The attention of the Okpe Youths Council has been drawn to the publication of a so called Itsekiri National Youths Council, Sapele Chapter, on various social media platforms and the Vanguard Newspaper page 24 of 15th April 2020, signed by Comr. Tseti Bobi (Chairman) and Comr. Jolomi Ikpere (Secretary).
It is important to avoid the misconceptions and misinformation intended to be disseminated by the authors of the publication, for us to put the records straight and to properly inform those that may have taken anything from the said publication.
We therefore, as the nationally recognised body that speaks on behalf of Okpe youths globally, state as follows regarding the contents of the said publication and related matters.
3. The Sapele District of Okpe Kingdom is peculiar as it attained the status of township in the early colonial era and therefore became a cosmopolitan city rapidly. As an Okpe township, it has been host to Nigerians(and Africans) of different ethnic backgrounds for over a century.
4. Sapele is traditionally made up of four quarters namely:
Egborode quarter, Oton quarter, Etamua quarter and Ogodo quarter which descendants all collectively own the entire land and natural resources comprised in the territory known as Sapele District of Okpe Kingdom.
5. The Sapele Township or District comprises eight delineated federal wards which, along with other wards, make up the Sapele Local Government Area.
6. It is important to note that no other ethnic nationality or tribe has any claims to any territory in Sapele Local Government Area other than that some of some Itsekeris who reside or have legitimate property in accordance with the freedom to live in any part of the Nigerian federation guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution.
7. The early establishment of huge companies like UAC’s, African Timber and Plywood(AT&P) , Kingsway Supermarkets, Oil exploration and production companies, Eternit Ltd, Seaboard Group of Companies, among others, brought an influx of members of other ethnic nationalities to Sapele whom the Okpe indigenes of the land graciously accommodated. The fact that representatives of the indigenes of the various nationalities accommodated by their Okpe hosts visit the palace of the Orodje of Okpe annually to pay homage to the Okpe monarch is a testimony to the fact that the Okpe people have been continually hospitable.
8. It is therefore quite misleading, shocking, insolent, and desecrating for the faceless group to insinuate that there are indigenous autonomous Itsekiri communities in any part of Sapele Local Government Area of Okpe Kingdom in Delta State. Indeed there are residents of other ethnic nationalities in Sapele including Urhobos, Edos, Ibos, Esans, Itsekiris, and many others. This applies to many other townships and cities in Nigeria and beyond as non indigenes are free to live in different places.
9. The first legal dispute over Sapele Okpe land was resolved in favour of the Okpes in case of Ayomanor & Omarin on behalf of themselves and the Chiefs and people of Sapele V Ginuwa II, the Olu of Itsekiri for himself and as representative of the Itsekiri people of Sapele, at the High Court, Warri Division in 1942. In his judgment, Jackson J. declared as follows:
“I do grant to the plaintiffs Ayomanor and Omarin, and to those members of the Okpe Clan who are the blood descendants of the founders of the settlement now known as Sapele lands, a declaration of title that they are the owners of that land now commonly known as the Sapele Township. The plaintiffs are entitled to the full costs of this action which I assess at 150 pounds”. This judgement was upheld by the West African Court of Appeal(WACA) which was the highest appellate court then to which the Itsekiris had appealed the judgment of the lower court.
10. The boundaries between Sapele Local Government Area(which is exclusively Okpe ) and Warri North Local Government Area(which is owned partly by the Itsekiris) had from the colonial era been determined by various orders made by the Colonial Government of Warri(later known as Delta) Province, under the Forest Reserve Ordinances. It is these settled boundaries that have been recognised and maintained by successive incidences of local government creations. The boundaries between the Okpe and Itsekiri on the northern flank is therefore firmly documented. For example, by Order No 33 of 1933, the “Odogun of Okpe” ordered, with the approval of the Governor, the constitution of the “Gbekoko” land containing thirty five square miles into the Ukpe-Sobo Forest Reserve. The First Schedule to the 1933 Order clearly delineates the boundaries, viz: East – Ojikwu Village on the Benin River; South – A cut line due West from Ajakolo Village to meet the “Hole in the Wall” Creek; West- From the last named point in a North-westerly direction by the “Hole in the Wall” Creek to its confluence with the Benin River; North – By the Benin River in an easterly direction to Ojikwu Village. It is this recognised boundary above that has constituted the boundary between Okpe and Itsekiri on that axis since colonial times.
The above being ordered by the Udogun Okpe(the Okpe Kingdom Ruling Council) with the approval of the Colonial Government clearly evidences that no other ethnicity had ever contested the ownership of the territories in that axis of the current Sapele Local Government Area, as nemo dat quod non habet (no one gives what he does not have).
11. For the other villages mentioned in the unfortunate publication outside Sapele Township, over which the authors claim entitlement to autonomous community status, we simply have this to say. The presence of a few members of a neighbouring ethnic group or a few incidences of intermarriage with them does not give any more rights to them beyond peaceful residential and legitimate business interests. Indeed the hospitable nature and culture of the Okpe people has made Okpeland very attractive to various ethnic nationals of Delta State and Nigeria. Itsekiris are not as many like the Ijaws, Ibo’s, Hausa’s in number as many of the other nationalities that Okpes have accommodated peacefully in Okpeland for decades and more in some cases.
12. The Okpe Youths Council(OYC) therefore issues this warning to the faceless group or any others that make any claim of interest beyond residential and legitimate business activities in Okpeland, to step back and tender unreserved apologies to the Okpe people and particularly to His Royal Majesty, the Orodje of Okpe.
13. For the distribution of government palliatives for the COVID 19 pandemic and particularly the Senator Omo Agege intervention to Delta Central Senatorial District, which the said publication referred to, the channels for such and the likes have always been the electoral wards and units which local government areas are delineated into throughout the federation. All communities fall under units and wards.
14. We ask all indigenes and residents of Sapele, as well as offices and personalities intended to be influenced by the misleading publication to ignore its worthless content.
Finally, we call on our dear President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Senate and the Executive Governor of Delta to call Itsekeri Leaders and their Youths to order as the raising of unnecessary tension could lead to breakdown of law and order and can lead to breach of National Security.
Long live Delta State
Long live Okpe people and Kingdom
Long live the Orodje of Okpe.
Hon. Harrison Okpako Ekeleme
(President of Okpe Youth Council Worldwide)
Amb. Ekpo Samuel Okakuro (Okpe Youth Council Publicity Secretary )