From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
Residents of the Iviukwe community in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State have called on Governor Godwin Obaseki and the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali, to step in and address a case of alleged intimidation and detention of community members by the police over the sale of community ancestral land.
Addressing newsmen in Benin on behalf of the sons and daughters of the community, Mr Okpame Ozekhome, alleged that Chief Mike Ozekhome and Okumagbe of Uwano, George Oshiapi, mastermind their arrest to suppress the community members from asking further questions about the sale of the community’s ancestral land of 5000 hectares to Dangote in 2013 for the construction of a fertilizer company.
“For one week now, there had been harassment, arrest and detention of community members over a false allegation of inciting violence in the community and resisting arrest.
“Among those arrested are Chief Francis Ozekhome including his two sons, the community chairman, whose legs were tied and handcuffed in viral video among others.
According to him, community members are being harassed and arrested for asking questions about their sold ancestral land and insisting the tradition and lay down procedure should be followed in installing the community head after the death of the village head.
But reacting to the allegation, Mike Ozekhome described it as baseless, and without element of truth adding that it was targeted at tarnishing his reputation.
“The people are out to destroy my reputation despite everything I have done for them, as the land they alleged sold to Dangote is intact and owned by the same indigenes who are farming on the land. Edo GIS has also denied knowledge of the C of O belonging to Dangote.
“Nothing like that ever happened. Dangote only paid the villagers for the destroyed economic trees when they did preliminary excavator works on a part of Iviukwe lands on a proposed fertilizer project before they suddenly abandoned it and packed their machines and left for Ondo where they commenced fresh works.
“When the victims of their mayhem and destruction reported to the Agenebode Divisional Police and Area Command at Agenebode, they instigated some youths who went about and viciously attacked the Police, damaging their vehicles.
He advised that the people should be called to order so as to prevent them from doing further damage to his good name and reputation of the innocent revered Okumagbe of Uwano Kingdom and the good name of the community.
On his part, the Okumagbe denied the allegations, saying he has nothing to do with those arrested.
He said the issue of land sold to Dangote has nothing to do with the arrest as the negotiation was done during Adams Oshiomole and that enumeration of economic crops was done while the people were duly paid compensation.
He said the crisis in the village was a result of the disagreement in the Ozekhome family who are fighting Mike Ozekhome and that they see anybody close to him as an enemy.
The Edo State Police Command spokesman, Kontongs Bello, however, said those arrested were as a result of the attack on the police after an on-the-spot assessment, following a petition by a member of the community over the destruction of property.