WARRI— The Itsekiri said yesterday that the Ijaw in Warri were not saying the truth when they said that 20 of their members were killed penultimate Thursday on the Benin River. The Itsekiri said rather, it was 19 defenceless Itsekiri made up of 10 males, seven children and two aged women that were massacred by the Ijaw.
The Itsekiri gave the names of those killed as Onuwaje Waide, Eyinmisan Dorsu, Atsetosan Oluyibo, Kpone Ejoh, Keke Uwala, Lucky Abede, Tuoyo Abietan, Tiyan Okosu, Okpogo Eyelusan, Comfort Inomibighan, Cecilia Kpoto and Vero Omayemi. Others are Mary Kporfor, Richard Jenjen, Moses Tsaninomi, Eremoje Tenuma, Tseke Toritseju, Clifford Magbeyi and Toukpe Omamuli.
Addressing newsmen on what it called “New Dimension of Propaganda by the Ijaw National Council”, spokesman for the Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC), Mr. Matthew Itsekure said that on Thursday, January 8, 2004 at about 3:00pm, some unsuspecting Itsekiri who managed to make their way back home were attacked and brutally murdered while on a minor fishing expedition for daily sustenance.
"The only survivor who was under intensive care for two days, Mr. Ajobite Oghomeje said he and the deceased persons were in different canoes when they were interrupted by a speed boat conveying armed men in military uniform. “As it turned out, the unsuspecting fishermen mistook the Ijaw militia for men of the Operation Restore Hope and waved at them. The response was a staccato of automatic rifles. The spraying was indiscriminate, a few initially survived since they dived into the water and hid under the mangrove external roots with various degrees of injury.
“As at Friday, January 9, 2004, we confirmed the death of 19 and as at two days ago, Tuesday, January 13, 2004, we were still searching for one Miss Esete Uromashoma and we presume that the missing lady would be dead by now.
“The corpses recovered so far have been buried in bushes nearest to where such corpses were found in accordance with Itsekiri customs and traditions, since such corpses can not be taken to human settlements.”
The Itsekiri National Youth Council said, “these unending killings of Itsekiri can not but be some of the actualization of the boast of one Chief (names withheld) that the Ijaw will continue to unleash violence on the Itsekiri.”, adding “A serious government should have long brought the Ijaw Chief to face the law.” This will never happen in a country like ours; moreso in Delta State where the government has never seen anything wrong in the Ijaw progrom, genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Itsekiri.
“To the Ijaw, everything in Warri kingdom can collapse since they have no stake as they own neither property nor land. They are marine nomads. Wherever they are, such places are always crises prone. Bayelsa and Rivers State are classical examples where the Ijaws have made life unbearable for the law abiding”, the INYC stated.
While pleading that “our displaced people are itching to go back to their homes and start life all over again”, Itsekiri said “each time an attempt is made to return the Ijaw have refused through military attacks. We have lost umpteen numbers of persons to this effort. We want to go back to our communities.
It is a task that we cannot compromise as we shall never cede an inch of our land to our customary tenants whether the Ijaw like it or not, at God’s own time, we shall go back and reclaimed all our lands”.