Encroachment and threat to life: Edo community sends SOS to Oba of Benin
By Abavo Kingsley
Iguoloi-Nisi and Evbozegbo villages in Orhionmwon Local Government Council Area, Edo State are typically agrarian richly blessed with vast stretch of forest resources, and holds huge economic value waiting to be explored for the benefit of natives and everyone generally.
The story of the two villages as told by owners of the land smacks of trust, love and good neighborliness as foundation laid by the founders.
But unfortunately, that good foundation is fast falling apart owing to selfish interest as the two neighbours are no longer at ease and peace with each other over lingering boundary dispute.
Now, if relevant authorities especially the Benin Monarch, HRM, Oba Ewuare II do not intervene on time, the situation could degenerate into some unpleasant tales.
Iguoloi-Nisi was said to had been founded at about 11 A.D, during the era of Igodomigodo before the reign of Oba Akenzua I, by Oderogho.
Oderogho was a palace aid to the Oba and on successful completion of his term, he was allowed to go found a village of his own.
He consequently arrived at the modern day Iguoloi-Nisi as a virgin forest without anyone having earlier settled in the place except Isua and Iguogbe villages who share boundary with him. Also, he shares boundary with Iguonelegue village.
After Oderogho had lived in his settlement for many years, founder of Evbozegbo; Ezegbo came to join him.
Both of them were friends way back in the palace of the Oba as aides.
Ezegbo was said to had committed murder at the palace which caused him to flee from been executed .
In his flight, Ezegbo initially settled at Okhuahe village and the Oba sent his aides to go fetch him.
When they (aides) arrived entrance of Okhuahe, somehow, Ezegbo got the information and again escaped.
The Oba’s aides were disappointed not to have found Ezegbo on their arrival to Okhuahe but only his foot-prints.
They decided to take the foot-prints to the Oba who was very angry saying: how is it now possible to convert the foot-prints into the wanted man?
When Ezegbo left Okhuahe, he ran to meet his friend; Oderogho who granted him refuge.
Before his arrival, Oderogho had dug three wells at the boundary between his settlement and neigbours; Isua.
This was where he asked his friend Ezegbo to encamp. Here, Ezegbo carried out his hunting carrier and was bringing to his benefactor; Oderogho games captured.
Indeed, Ezegbo was a faithful servant.
As time progressed, Oderogho found it necessary to inform the Enogie of Egbede that Ezegbo; the wanted man by the Oba is under his refuge.
Both Enogie of Egbede and Oderogho decided to report to the Oba about Ezegbo’s whereabouts.
For sins of Ezegbo to be forgiven, Oderogho and the Enogie were asked to pay a stipulated fine by the Oba, which they complied.
This made Ezegbo to be more faithful in serving Oderogho.
Later on, Ezegbo told his benefactor that he had located a place within the settlement he considered would be good for him to live, and asked for permission.
Oderogho informed the Enogie of Egbede about Ezegbo’s request which was approved.
Consequently, the boundary was mapped out between Iguoloi – Nisi and Ezegbo new settlement; Evbozegbo. It was a natural moat which runs down to Isua River.
From there to Iguogbe belong to Iguoloi-Nisi and farming had been their occupation.
In appreciation of what Oderogho did for him, Ezegbo continued paying homage even his children after him.
But suddenly, the people of Evbozegbo began a gradual encroachment on Iguoloi-Nisi’s land.
They initially encroached for farming, and harvesting of timber but the people of Iguoloi-Nisi ignored them saying provided; they do not turn around to claim ownership of the land.
In 1955 Evbozegbo people first attempted to turn their encroachment, to claim ownership of the land.
Following the dispute that arose thereof a decision was taken to commit both villages to swear to an oath (native shrine) to determining the true ownership.
To curry favour and support, the people of Evbozegbo gave a piece of land to one Chief Aguobarueghian who was in-charge of over-seeing land use in Benin Kingdom back then, near the boundary of Isua village.
Chief Aguobarueghian brought with him one Chief Ekhator as Oba’s representative, to supervise the event of committing both villages to swear.
But the people of Iguoloi were not convinced of the claim that Ekhator was sent by the Oba instead, was to aide manipulation of the process in favour of Evbozegbo, they suspected and protested against him.
Eventually, the attempt to claim ownership of the disputed land failed until 2002, the people of Evbozegbo again began to foment trouble by re-tracing an already existing boundary between the two villages.
Whereas, the boundary between the two villages extends to River Ake at Iguogbe village down to River Akpowa in Iguoloi-Nisi where it ends.
But now, Evbozegbo is trying to jump over Iguoloi-Nisi village to go have boundary with Iguogbe.
Early 2002, the matter was brought to the attention of Enogie of Uvbe HRH Alexander Enobakhare Okunbor.
At this time, Paul Igbinikhokho Eboigbe was the Odionwere who gave evidence on behalf of Iguoloi-Nisi.
While Imainakina Okunbor the Odionwere of Evbozegbo could not give evidence instead a man, called Ilewhoba gave an unconvincing evidence on behalf of the village.
On 12 April, 2002 on the instruction of the Enogie Okunbor the boundary demarcation was done, and 16 April, 2002 he proposed to give his verdict.
But in anticipation of unfavourable out-come, Evbozegbo people ran to ‘Ohengie’ in the Oba’s Palace and consequently the two villages were invited.
When people of Iguoloi-Nisi discovered that the matter was once again being manipulated against them they had to protest; upon which a letter of petition was written to the Oba.
Following the petition, the Oba summoned both villages, and their Enogie.
After hearing both sides, the Oba constituted the Chief Olaye led-investigative panel to handle the matter, and report to him.
The panel in their work, found ‘Ugbogun; and Ikhimwin tree among others as boundary marks between Iguoloi-Nisi and Evbozegbo villages.
All the indicative boundary marks were there for all to see even up till this day.
Also, the panel in its finding observed that boundary of all villages in the area extends and terminate at the river including that of Iguoloi-Nisi with its neighbor, Evbozegbo.
From available historical evidence, it remains a fact that the founder of Iguoloi-Nisi Oderogho gave the land area of Evbozegbo to its founder; Ezegbo when he ran to him for refuge after committing murder at the Oba’s Palace and was hunted for execution.
Consequently, the panel recommended to Oba Erediauwa on the 22 July, 2002 that the natural features should continue to serve as boundary demarcation between the two villages.
Meanwhile, Enogie Okunbor had forwarded to the Oba for acknowledgement his earlier ruling which was in favour of Iguoloi – Nisi.
Upon the receipt of the panel’s findings and recommendation including resolution of the Enogie on 29 September, 2003, the two villages were invited to the Palace for settlement.
Oba Erediauwa had resolved the dispute; that the Iyanuwu’ (moat) continue to serve as boundary between Iguoloi-Nisi, and Evbozegbo villages.
But against the Oba’s resolution, Evbozegbo took the people of Iguoloi-Nisi to court in Abudu on 11 November, 2003 where the evidence was manipulated.
The Oba’s resolution was not filed, while that of the Enogie initially-filed was removed without our knowledge.
Sometime in 2009, the reigning Enogie of Uvbe HRH Jesurobo Okunbor summoned the people of Iguoloi-Nisi to inform that he wish to settle the boundary dispute between the two villages.
But the people of Iguoloi-Nisi told him the issue had since been resolved by Oba Erediauwa and there was nothing to settle anymore.
Angered, he threatened that if Iguoloi-Nisi refused to comply with his decision, he would join Evbozegbo to fight them.
The Enogie without our knowledge wrote to the court for withdrawal of the subsisting suit.
When confronted about the role he was playing, he replied that if two disagreeing parties go to the Oba’s palace for resolution, the party that is not satisfied with the outcome has the right to go seek redress in court.
Enogie Jesurobo Okunbor’s conferment of the Chieftaincy title of ‘Adolor’ on Friday Erhabor, former CDA Chairman of Evbozegbo village, and arrowhead of the continued attack, was enough evidence of his position in the lingering boundary dispute between the two villages.
The chieftaincy title conferred on him serving as tonic, Friday Erhabor increased the intensity of his leadership of Evbozegbo attack on Iguoloi-Nisi.
They have now taken the attack to a new dimension of harvesting farm produce belonging to people of Iguoloi-Nisi, and often chase them away from their farm land with guns and other dangerous weapons.
Even they use chemicals to destroy our newly cultivated farms. When we cried to Enogie, he did not do anything.
There was one classic example; Evbozegbo people met one of our women with a baby on her back working on her farm.
They chased her away; the baby on her back was pulled off, and thrown like a stone. After three weeks, the baby died.
This lingering boundary dispute with its appendages has led to several court cases; many of which, Iguoloi-Nisi have been the victor.
The people of Iguoloi-Nisi are appealing to all relevant authorities, and the Benin Monarch to intervene in the prevailing dispute and peace threatening situation in the area to stem its continued degeneration.