The Uneme-Uzanu community in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State has challenged the decision of the Edo State Government to issue a gazette ceding the community’s land to another community-Igiode- in a purported bid to resolve the dispute between communities.
Acting under the aegis of Uzanu Progressive Union (UPU), the community, in a statement on Thursday, by Messrs Julius Athekame and Kabiru Idris, National President and General Secretary respectively, accused the Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Mr Phillip Shaibu, of using the false gazette as a political vendetta against the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba.
In the five-page statement, the community called on the Federal Government to take note of the “unwarranted intimidation” by Governor Obaseki and his deputy against Agba, a non-proponent of their second term bid, as part of their effort to settle political scores.
They described the action of the governor and his deputy as an “upsetting drama carefully rehearsed by the Edo State Government to trample on the rights of the people of Uneme-Uzanu.”
The action by the State Government, according to them, was in spite of several courts’ judgments, including the Supreme Court, that affirmed the right of ownership to the disputed parcels of land in the Uneme-Uzanu community.
The statement reads in part: “The Governor, without going through the history books, gazetted the followings:
i. That since Igiode Community was the one that gave Land to Uzanu, in the first instance, its claim to its boundary with Uzanu to run from River Niger through to Afa- Ogwoyor Road to Km 30, to Omonofa River, Railway line at the point marked (Point IG 2) up to Upa River (Point IG 1) to Iviebua Uzanu Upa road down South as indicated in the Survey Map, be adopted and accepted.
ii. That the boundary line being claimed by Uzanu to run from River Niger (Point UZ 2) through to Uzanu- Igiode (Point UZ) to Iviebua-Renaissance Survey map be rejected;
iii. That the two Igbechi Fish Ponds which were named by both Igiode and Uzanu to belong to Uzanu up and/above the Afa-Ogwoyor road on the Survey map to be given to Uzanu Community. While the Imada Uvagoro, Ulukudu Onyigue within the area owned by Igiode Community down and or/ below the Afa – Ogwoyor road be given to the Igiode community;
iv. That the Igiode-Iviebua Communities’ boundary with Uzanu though on the same lane with Igiode and Ivebua boundary appears not to be of problem having defined that between Igiode and Uzanu by this settlement/ demarcation, Iviebua is Southwest of Igiode from Uzanu-Igiode road through to Uzanu-Upa road.
v. That the State Boundary Committee through its Technical Team be mandated to carry out the physical demarcation of the boundary between the two communities in line with the position as stated above.”
The statement continued: “If we ignore the pejorative of the Edo State Governor as a Community in this contest, it will be said that the privy gazette of the State Government provides a fairly accurate testimony as stated in its report.
“It is worthy of note that the land issues between Igiode Community and Uneme-Uzanu were fully settled through a series of litigations initiated by Igiode Community in Suit No. HAU/28/78 delivered by the Honourable Justice J. B. Amissah of the Auchi High court on the 20/11/79; Suit No. HAU 15A/72 delivered by the Honourable Justice J. Omo-Eboh on 8 August 1973 and Suit No. HAU/13/72, with all decisions in the favour of Uneme Uzanu. Subsequently, an appeal to the Supreme Court No. SC. 386/74 filed by Igiode Community was equally dismissed for want of diligent prosecution on 26 January, 1976 while another Appeal No. SC 411/74 was struck out.
“Our distrust is that the State Government, not without prejudice, is aiding our neighbouring Igiode Community to accomplish its mission over the land dispute that has lasted for over 50 years and resolved in favour of Uzanu.
“The Governor and his Deputy are doing this by digging up the settled land dispute between Igiode and Uzanu; a case that was struck out by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1974.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state on behalf of our community in clear and concise terms that Uneme-Uzanu cannot be bullied to accept the decision which is biased, self-serving and orchestrated by the State Government to get the patronage of Senator Francis Alimikhena, a newly-found loyalist of the Governor and his Deputy without recourse to the grave consequences of fanning the embers of ethnic discontent between the two neighbouring Communities.”
The statement added: “The action of the Governor and his Deputy has further emboldened the people of Igiode who constantly block the only access road to Uzanu, machete several people to almost point of death and resorting to kidnapping of our women.
“Despite these provocations and challenges, several calls and text messages were sent across to Senator Francis Alimikhena representing Edo North at the Nigeria Senate, to call his kinsmen to order. This to date has not yielded any fruitful resolution to the unprovoked aggression. Being a matter of life and death, the entire livelihood of Uneme Uzanu Community has been decided in a stone politics, perched on a bluff.”
According to Uneme-Uzanu community, “It is a good time to reflect not only on Clem Ikanade Agba, the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, who is suspected not to be a proponent of the second term bid of the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, but the entire community whose efforts he rode to power as Executive Governor of Edo State.
“In fighting the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Ikanade Agba, who is incidentally married to the younger sister of Governor Godwin Obaseki, the Governor has unwittingly deprived the entire community of their land and God-given resources.
“This lays-bare the long adage that when two elephants fight the grass suffers. In this case, one of the elephants is an in-law to the Governor. That begs the question as to what extent some politicians go to sacrifice friendships, brotherhoods and kinship to achieve political powers.”
The community stated that “to a degree, the action of the Edo State Governor is not only hurting his brother in-law (the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Ikanade Agba) who equally spent his time and money campaigning throughout the State and led the entire Uneme-Uzanu Community to vote overwhelmingly for the Governor in 2016, but also his bosom friend, Chief Jibril Aku, the erstwhile Ecobank Managing Director from Uneme-Uzanu Community, who contributed financially to his 2016 election campaigns.”
The community declared that as law-abiding citizens, “we stand by the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria that ceded all currently appropriated lands to Uzanu.
“Having regard to all the points touched in the judgments between the two Communities, the Igiode Community herein referred to as (Plaintiff) failed to establish the claim against Uneme-Uzanu herein referred to as (Defendant).
“Whereas the court found as facts that the Uzanu people did not beg the Igiode people for a land on which to settle, and that the Igiode people did not give the Uzanu people the land they allegedly gave to the Uzanu to settle on. It also found as a fact that the Igiode people and the Uzanu people live at two distinct places.
“It was equally established by the court that Uneme-Uzanu (Defendants) herein maintained that the people of Uzanu have the following villages round Igbechi Lake; Onuobu, Yeluwa, Ukpeko, and Ogwoyor, while noting that the distance from Igiode to Uzanu is about 5 Kilometres, and from Uzanu to the said Igbechi Lake is about 9 Kilometre. Since no person can get to Igbechi Lake without passing through Uzanu Land, the Lake belongs to Uzanu.
“We therefore reject in its entirety the purported gazette by the State Government used as a yardstick to exercise the power of eminent domain to cede communal land and resources in a renewed dispute as an act of vendetta.
“We, the Uneme-Uzanu Community, have unwavering support for our son the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning on all political matters. The incident of politics which has crept in and become firmly established to alienate the Community of its inheritance is a mischief aimed at punishing an entire community in an unrelenting measure; a subterfuge to settle cheap political scores.”
The community declared that the perceived “hatred exhibited by the Governor against our son, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, is uncalled for as we are all citizens of Edo state in the first instance and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
According to the community “solving this historic land dispute by coercing our Community pretentiously to concede their God-given resources portends danger as the Government ought to work with the two communities to compare notes in resolving this renewed cradle of instability and grievances amicably in line with subsisting judgments.”
“The discreet conspiracy by the State Government is only intended to create further damage to decades of existing strong, hard-won relationship as neighbours with mutual respect.
“We call on the Governor, His Excellency Godwin Obaseki, to remember that at any political chess game, the king, pawn, queen, knight and the others all go into the same bag.
“We have your younger Sister, Wife of the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, and we will continue to protect her no matter the swirl of disputed ideas in Edo state,” the community further stated.