Urhobo Historical Society

WARRI
LAND, OVERLORDS & LAND RIGHTS
(OMETAN Vs DORE NUMA)
FACT, FICTION & IMPERIALISM

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.


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