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
CONSTRUING THE OVERLORSHIP OF THE OLU - PRELUDE
In 1927 the Itsekiris mooted the end of the interregnum
which started in 1848. They wished for an Olu to be installed. But Government
would not hear of it. To them Chief Dore was Olu hence no Olu could be
appointed untilafter Dore's death. If even the idea of installing an Olu
was therefore dropped, the Lugardian policy of growing Emirs where none
existed had failed. On Dore's death in 1932, he had to be succeeded by
the new Itsekiri Council for Itsekiri affairs while deliberations went
on clminating in the installation of Ginuwa II, Olu of Itsekiri in 1936.
The Itsekiris had asked, and government had refused, notwithstanding all
that had gone before, to style the Olu, Olu of Warri. Otherwise, nothing
changed much. The Secretary Southern Provices' Office recalling the situation
wrote that "it appears by no means certain that the Hekris have been disposed
to take full advantage of the Privy Council decision; or that they have
been encourage to do so" because in the opinion of the Lt. Governor now
Sir William Hunt, "the Jekris rights as 'overlords' of the area "are still
governed by native law and custom" by now so confused from manipulation,
thus defying definition.
It was not until 1941 that the British Conlonial Government took the initiative. The later African cemetry, outside the area of the leases had been compulsorily acquired by the Government from Agbarha people. Further extension necessitated further acquisition. Who should receive compensation? Government on its own initiative instituted Suit No. W/44/1941, Chief Commissioner, Western Provinces v Ginuwa II, the Olu of itsekiri, Sam Warri Esi and Obiomah Ejenavbo. Similar initiative was taken by the Government on two other occasions in suits No. W/3/49 and No. W/22/56 when it required Agbarha lands. In the first two cases only a token amount of about 5% was awarded by the court to the Olu of Itsekiri, even then to the chagrin of the Agbarha who abhorned the idea. But worse was to come. In the third Suit No. W/22/56 the proportion fell to 2/3 for the Agbarha people and rose to 1/3 for the Itsekiri Communal Lands Trust. This was to be the pattern henceforth. The Trust took us to court for a share of compensation which the Agbarha always refused to give voluntarily.