By Chinelo Obogo
Civil rights activist, Rita Lori-Ogebor has urged Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, to immediately intervene in the brewing crises between the Ijaw and Itsekiri communities over ownership of the land in which an oil spill recently occurred.
Speaking at her Lagos office on Thursday, Ogebor who was reacting to threats by Ijaw youths led by one Shedrack Ebikeme, to destroy properties on Itsekiri land over oil spill that occurred at one of the pipelines they allege that belong to Chevron.
Though Chevron has reportedly denied owning the burst pipeline, the Ijaw youths threatened that if the oil giant does not compensate the community where the spill occurred, ‘there would be a high price to pay.’
Ogebor however said that contrary to claims by the Ijaw youths, the community where the pipeline burst belongs to the Itsekiri and threats to destroy property would only lead to more crises and urged the governor to intervene to prevent an escalation of the problem.
“I was shocked and sad to see a video on social media by an Ijaw group led by one Shedrack Ebikeme, beating the drums of war. He threatened to stop boats from moving up and down the rivers in Itsekiri land. This made me afraid and sad because it reminded me of the war between the Itsekiri and Ijaw communities because this is how it started before it snowballed into a huge crises.
“The cause of the problem was that the Ijaw are claiming that the Itsekiri and the Olu of Warri are getting all the oil royalties. A lot of people who didn’t know the workings of oil prospecting companies in Itsekiti land were spreading the rumour that every Itsekiri man is rich, while the Olu is a billionaire. So, the war raged, destroying the little we had in our villages. It was at the end of the war that the Ijaw found the Itsekiri were as poor as themselves. The Ijaw and Itsekiri are in the same terrain with poverty, hunger and underdevelopment on both sides.
“Now we are here again as the cause of this present problem is the oil spill in Itsekiri land. All the lands in that area have been adjudicated upon from the High Court to the Supreme Court and it has been established that the land in which the oil spill occurred belong to the Itsekiri. However, both sides came to an agreement by court judgment that proceeds from the resources should be shared with Itsekiri taking 60 percent while Ijaw takes 40 percent. I am sure Mr. Ebikeme who is now talking must have been very young during the Warri crises. He must be very ignorant of the different cases that have been adjudicated upon in Warri and its environs. I will ask the young man not to create uncessary war that will bring huge devastation to the area by peddling rumours about what he doesn’t know.
“I am now asking Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, whom I have always respected as a deep thinker to look into this matter urgently to avoid another war. In the meantime, I call for full investigation into the death and kidnapping of three Itsekiri people,” she said.