LAND, OVERLORDS & LAND RIGHTS
By D. A. Obiomah
| Originally published in Warri by GKS Printers. Published
in URHOBO WAADO by permission of Mr. D. A. Obiomah.
© D. A. Obiomah 1987, 2002
ADVENT OF BRITISH COLONIALISM IN WARRI
The British government (Niger Coast Protectorate) assumed control of the trading areas of the Royal Niger Company in 1891. Before this date there was Agbarha, but not the town that is called Warri today. There was Ode-Itsekiri the ancestral capital of the Itsekiris, away across the creeks, off the Warri River. The Berlin Act of 1885 had been signed by European nations and the scramble for Africa had begun in earnest in the Warri area. On 14th March, 1893, the British Acting Vice Consul, Arthur Harrison, signed a Treaty of Protection with the “Chiefs of Agbassa” (Agbarha) Ref. FO 2/168. Four Agbarha Chiefs led by Igbi, head of the gerontocracy signed for Agbarha while Arthur Harrison signed for Her Majesty Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Thus the British found us independent, for they had long known the Itsekiris from Benin River to Ode-Itsekiri as their middlemen and had also signed a Treaty of Protection with them in 1884 in Benin river and another in 1894 including Ode-Itsekiri. Between 1894 and 1897 the British were busy teaching a lesson in compliance to Nana, and Oba Overamwen of Benin with powder and shot. Both and Oba and Nana were taken through Agbarha en route to Calabar and Accra. Against this background of terror the British Consulate was built on Agbarha land without protest necessitating pacification, in an area later named “New Warri” as a result of which the administration moved from Forcados to Warri as its provincial capital.
On 16th April, 1894 a civil servant Custom Officer, S.
P. Wilkey under the British administration leased land in an area to be
known after 1908 as Alders Town or Daudu or Wilkie Town, from Chief Igbi
of Agbassa. The Agreement was witnessed by Lionel Holt for Acting
Vice Consul and R. A. Alder. In 1905 Saturino Perigrino Wilkey registered
his title 12 years after when the Warri Land Registry was established as
“No. 25 of 1905 and is engrossed on page 240 and 241 Register of Deeds
Volume 3" by J. C. During, Registrar of Deeds. One of the witnesses
of the Deed was “R. A. Alders, Interpreter to Her Britannic Majesty’s Vice
The Leases: Jonah in the Boat
Surprisingly, in Warri Dore made three leases to Government for a term of 99 years each on behalf of the “Chiefs and People of Warri.” They were:
1906 Lease B2, 360 acres, New Warri, covering the Government Station including an Ijaw hamlet called Ogbe-Ijoh, in consequence of which the Ijaws were ejected in 1907.
1908 Lease B5, 90 acres covering present day Daudu or Alders Town, required as an African Township in a segregated Warri. S. P. Wilkey’s land whose title government had recognized was part of this lease, not by negotiation or consent.
1911 Lease B7, 350 acres covering Agbarha Village with it market and adjoining farmlands from which a green belt was intended to cut off black areas effectively from the whit township. See Station Plan No. 49 of 30/8/11 Reference MR. 1795, Public Records Office, London. Also Colonial Office Reports Reference CO 583/98 XC/R/2603 and CO 583/87 XC/B/1266. LEASE 1915 1360 square yards, being a small parcel of land at Okere required as extension to the Prisons for the building of Warders quarters.