IHF Schools Gbemre On the Undisputable Ownership Of Warri By The Itsekiris

The Itsekiri Historical Front has once again presented all the factual evidence and historical records to


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IHF Schools Gbemre On the Undisputable Ownership Of Warri By The Itsekiris


The Itsekiri Historical Front has once again presented all the factual evidence and historical records to counter the false and fabricated claims made by Gbemre, a self-proclaimed Niger Delta activist, regarding the ownership of Warri. Despite Gbemre's attempts to distort history, the Itsekiri Historical Front remains committed to upholding the truth and setting the record straight.

Following a thorough and meticulous examination of the inflammatory publication authored by Zik Gbemre, purportedly attempting to gain recognition within the esteemed and revered Itsekiri historical front, our investigative efforts have yielded profoundly disappointing and disheartening results.

Zik Gbemre emerges as an individual marred by a consistent pattern of unfounded outbursts and irresponsible fabrications, devoid of substantiated evidence and credible sources. His antagonistic disposition towards anything prosperous, such as the revered Warri Kingdom and the Itsekiri people, is blatantly evident and unmistakable.

His reputation is tarnished by a cloak of negativity, characterized by spiteful behaviors interwoven with deep-seated tribal biases that undermine his credibility. A comportment devoid of sophistication, authenticity, and intellectual honesty inevitably relegates him to a state of insignificance in matters of credibility and esteem.

Perhaps, if Zik Gbemre, a supposed graduate of the Premier University; University of Ibadan had utilized the vast resources available at the Kenneth Dike Library in the institution during his tenure, he would have known better. So allow us to educate him since he seems to lack basic education on these matters.

The Agbassa people are merely tenants of the Itsekiri people and do not have any legitimate claim to ownership of land in Warri Township. Despite their attempts to assert ownership, the Agbassa have lost numerous court cases, which have reaffirmed the Itsekiri people's rightful ownership of the land. 

The specific court cases that uphold this decision are as follows: :

(i) ln the famous case of Ometan on behalf of Agbassa Urhobo versus Chief Dore Numa on behalf of Itsekiri in 1926 reported at pp 46-50 of 9 Nigeria Law Report, it was decided inter alia "...that when the Agbassa came to Warri they were given permission by the Olu of Jekris to settle on the land which is now known as Bomali or Agbassa village... That from the earliest times and during recent years the Agbassa rendered service to the defendant as overlord ……."

The full court of the Supreme Court (Now the Supreme Court) in 1931 confirmed the foregoing decision as reported at pages 50-52 of 10 Nigeria Law Report and added: …."the Agbassa were given permission by the Olu of Jekris to settle on land in Warri. That they have since increased in numbers, wealth and importance until now they feel themselves strong enough to impugn the title of their overlord ……"

(ii) And the Lords of the Privy Council confirmed the judgement in 1933. In further developments Asst. Judge Jackson in Suit No. W/44/l941 found:

"There is no question, I think that all claimants admit that the land, now the subject of this action, formed a part of that kind the subject of the action Ometan Vs. Dore Numa and.... as between the claimants before me, all of whom were either parties or successors-in-title to the parties in the case of Ometan Vs. Dore Numa these parties are estopped from denying these facts which were in issue and which were material to the finding of the Court in that case...." He apportioned £1 as tribute payable to Olu in the compensation involved in the case.

Ademola, an acting judge in another suit about 1949 said: "lt is common ground among the claimants that the land in question is in Agbassa District in Warri. It is also admitted that this is part of the land to which judgement in the celebrated case now known as Agbassa Land Case (Ometan V. Dore Numa) applies. The second and third group of claimants therefore do not dispute the first claimant’s claim to the land. In other words, they recognise the overlordship of the Olu of Itsekiri who is the virtual owner of the land in trust for the Itsekiri people" The Judge apportioned l/-per annum as tribute to the Olu as the virtual owner of the land."

(iii) In a case in 1957, (Suit No. W/121/57), Justice Obaseki held in substance that: "Agbassa Community...are tenants under native law and custom and subject to the overlordship of the Olu of Warri now replaced by Itsekiri Communal Land Trustees... that have the right to and can convey.... the legal estate in the land either for a term of years or in fee simple".

(iv) In a Supreme Court Judgement (SC328/1972 pp235-287 (1973) 11SC in 1973, it was said:

"That the Agbassa Community …are occupiers of the land under native law and custom and subject to the overlordship of the Olu of Warri ….and they cannot therefore convey the legal estate therein to strangers, the relationship between the Agbassa Community and the first claimants as the successors-in-title to the Olu of Warri, having been enshrined in several judgements of the Courts between the parties and their privies throughout the years."

(v) The Supreme Court in SC67/1971 & SC327/1972 (consolidated) pp 189-234 (1973) 11SC in 1973 after reviewing the judgemant of Obaseki in the lower courts; the judgement of Webber, and the judgement of the Privy Council in Ometan versus Dore; the judgement of Jackson in 1941 and the judgement of Ademola said:

"In view of these unimpeachable recurring findings by the Courts of competent jurisdiction, there can be no question that the Agbassa, including the Igbudu are customary tenants of the first claimants (that is, the Itsekiri Communal Land Trustees). Their tenure of the land occupied by them is therefore subject to the incident of customary tenancy. It is fool-hardy on the part of the second claimants (that is, Chief Sam Warri Essi for himself and on behalf of the Igbudu people) in the face of such overwhelming evidence and findings of successive courts throughout the years to seek from time to time as soon as there is notice of acquisition and the prospects of a windfall like manna from heaven to relitigate issues which have been clearly determined and laid to rest against them by persisting in the groundless assertion that the people of Agbassa are the absolute owners of the land in dispute which has been conclusively established as forming the land the subject matter of suit No. 25 of 1926".

In the Supreme Court judgement: (SC328/1972 pp 235-287 (1973) 11 SC ) in 1973, it was said:

"We have already observed that the first claimants (Itsekiri Communal Land Trust) are not mere reversioners. They are in fact and in law the legal owners of the land in the occupation of the Agbassa Community, who occupy the same subject to the usual incidents of customary tenancy, such as being of good behaviour and not attempting to alienate any interest therein to strangers without the knowledge and authority of their overlord. Any infraction of such incidents would immediately expose the offender to the full rigours of forfeiture which may be granted in a proper case. Instances are not wanting in the law reports of forfeiture having been decreed in certain circumstances... We are satisfied that the approach of the learned trial judge to the issue under consideration was correct and that his decision is unimpeachable. It is right".

To further schooled the self-acclaimed Coordinator of Niger Delta Peace Coalition (NDPC), Zik Gbemre, who, quite frankly, appears to be grossly uneducated judging by his ridiculous publication. it's important to clarify that even in a dispute between two Urhobo individuals of Agbassa descent, the court's ruling unequivocally established that the land in question belongs to the Itsekiri people - a fact that seems to have eluded his limited intellect.

Below is the case between the two Urhobo individuals from Agbassa, which declared them tenants of the Itsekiri people and not landowners, as the judge explicitly stated in the ruling. The judgment unequivocally affirmed that their status quo as tenants will never change, thereby perpetually establishing the Itsekiri people's ownership of the land and the Agbassa people's tenure as tenants:

According to Justice Uwaifo in Chief Augustus Osioh
v. Anthony Idesoh (Suit No. W/101/73); a case between two Urhobo’s of agbassa:

"There can be no doubt that the question of who are the owners of Agbassa, that is, all the villages including Igbudu, has been finally pronounced upon. It has always belonged to The Itsekiri People under the overlordship of the Olu of Warri and until recently, his successors-in-title. They (the Itsekiri) have always been overlords and the people of Agbassa have always been tenants. Any other person living in Igbudu or any part of Agbassa except an Itsekiri is a tenant.
The celebration of Agbassa juju may be an event cherished by Agbassa people but in my judgment it has no part to play in the ownership of Agbassa. The evidence of the mat from each village being taken to Otovwodo (Otoghodo), as given on behalf of the defendants who added that after the ceremonies and sacrifices at Otovwodo the respective mats are returned to each village on mentioning the founding father of that village, if indeed all these take place, is a complete hoax. It cannot be otherwise in view of the legal status of all Agbassa land to the Itsekiris. The ceremonies must have been contrived, only God knows when to make an assertion contrary to the true ownership of Agbassa land. In my view, centuries from now on those juju ceremonies and the performance of the mat ritual or hocus-pocus can never change their status quo..."

It is based on this long-standing precedent that the Delta State government has consistently, since 1999, operated on flawed assumptions to support lawlessness and empower political leaders in Agbassa. The status of Mr. Kingsley Emakpor Orereh, Igbi II in Warri is comparable to that of the Hausa King in Nupe, Hausa Quarter in Igbudu market - having a king does not automatically confer land ownership. In Nigeria, every community has the constitutional right to choose their own leaders, but the land they reside on belongs to its rightful owners. In this case, the land belongs to the Olu of Warri and the Itsekiri people, a fact that will never change as clearly established by the court cases mentioned above.

To further expose Gbemre's lack of knowledge about Warri South and the Warri Kingdom, it's worth noting that he incorrectly attributed Chief Ibori's maternal link to the Itsekiri people through his middle name "Onanefe". However, Onanefe is actually an Urhobo name, meaning "This is wealth", not Itsekiri. This mistake only serves to highlight the inaccuracies and deceit in the publication by the Niger Delta Peace Coalition (NDPC) and Mr. Zik Gbemre.

In response to Gbemre's misguided suggestion that the Itsekiri people should return to their ancestral home in Ode-Itsekiri, as leaders of the Itsekiri Historical Front, we officially request that both the Agbassa people and Idimi-Sobo people return to their own ancestral homes in Okpare-Olomu and Agbarha-Otor, respectively. They have no claim to a kingdom or homeland in Warri.

Ode-Itsekiri holds a sacred significance as the ancestral capital of the Warri Kingdom, much like Mecca is revered by Muslims globally. It is an integral part of Itsekiri identity, just as Abuja is to Nigeria's national identity. Historical records, including ancient maps dating from the 1600s to 1896, clearly demonstrate that both the city of Warri and the surrounding three Warri local government areas have always been an integral part of the Warri Kingdom. 

The Itsekiri Historical Front is an organization that maintains its name and preserves the cultural heritage of the Itsekiri people. The group defends with lawful and legal documents that which belongs to the Itsekiri people. Comparing the Itsekiri Historical Front to the Urhobo Historical Society, which is renowned for lies and falsehood, is an insult on the dignity of our organization. The lies sold by the Urhobo Historical Society (UHS), which pushes the Urhobo people into conflicts with the Itsekiris, were defeated long ago by Pa. J.O.S Ayomike of blessed memory. After his death, the Itsekiri Historical Front is filling the vacuum created to further correct the wrong narrative sold to any ethnic groups, especially the Urhobos.

The three Warri local governments rightfully belong to the Itsekiri people, as the creation of local governments was based on ethnic majority. Furthermore, all Ijaw and Urhobo clans and farm settlements within Warri are customary tenants to the Olu of Warri and the Itsekiri people. This fact has been consistently upheld by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its rulings.

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Warri's history, the ancestral capital of the Itsekiri people, known as "Ode-Itsekiri," is located across the river from the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) and is only a 5-minute boat ride from the Ugbuwangue Community. Interestingly, the current Ogiyede street, adjacent to the Federal Government College Warri, was once known as the New Ode-Itsekiri layout in ancient times. The Itsekiri people leased the land on which the Federal Government College Warri is built to the government, as well as the land for the College of Education Warri and Domdom Mingos College. In fact, Chief Ikpuri from Edjeba swore an oath that the Olu of Warri granted them permission to farm on the land.

Below are the testimonies from Agbassa chiefs and leaders, extracted from various court cases, unequivocally affirming that the Olu of Warri and the Itsekiri people are the rightful owners of Agbassa lands.

IKPURI sworn : l live at Ijeba where l was born .l am sobo . A native of Agbassa. I succeeded Ogegede …l am the Olotu(head war man ) . Agbassa village is Bomali. We come from Agbassa Otor. Jekris came here first . All this is jekris land. We render service to Olu , we cut grass and clear ground when jekris chief died. We are servant of the Olu. Ogbe Ijoh does not belong to Agbassa. Alder and Wilkie belong to jekris. Fugbe and odion belong jekris. ( suit 25/1926)

Another sobo chief testifying in the Supreme Court suit No. SC 328/1972. Chief Jackson. E.Etsaghara testified ; 
   
I was told by my elders , including chief Sam warri Essi that in the Olden days our ancestors used to pay homage to the Olu of Warri for the permission granted to settle on the land. This was not in my time. If compensation for the  land acquired is paid to us , one third of the amount goes to the Olu and two -third of the amount goes to the whole Agbassa community, not one man . The Olu of Warri by tradition is entitled to one -third of the amount of compensation paid . It is not out of mere kindness that we gave him one -third . This is in accordance with the native law and custom of the itsekiri and Urhobo in Warri division. 

Another Agbassa leader , chief Agaga Agbaisi admitted in the same suit : 

Olu is the overlord of Agbassa land. When we get compensation for this land acquired , we still share it and the itsekiri communal land trustees one - third. It has been decided that the share should be in the ration of one -third to the Olu or itsekiri communal land trustees, two -third  to the Agbassa people.

These testimonies, given under oath, confirm the long-standing tradition and legal establishment of Itsekiri ownership over Agbassa lands.

Contrary to claims made by Zik Gbemre, Ode-Itsekiri is actually located in Warri South local government and not a village deep in the creeks. Warri South shares borders with Uvwie, Udu, and Burutu.

The ongoing dispute between Ogbe Ijaw and Ogbe-Sobo (Aladja) remains unresolved because both parties have failed to produce their key witness, the Olu of Warri, who they both claim granted them permission to occupy the land since 1935.

Warri is the homeland of the Itsekiri people, and those sponsoring Zik Gbemre should at least give him the correct information about Warri, so he doesn't continue to shame his ancestors and children on the media with lies and propaganda. He should further note that the Itsekiris are not claiming to give Agbassa land, they own the land, and the Supreme Court has long settled the issue.

Just like Zik Gbemre who is an Urhobo man from Ughelli, Mukoro Mowoe was an Evwreni man from Ughelli who was made representative of Urhobo in the defunct Western Region House of Assembly from 1946 to 1948; he was the key leader of the false hope and hatred that Urhobo people have towards their landlord in Warri South today.

To clarify, Ogunu land is actually owned by Ugbuwangue Community, while Igbudu and Agbassa lands belong to the Ereku Ogitsi family of Odion. Additionally, Ukpokiti and Oteghele land are owned by the Omadino community. Furthermore, Ekurede Urhobo is actually part of the Ekurede Itsekiri community. If the Urhobos truly owns Warri, it's unlikely that any Itsekiri people would still be living in Warri.

As it relates to Warri Urban, the Urhobos have no land in warri Urban, and the delta state government knows this of a fact, the lands which the urhobo’s falsely claimed as their ownership of warri. Are just farmlands, that of Idimi-sobo is 281.1 rubber farm which okumagba won possessory title to and the radical title still remains with the olu of warri, the case Idundun vs Okumagba was never about the ownership of warri, it was a case between two quarters of okere community which idimi-sobo corrupted to okere-urhobo. Idimi-sobo was the sixth quarter in okere, victor okumagba on live tv, lied in false interpretation of the case that it's relates to the ownership of warri, how can a mere 281.1 Acer of land determine the ownership of the whole warri township? Was Victor Okumagba Oblivious of the other cases mentioned so far? Why the deliberate exclusion to favor his narratives?

Some ignorant urhobo’s like Zik Gbemre and Victor Okumagba claimed that the Okere land case was lost. However, Okere village itself was never in dispute; it was a farmland consisting of 281.1 acres of land on the outskirts of the main Okere town in the Idimi-Sobo area that was the subject of the dispute, As stated above.

The overexaggeration of the interpretation of this judgment to mean absolutely everything led the military governor of Delta State, Air Commodore Luke Ochulor, on the eve of his departure from the State to create the spurious posts of Otota of Okere-Urhobo Clan and Otota of Agbara Clan in itsekiri lands of Warri. 

The Itsekiri won both possessory and radical ownership to almost all the lands in Warri – except the Okumagba avenue, where Okumagba won the possessory right, while the radical title still resides with the Olu. SC/309/74 was won by the Okumagba family against the Itsekiri. But it is clear that they won only a possessory title – hear the Supreme Court..

“The averments in the Plaintiff amended statement of claim was based on traditional evidence and partly on acts of ownership. The averments of the defendants’ statement of defense and evidence give a completely different version of the traditional evidence. The defendants also testified as to their acts of ownership of land in dispute. It must be pointed out at this stage that the defendants are not counter claim for title to land (SC 309/74). Emphasis for clarity! 

Since Okumagba did not counter claim to title, it means the title to the land still remains with the Olu, while the Okumagba family had only the possessory title.

Furthermore, the judgment in question does not relate to the ownership of Warri or Okere, contrary to the misconceptions held by some misinformed individuals, such as Victor Okumagba and Zik Gbemre, who have erroneously interpreted the ruling to support their claims.

In fact, the judgment was specifically emphatic on the location of the farmland (page 12) thus:
“I wish to make it clear that the evidence in the case shows very clearly that the Okere village is an entirely separate and removed settlement from the land in dispute.”

This statement proves that Okere was not in dispute. These are the facts of the case:

- Okere village/community land was not litigated on.
- The Olu of Warri and the Itsekiri Communal Land Trust were brought in by Court order because of the issue of radical title involved.
- Since the defendants did not counter-claim, there was no challenge to the radical title.
- It is Idimi-Sobo that is in the proceedings, not Okere Urhobo, not Okere Urhobo Clan, and not the Okere Urhobo Kingdom that it has progressively become.
- The judgment vested no radical title in the Urhobo family but gave possessory right to occupy 281.1 acres of farmland, outside the Okere settlement. 

All the other cases within Warri – W/44/1941; SC 93/98, Suit No. W/41/57, Suit No. W/121/57, Suit No. W/3/1949 and so many others gave both possessory and radical title to the Olu of Warri. 

Thus, from the legions of litigation, only the Itsekiri had both radial and possessory ownership to all the lands in the Warri minus Okumagba layout, where Olu has the radical title, but the Urhobo enclave in Okere had the possessry rights. 

The Agbassa people do not possess any legal rights to any parcel of land in Warri. They have consistently lost every single land ownership case where they reside, as well as in other areas they claimed to own in Warri South. Furthermore, it has been officially pronounced, up to the Supreme Court, that these lands rightfully belong to the Itsekiri people, under the overlordship of the Olu of Warri.

The Kingdom of Warri, encompassing Warri South, Warri South West, and Warri North, is the ancestral homeland of the Itsekiri people. All other ethnic groups residing within this territory are considered tenants, as reaffirmed by a 2013 court ruling under Justice Marshall Mukoro, which permanently enjoined the Ijaws from disputing land ownership in Warri.

We urge the Delta State Government, under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Sheriff, to intervene and caution his kinsmen against making false claims over Warri. Furthermore, we demand that the government takes concrete steps to develop Ode-Itsekiri, the ancestral capital of the Warri Kingdom, and complete the Trans-Ode-Itsekiri roads. It is the government's responsibility to build cities and provide basic infrastructure, not that of the people. If Ode-Itsekiri in Warri lacks essential amenities, it is a failure of governance, not of the Itsekiri people.

We also call on the Delta State Government to warn the Urhobo people to cease making false claims to the Warri Refinery and Nigeria Gas Company, which are located in Warri South and Ubeji land.

The Itsekiri Historical Front would like to take this opportunity to inform the public that the Itsekiri people who make up the Warri Kingdom are not limited to Warri South, Warri South West, and Warri North alone.

The Ugbolokposo people, who are predominantly Itsekiri, have historically possessed over 85% of the landmass in Uvwie Local Government. They won both radical and possessory titles to various areas, including Okwatata, Ebrumede, Ugbomoron, and even the Effurun Market Shrine. Notably, the Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE) is situated in Ugbolokposo, although it is often mistakenly referred to as being located in Effurun.

In a similar vein, the renowned Delta State Polytechnic is situated in Itsekiri land within Ethiopie West Local Government. However, during his tenure, Governor Chief James Ibori forcibly relocated the Ibrifo Community closer to the river and divided their land to establish the school, which he dubbed Otefe Oghara. To this day, the Ibrifo people remain displaced behind the school.

It is worth noting that the Itsekiri people have a significant presence in Delta Central, with over 56 aboriginal communities scattered throughout the region. Unfortunately, they have been subjected to political marginalization and oppression by successive Delta State Governments that have been dominated by Urhobo governors.

Signed 

Comr. Lilywhite O. Esigbone 
Chairman 
Itsekiri Historical Front

Comr. Silva Samuel Maku
Secretary 
Itsekiri Historical Front

Comr. Kwame Woode
P.R.O
Itsekiri Historical Front


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