Land tussle: Edo Community under siege in spite of favourable court Judgment·
· appeals for urgent Government, Oba Ewuare II intervention
By Abavo Kingsley Ahwaritoma, Benin
Iguomo and Ikhuenbo communities in Uhunmwode Local Government Area, Edo State for several years were locked in legal tussle over ownership claim of land situated at Benin by – pass, Benin – Auchi Road, until judgment was given by the High Court in 1987, the Appeal Court in year 2000 and Supreme Court in year 2006; all in favour of Iguomo.
Also, the Benin Traditional Council (BTC) under the headship of late Benin monarch, Oba Eradiauwa gave judgment in favour of Iguomo community with the order that 150 feet should be given to Ikhuenbo.
But Iguomo Community said in its magnanimity and obedience to the order of the monarch, gave 200 feet to Ikhuenbo Community as the boundary demarcation between them was carried out under the supervision of the Surveyor – general of Edo State, while elders of both communities and security operatives watched as witnesses.
Expectedly against this background, peace should prevail but the reverse has been the case as Ikhuenbo community has not relented in its struggle to take- over the entire land space, Iguomo people cry out.
Allegedly, the Ikhuenbo people have continuously resorted to the use of arms, harassment and intimidation of the people of Iguomo community.
Now, they complain that they live in fear of the unknown as two youths of Iguomo community have allegedly been shot dead, many wounded, and properties destroyed by their tormentors; Ikhuenbo community, in this struggle.
Iguemo community cry – out that in spite of having the Supreme Court judgment on their hands, they still find it difficult to take possession of the land in contention due to the threatening Ikhuenbo community who allegedly ambushed developers, and citizens with all manners of dangerous weapons, and chase them out.
Members of Iguomo community who assert that they are law abiding people and would not resort to self-help thus engaging Ikhuenbo people in fire exchange, called on the Edo State Governor in his capacity as the Chief Security Officer of the State, the State Commissioner of Police, and the Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare N’ Ogidigan II to quickly intervene to prevent the situation from snow balling into unpalatable one.
They said though since the different court judgment and that of the Benin monarch, the Police have taken steps to keep the peace in the area but seemingly efforts need to be intensified.
Several members of Iguomo Community spoke with our correspondent.
Johnbull Owenaze, who claimed that he was personally threatened on phone by unknown persons from Ikhuenbo community that he would be killed if he does not back out of the struggle to take possession of the land, called on the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the Benin Monarch to help prevail on the Police authority to immediately intensify security in the area.
He complained that his people can no longer go to their farms neither developers can go work on the plots acquired for fear of being attacked by Ikhuenbo people.
Comrade Stanley Osaze narrates; “Iguomo and Ikhuenbo communities have been in legal litigation over a long period at the High Court, Appeal Court, and the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Iguomo people in the year 2006.
“Because we are law abiding citizens, we have maintained all decorum and explored all legal means to ensure our interest is protected under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“And as we speak, we have gotten the warrant of possession from the State, but ever since the people of Ikhenbo community said that they will continue to resist Iguomo people even though we won in court.
“As we speak, they have been killing Iguomo people. Just recently, they shot dead two Iguomo youths, and nine persons wounded.
“Instead of Ikhuenbo people to adhere to the rule of law, they have decided to resort to use of arms, and deplore terrorists into the area in contention; they threaten to kill whoever that dare enters as if we are chicken.
Osaze poses the following questions; Was it wrong for the people of Iguomo to have resorted to use of legal means in resolving the land dispute?
“Are those using guns and other dangerous weapons to attack Iguomo people bigger than the Laws of the land and Authority responsible for their enforcement?
“We want to know whether we should submit to the Government because the laws of the land are supreme or those that threaten to eliminate us if we dare attempt to take possession of what legally belongs to us.
“As I speak with you, our lives are not safe, that is why we call on Government and the security agencies to quickly come to our aid, to save us from these elements who believe they can use the barrel of the gun to achieve their aim at the detriment of the laws of the land, and law abiding people of Iguomo.
“We are crying out today because they are not relenting; it now seems that the barrel of the gun is stronger than the Supreme Court judgement that we have.
“There was a verdict by the Palace that Iguomo community should give Ikhuenbo community 150 feet from the road. But because of the magnanimity of Iguomo and no individual in Benin that would want to argue with the Oba, we immediately gave them 200 feet.
“Unfortunately, in spite of this they have continuously attacked us.”
Further, Iguomo people alleged that one Enamwonkponwen Emovon who is suspected to be one of those who murdered two of their youths and have since been evading arrest was recently found somewhere in Benin.
He was apprehended and the police invited to take him away they said adding but instead of arresting him, they aided his escape as it was discovered that he was not anywhere held by the police.
“…We immediately alerted the State Police Command and some group of police, who claimed to have come from the Zone 5, told us that they were taking the suspect with them to the State C.I.D.
“But we were shocked that this suspect was not taken into police custody as we were told at Zone 5 that no such suspect was in their custody. We therefore appeal that government takes appropriate action in this matter.”
Iguomo people claim ownership of the land in contention from the Benin by- pass on Benin – Agbor road, down to the Okhuahe River.
Godwin Edokpayi, Joseph Uvwuvwose, Idahosa Okhuarobo, and Sunday Agbontaen ; all spoke in the same vein stating the Iguomo people want to continue to be law abiding hence the call for urgent Government intervention as well the Benin Monarch.