LEGAL AND FACTUAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE NIGERIAN MARITIME UNIVERSITY OKERENGHIGHO: WHY THE POSITION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION (AGF) REMAINS INFALLIBLE

The past week has witnessed an unprecedented stream of comments on social and orthodox media as a consequence of the advice given by the


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LEGAL AND FACTUAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE NIGERIAN MARITIME UNIVERSITY OKERENGHIGHO: WHY THE POSITION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION (AGF) REMAINS INFALLIBLE
Okerenghigho map

Introduction:

The past week has witnessed an unprecedented stream of comments on social and orthodox media as a consequence of the advice given by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to the National Assembly to act in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court (Suit No: SC. 294/1970 James Uluba & Ors Vs. Chief E.E. Sillo & Ors.) on the issue of the proper nomenclature of the location of the proposed Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenghigho which prior to the said judgment was erroneously proposed to be called Okerekoko.z

Consequent upon the above development, we the people of Omadino Community of Warri South, Warri South-West, and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta State of Nigeria deem it fit to place the issue in proper perspective in the overriding interest of truth, justice, and fair play; hence the need for the following critical examination of the issue.

There is no gain saying the fact that humanity has since gravitated away from the regime of force as a tool for the acquisition of real or personal property. 

In essence, modern civilization guarantees that we no longer live in the Hobbesian state of nature where might was right.

The legal and factual materials:

It is our duty through this publication to present to the domestic and global communities compelling evidence documenting the fact upon which our claim rests.

For the purpose of clarity we now present the legal and factual materials which we invite any one with adverse claim to refute in as much a civilised manner as we now do.

From when the original Ijaw migrants settled at Okerenghigho, they paid rents, tributes, etc to the people of Omadino until the Ijaws of Gbaramatu became sufficiently emboldened by the almost anachronous state of affairs in the Niger-Delta region, increase in their population from neighbouring states, wealth and importance resulting in the extravagant challenge of the title of their Landlord (i.e the Omadino people) for  which reason they consequently refused to pay the aforesaid tributes and rents. Some of the legal battles include:

 Suit No. W/29/49 (Later W/29/51 upon transfer in 1951): E.E. Sillo & Anor (For themselves and on behalf of the people of Omadino) Vs. Aduromokumor ( For themselves and on behalf of the people of Bakokdia) for the declaration of title to land. In this suit judgement was granted in favour of Omadino people in respect of Bakokodia, Okerenghigho and the surrounding villages.

Quotable legal notes:

“ I am satisfied and find that the Plaintiff founded the village of Okenghigho, Omadinor, Bakodia and Akpata; Ofomini and his son Biabor settled with their people at Bakokodia with the permission of Chanomi and the Elders of Omadinor”- Per Courtney Walton Recee Puisne, Judge. See Page 4 of the judgement.

Sequel to the said judgment the Ijaws continued to disregard the above judgment, and Omadnio people sued the Ijaws for and an Order of Forfeiture at the Warri High Court. The case progressed to the Supreme Court where ultimately the Ijaws accepted a consent judgment in which they clearly acknowledged Omadino’s ownership of the land. See Suits Nos. W/29/51, WACA No. 3707, W/37/61 and SC/393/64; W/35/75.

The Omadino people again in 1962 were constrained to institute suit No: W/30/1962: Chief E.E. Sillo & 2 Ors (For themselves and on behalf of the people of Omadino) Vs. James Uluba & 2 Ors (For themselves and on behalf  of the people of Okerenghigho) where they especially sued the people of Okerenghigho for possession, rent and injunction. In the judgment delivered on the 3rd of October, 1969 the court entered judgment for the people of Omadino and trial judge held: 

“The evidence of the Plaintiff (i.e. the Itsekiris of Omadino) and their witnesses as to the founding of Okerenghigho before me in this case is more credible than the Defendants ( i.e the Ijaws of Okerenghigho) and leads me to the conclusion that Okerenghigho or Okenghigho was founded by the Plaintiffs’ ancestors and that the original ancestor of the Defendants by name Akpata and his followers settled on the land with the permission of the Plaintiffs’ ancestors. And I find that he accepted his position as their customary tenants. This I so find” 

Dissatisfied with the above decision, the Ijaws appealed, and the said appeal (Suit No. SC/ 294/70) was dismissed by Ellias C.J Sowemimo and Ibekwe SC JJ. 

On the difference between the names Okerenghigho and Okerenkoko, the trial judge held interalia on page 14 of the said judgment as follows: “I find as a fact that the land in dispute is called Okerenghigho by the Plaintiffs who are Itsekiris and Okerenkoko by the Ijaws who are the Defendants”

It is worthy of note that the court as said earlier held in favour of the Plaintiffs, who for the purpose of emphasises are the people of Omadino who are Itsekiris.

The Google Map containing the locally and internationally recognized code is for Okerenghigho and not Okerenkoko; as there is no known code for Okerenkoko. It must however be pointed out that the fraudulent grand design by the Ijaws of Gbaramatu has escalated to a desperate level where they registered same with Google Map a few months ago to show Okerenkoko in place of Okerenghigho; oblivious of the fact that the Nigerian Postal code database does not recognise Okerenkoko but only Okerenghigho. This can be empirically verified by anyone interested.  

A quick check will reveal that the records of oil companies in the area as well as airplane navigational information all point to the name Okereghigho as the aboriginal name of the land in issue; whereas the recent concoction of “Okerenkoko” is only part of the said grand design to fraudulently obtain and illegally retain the proceeds from the acquisition of the land in issue.

Approved Government Maps of the area all confirm the claim of the Omadino people.

Arguments against the propositions of the Ijaws: 

It must be noted that throughout this debate, the position of the Ijaws has not in any way been to challenge any of the above judgments but to insist that the government must discountenance the said judgments as they claim that they are in possession amongst other baseless points  which we shall now in our characteristic civilised and law abiding manner address seriatim.

On the issue of physical possession of the land we submit that there is a world of difference between possession and ownership. The two rights can and are most times vested in different people. Every tenant is in possession while a Landlord does not need to be in possession. This does not require any further argument as Omadino remain legal owners not withstanding that the Ijaws of Gbaramtu are in possession with the permission of the people of Omadino Community some of whose people were also in possession until the recent Warri pogrom designed executed by the Ijaws against the Omadino people in the said area with the tacit support and approval the then President of the Federal Republic Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who himself is an Ijaw man. 

On the accusation by the Ijaws against the AGF that he is an embarrassment to the Federal Government we are deeply disappointed that in this modern age, there are people in existence who consider themselves educated and desirous of a University but unfortunately at the same time are exhibiting the primitiveness of absolute disregard not only for the judgment of the Court of Law but that of the highest Court in our land, the Supreme Court.

Accordingly, we urge the National Assembly not to succumb to the blackmail of the Ijaws of Gbaramatu who have threatened that should the said judgment be enforced, they would resume bombing of pipelines in the Niger-Delta region. In a constitutional democracy like the type we practice, it would be the blunder of biblical proportion for the judiciary to interpret the law only for the legislative arm to act in contempt of it. The Federal Government must warn highly placed legislators of Ijaw ethnic extraction who are making unguarded and contemptuous comments in this regard. 

We call on all Nigerians to unanimously and vehemently for once speak the language of respect for the rule of law as this is the only way this country can sustain its gravitation away from the primitive state of nature where might was king.

In particular, we request members of the civil society; especially the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the International Community not to maintain their ghastly silence on this horrendous threat to civilisation.

Regrettably, it is almost becoming a routine for the Ijaws in this region to blackmail the Federal Government into sacrificing the rule of law on the altar of necessity for oil exploration. We recall the issue of the illegal relocation of the headquarters of Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State of Nigeria, the illegal delineation of Wards in Warri South, Warri South-West and Warri North as well as the recent attempt to illegally convert estates in Benin Kingdom by installing an unknown king.

We challenge the President Buhari’s Administration to live up to its core responsibility of executing the laws as made and interpreted by the Legislative and the judiciary respectively  as to do otherwise would amount to sacrificing the very law which it professes to side with.

Conclusively, we must state that the judgments and facts articulated above have also been made available to the National Assembly and the Executive arm of Government whose constitutional duty it is to protect lives and property and create an enabling environment for the citizenry to exercise its civil; rights including those of possession; which rights cannot be denied a people simply because they are a national minority, law abiding and not disposed to felonious conducts that can disrupt the national economy.

We have now placed our facts in the public domain with the cordial invitation to any challenger to refute in a civilised manner. 

………………………………………

DR. ROBINSON EYEKOSI-UWATSE

(CHAIRMAN, Omadino Management Committee) 

………………………………….

PA. NELSON I. AMIWERO (JP)

(SECRETARY, Omadino Management Committee)

………………………………….

ELDER O.D EDUKUGHO 

(OLARE-AJA/ CHAIRMAN, Omadino Council of Elders) 

……………………………………..

BUGE REECE EDUKUGHO

(SECRETARY, Omadino Council of Elders) 


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