead – which could explode into ethnic war – Ibori will do nothing.
· Since Ibori came, his Oghara people have besieged Ajagbodudu, an Itsekiri town in Warri North Local Government area with a view to annexing it as part of their Ethiope West LGA. The boundary between Ajagbodudu and Oghara has since been settled on the basis of the Jackson Line in suit No. W/22/1941 long long ago. Ibori is behind this illegality.
· Early last year by a letter Reference EGPM/PAR/002/02, an Ijaw group – Egbesu Grass root Political Movement – wrote to Governor Ibori, copying other Government functionaries and others in the State, warning that, come the years 2005 and 2007, they would forcibly take over their lands in Warri covered by leases B2 of 1906 and B5 of 1908 from the Itsekiri. Already Ijaw youths are forcibly preventing people from re-roofing or building in these areas. And Governor Ibori has done nothing to eject those Ijaw that still forcibly occupy Itsekiri houses in the water-front area of Warri. To us the future seems ominous and we foresee a greater war in which all our people may be wiped out. And these are lands in Warri leased early last century to the British Crown by the Itsekiri olu, and was given back to us before Independence.
· And what’s more! Even the House of Assembly of the state could not pass a motion condemning this barbaric whole sale destruction of Itsekiri towns and villages, persons and property including oil installations that make their state the richest in Nigeria.
Conclusions and Prayers
Today, we recall the Willink’s Commission Report of 1958 which made recommendations to usage the fears of minorities. Hence the Minorities Protection Clause was entrenched in the Mid West Region Constitution of 1964. The Itsekiri, Akoko-Edo and Western Ijaw were covered under this clause. Then Western Ijaw (the present 3 Ijaw local Government areas in Delta State) ironically were a minority. Then there was no crude oil, no gas and no INC! Unfortunately, the military scrapped this clause when the came to power in 1966.
The Itsekiri ab- initio had opposed their inclusion in the Mid West Region until they had the guarantee of the protection clause in the Mid West Constitution of 1964. Therefore when the military abrogated the clause, they struggled to the limit of their and resources to be excluded from the then proposed Delta State for fear of oppression and marginalisation-today’s pogrom and ethnic cleansing in Warri were not even contemplated then.
A visionary Urhobo leader, Prof. Sam. Oyovbaire and one time Federal Minister of Information in a pamphlet in 1980 titled For those against the creation of Delta State, prophetically cautioned:
“In the case of the proposed Delta State, the Urhobo people, within the psychosis of a dominant group, would very soon go about threatening the other groups by their numbers. They would demand and boast that the capital of the state is destined for them, the Governorship for them, Chief Justice for them, Permanent Secretaries for them, all markets for them; everything for them. They would demand soon that the title of the traditional ruler of the Itsekiri will be changed from the Olu of Warri to Olu of Itsekiri; that the whole of Itsekiri land belongs to them …… and so all land settlement belongs to the Urhobo……The easiest way to destroy the case for a Delta State is for Urhobo and their fifth columnists to go about harassing all other peoples by the “Okumagba (Sic Okumagba) kind of politics”, the politics of calumny, villification and with chauvinism”.
Prof. Sam Oyovbaire’s prophesy has not only hit the bull’s eye, and there is little and no time left to save the bull – Itsekiri ethnic nationality. We are vindicated and we are proved right.
We cannot be more dead than the dead. We have been driven to the wall. We have come to the realisation that we do not belong to this State. Now, we have come to the point of no return. We cannot continue to be canon-fodders to the Ijaw Egbesu warriors. Enough of Okumagba intrigues with his UPU faction. We owe to prosperity our precious heritage of our oil filled Warri homeland. We will not lose a square inch of it to anybody even in the face of naked terror.
We have decided to leave this state willy-nilly and we have called on all Itsekiri wherever they are to wear black clothes. We shall declare a day of national mourning for all our dead, slaughtered, burnt and missing.
We shall declare our homeland to be outside this state on a given day. On that day of declaration, we shall state where we shall be.
It has to be noted that we are not declaring a Warri Republic. We strongly believe in the Nigerian nation where all ethnic nationalities are given a sense of belonging and minorities protected. What we say is that we will explore all constitutional means to take our Warri homeland i.e. Warri South, Warri North and Warri South West local government areas from Delta State.
We call on the Federal Government as a matter of utmost urgency to rehabilitate all Itsekiri towns and villages destroyed by the Ijaw and the Okumagba Urhobo between 1997 and 1999 and in the years 2002 and 2003.
We further call on the Federal Government to provide adequate protection to displaced Itsekiri with a view to ensuring that they return to their towns and villages with a sense of security.
Although we are determined to leave Delta State for good we, as Nigerians, are entitled to the protection of the Federal Government of Nigeria as provided for in section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wherein it is declared that:-
“The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of Government”
Therefore we call on the Federal Government to ensure the Itsekiri are protected from any further attack by the Ijaw warriors under the direction of INC and Chief E. K.. Clarke the self-acclaimed foremost Ijaw leader.
We further call upon the Federal Government to provide relief materials to all Itsekiri refugees wherever they are.
For Warri National Council For Itsekiri Leaders Forum
Chief G.E. Mabiaku Chief I.O. Jemide
The Iyatsere of Warri Secretary
Mr. J.O.S. Ayomike
Chief F.E. Esisi Chairman, Politics/ Strategy Committee
Olare-aja of Okere
Mr. Eni Afolabi ‘Umuko
Chief E.C. Jones Executive Member
FOR ITSEKIRI ETHNIC NATIONALITY