This was forwarded to me
by an Itsekiri colleague:
From: "Bawo Ayomike" <Bawo_Ayomike@freddiemac.com>
From: email@example.com (EWORITSEMOGHA MABIAKU)
Date sent: Thu, 3 Jun 1999 09:35:01 -0400
Subject: Re: Meeting at State Department
Ugbajo Itsekiri USA Incorporated
P.O. Box 11465
Washington, DC 20008
March 16, 1999
Dear Dr. Rice,
Genocidal War on Itsekiris by Ijaws
in Nigeria's Niger-Delta Region
We applaud your vision and the energy you have demonstrated in fashioning a meaningful US policy towards Africa. All through, you have been steadfast in your condemnation of repression and violence in the region.
Our respect for you kindled this desire to write to plead for assistance to resolve the on-going tragedy in the Nigerian Niger Delta meaningfully. We urge you to use your medium to highlight the genocidal attack on Itsekiris by neighboring ethnic Ijaws in the region and to help the effort to stop the atrocities.
To us, the crisis in the region is tragic because Ijaws have maliciously targeted and harmed members of neighboring ethnic minorities who, like the Ijaws themselves, face economic deprivation consequent on oil production activities in the area. Oil spills and gas flares have polluted the farmlands and rivers, severely debilitating the effort of residents to eke out a livelihood. In addition, these peoples are politically marginalized because of their minority status. For Ijaws to orchestrate and wage a campaign of terror and barbarous atrocities against itsekiris and other ethnic groups in the region is therefore distressing.
Are you aware that Ijaws have massacred thousands of innocent Itsekiri men, women and children in the past two years? Are you aware that Ijaws have destroyed thirty Itsekiri communities in the Niger Delta, rendering thousands of Itsekiri homeless? Are you aware that there are countless others who are still missing and are feared dead? These atrocities have continued largely unabated and you could easily verify them from knowledgeable independent sources.
Ijaws cannot and should not be allowed to continue this genocidal rampage while beguilingly presenting themselves as aggrieved environmentalists. Ijaw motivation is not a concern for the environmental degradation of the region. If this were the case, they would seek redress through a cooperative alliance with other Niger Delta indigenes. Their true motivation is to usurp land-ownership rights to satisfy their insane territorial expansionist strategy. The oil flow stations they have unlawfully occupied are situated on lands leased to Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited and to Chevron Nigeria Limited by Itsekiri communities. They are Odidi I and II, Egwa I and II, Otumara, Saghara, Uton Nanna, etc. You may seek to confirm the veracity of this statement from the oil companies.
Now, we will provide you with the following background into the current crisis to highlight the beastly behavior and actions of Ijaws. In addition, we shall provide evidence to demonstrate that they are pretentious environmentalists who are truly land-usurpers.
Atrocities Committed by Ijaws
Between March 1997, and June 1997, Ijaws attacked Itsekiris in Delta State, Nigeria, leading to the death of thousands of people. Many houses and properties were destroyed, with sophisticated weaponry, and looted by Ijaws. Although all accounts in both print and electronic media portray Ijaws as the aggressors, no person or persons have been tried, let alone brought to justice, for these heinous crimes against law-abiding Nigerian citizens. And strangely, all the multifarious human-rights organizations have signally failed to condemn even in one word the unprovoked Ijaw aggression and pogrom against Itsekiris.
Almost two years later, Ijaws remain on genocidal rampage. Scores of marauding Ijaws continue to harass, kidnap and massacre Itsekiris, beheading some of their victims, and cause mayhem, as in this past October when they committed the dastardly act of destruction of Ode-Itsekiri, the historic ancestral home to all Itsekiris, Orugbo and Omadino, other ancient Itsekiri communities.
Why the Rampaging?
Ijaw spokes-persons proclaim fallacious justification for their barbarous and murderous acts saying they are merely reactions to continued economic deprivation and political marginalization in Nigeria. Apparently, the latter treatment was exemplified by the relocation of headquarters of a sub-regional administrative unit, Warri South Local Government Area (LGA), to Ogidigben, an Itsekiri town, from Ogbe-Ijaw, an Ijaw settlement in Warri. According to Ijaws, Itsekiris orchestrated this move and are therefore enemies who should be exterminated.
First, lawlessness and terrorism are abhorrent and condemnable tactics. Much as Itsekiris deplore the exploitation of natural resources in our homeland and other oil-producing areas of the Niger
Delta without regard for the deleterious ecological impact on the delicate regional ecosystems as well as the strangulation of local economies, we have sought to utilize lawful instruments of remedy. We have never waged war on our neighbors nor have we resorted to inhuman acts like beheading and other forms of dismemberment. This must be denounced and stopped.
Secondly, the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, has never intended a LGA headquartered in Ogbe-Ijaw. Rather in 1996, the FGN created a new council in Warri to add to Warri South and Warri North LGAs. The new council was Warri Southwest with headquarters in Ogidigben. Warri Southwest LGA was formalized by Decrees #36 of 1996 and # 7 of 1997, published in the Federal Government Gazette of December 30, 1996, and March 3, 1997, respectively.
In an egregious display of abuse of power and in direct contravention and violation of these decrees, Col. J. D. Dungs, the erstwhile Military Administrator of Delta State, falsely announced the creation of a Warri South LGA with headquarters in Ogbe-Ijaw. A requisite authoritative instrument of creation of Warri South LGA never backed this announcement.
Certain that this was a deliberate "error", Itsekiris invited the attention of the FGN to the anomaly. Rightly, the FGN ordered Col. Dungs to implement Warri Southwest LGA as it had decreed. All three Warri LGAs have known little peace and tranquility since then.
As Ijaws are aware, it is not within the competence of Itsekiris or other ethnic nationalities to create local government areas. Such action is the preserve of the FGN. Nonetheless, we maintain that the decision of the FGN to create the Warri Southwest LGA was right despite the calamities thatthis single act has wrought on us. The justification for our stand is historical as well as legal.
Ownership of Warri
Historically, Itsekiris have been a well-known ethnic nationality despite their minority status. Their Warri Kingdom - a 1,520 square miles of land comprising the existing three Warri LGAs of Warri South, Warri Southwest and Warri North, created from the old Warri Division - was an independent and sovereign state prior to the British/Nanna (Benin River) Expedition of 1894. Numerous historians have recognized and documented this fact.
We have attached a map of the West African sub-region that was drawn by a Dutch Explorer in 1705 when the entire area was known as Guinea. The only areas akin to the countries we know today were Ivory Coast, Gold Coast and Slave Coast. Back then, the explorer noted the existence of both Great Benin (The Benin Empire) and Awyri in an area that is part of the modern Nigeria. The authentic atlas of Nigeria depicts Nigeria's ethnic groups, Itsekiri included, on page 21. Notable Nigerian historian, Professor J.F. Ade Ajayi, delineates Itsekiri country on the map of the Niger Delta States of 1600 - 1800.
On page 329 his book, Professor Ajayi states as follows:
"The Portuguese Captain, Pereira, summarizing his countrymen's knowledge of the West Coast of Africa at the beginning of the 16th century, saw all the coast from Forcados River to Bonny River (Rio Real) occupied by Ijo-`Jos'. This stretch of coast does, in fact, correspond to that currently inhabited by the Ijo. Pereira's record suggests that those Ijo groups now living west of Forcados _.had not yet arrived at their present territory by 1500. Arogbo was first mentioned in 1644_."
By 1473 - 1480 the Bini Prince Ginuwa had established his kingdom over the Itsekiri people of Omadino, Inorin, Ugborodo, Ureju, and others living in the area now known as Warri Kingdom or Itsekiri country.
Other historians ranging from Professor P.C. Lloyd, Professor Obaro Ikime to Professor Kenneth O. Dike, first Nigerian Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan and former Professor of History at Harvard University, have very aptly described Itsekiri country in their works.
Intelligence reports by early British administrators also support Itsekiri-ownership of Warri. Assistant District Officer, in 1931, wrote as follows:
"The Gbaramatu Clan (Ijaw) controls the disposition within the areas of fishing, hunting and occupancy rights over land and water subject to the rights of the Itsekiri Council representing the Olu (of Warri) to see that it does not confer rights on strangers without consent. The Olu, as overlord, received one-third of all rents collected from strangers by the Gbaramatu Clan."
How could this same land belong to Ijaws? However in characteristic malfeasance, they have redrawn the map of Nigeria and arrogated to themselves the entire Niger Delta region.
Ijaws contend that Ogbe-Ijaw (an Ijaw-settlement in Warri South West LGA) belongs to them. They make this bogus claim although the three Itsekiri LGAs (Warri North, Warri South and Warri South West) are co-terminus with Warri Kingdom, the bona fide and indisputable homeland of Itsekiris. We dare them to cite any authoritative source that supports their claim.
In case you wonder, Nigeria is simply an amalgam of kingdoms and republics that existed before British intervention. Ethnic nationalities lived in geographically exclusive homelands similar to those of the English, Irish, Scots and Welsh in Great Britain, and others scattered around Europe. Today, Nigerian ethnic nationalities still have their homelands.
For commercial reasons, most
kingdoms like Warri at that time, allowed enormous human traffic into them
through the mid-nineteenth century. Some of these immigrants settled into
new communities away from their homelands. Today, enclaves of non-indigenes
exist in various homelands. There are Urhobo settlers in Ondo, Warri, Burutu
and Benin; Itsekiri settlers in
Benin, Ijaw and Urhobo lands as there are Ijaw settlers in the former Benin, Warri and Ugbo Kingdoms. As the other citizens, these settlers are accorded the freedom to engage in any pursuit of their choice. However, they have no land-ownership rights. This is a customary pattern all over Nigeria that is not peculiar to any ethnic homeland.
Several courts of competent jurisdiction, from the highest court in Nigeria to the Privy Council in England, have found Itsekiri-ownership of Warri to be unimpeachable because of these historical facts. In cases that date back to the early part of this century, Ijaws have lost every legal battle they have waged to secure ownership rights to Itsekiri land. One of considerable importance was the case of Chief Isuokumo Oloiki and others (for themselves and on behalf of Ijaw settlers in Ogbe-Ijaw in Warri) versus Itsekiri Communal Land Trustees. The plaintiffs sought a declaration of titular rights to most of Warri. However, they decided to discontinue the suit when their futility became apparent on close legal scrutiny. Justice Vivour Rhodes delivered judgement in 1964, part of which was as follows:
"On the 9/7/1964, this Court delivered its Ruling refusing the plaintiffs' application to discontinue after the trial date had been fixed to the knowledge of the parties. The plaintiffs have now asked for leave to discontinue under Order 28 Rule 2 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules Cap 44 Laws of Western Nigeria 1959. The plaintiffs are hereby precluded from bringing any further actions or action against any or either of the first and second defendants in respect of the claims of which specific particulars were given in the Writ of Summons, Statement of Claim and amended statement of claim in this action. Leave is accordingly granted to the plaintiffs to discontinue this action."
Ijaws were aggrieved by this order which barred them from reopening this case and appealed to the Supreme Court. The court summarily dismissed the appeal on April 24, 1967, in Suit #SC/450/65, with Sir Lionel Brett, Ag. C.J., presiding. There are numerous other suits with the same consequence: affirmation of Itsekiri-ownership of Warri.
Having failed to achieve their objective in the courts of law, Ijaws have resorted to terror and violence to expand beyond their rightful territory in an attempt to appropriate the regional wealth. These murderers present themselves as activists fighting Nigeria's corrupt and discredited Military junta to shroud their true objective. You must not only distance yourself, you must campaign against these hoodlums and their atrocious actions.
You may write to us at the
above address or call any one of us if you have questions or concerns.
We challenge anyone who makes different claims than we have stated here
to provide supportive evidence.
Alfred O. Alatan
Eyisan E. Omagbemi
Copy of relevant section of Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette #72, Vol. 83, Lagos, 30th December, 1996, showing the LGAs created by Decree 36, States (Creation Transitional Provisions) Decree 1996.
Copy of relevant section of Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette #7, Vol. 84, Lagos, 3rd March, 1996, showing the LGAs created by Decree 7, Local Government (Basic Constitutional Transitional Provisions) Decree 1997.
Map from A New and Accurate Description of the Coast of New Guinea. "Written originally in Dutch by William Bosman, Chief Factor for the Dutch at the Castle of St. George d'Elmina. And now faithfully done in English." 1705.
Map of the Niger Delta states and their neighbors, 1600-1800.
Ijaw revisionist rendition
of Nigeria. Note absence of Itsekiri homeland documented by independent
observers. Itsekiri v. Ijaw: List of Court decisions against Ijaws.