A CALL FOR AN END TO VIOLENCE
AN APPEAL FOR CALM AND A CALL FOR AN END TO VIOLENCE IN WARRI
Members of Urhobo Historical Society's Editorial and Management Committee met in an extraordinary session on June 2, 2001, to discuss the recent ethnic conflict in Warri. This followed a report in the Guardian News of May 28, 2001 to the effect that on Friday, May 25, 2001, certain individuals, believed to be youths from the Itsekiri and Okere-Urhobo communities in Warri, were involved in violent clashes.
The fighting which began somewhere along Okumagba Avenue near the Standard Trust Bank in Okumagba Estate, Warri, continued for the next two days before it was quelled by soldiers deployed from the 7th Amphibious Battalion from the nearby township of Effurun. While the full details of the fighting are yet to emerge, newspaper reports indicate that as many as 10 lives may have been lost, while no fewer than 13 houses may have been burnt down and property worth several millions of naira may have been destroyed.
Urhobo Historical Society is particularly disturbed by the easy access to destructive weapons in Warri. According to Lieutenant Colonel Garun Dogo, Commanding Officer of the 7th Amphibious Battalion of the Nigerian Army, pump action and RPG guns, mortars, rifles, cartridges, bullets and cans of gasoline, were recovered from the 46 youths reportedly arrested in this conflict.
Also disturbing are indications that the fight was instigated to disrupt the work of the Delta State House of Assembly Committee on New Local Government Area Creation and Security Matters. The Committee visited Warri as part of its fact-finding mission to ascertain the merit of the demands made by various communities in Delta State for new local government areas.
Conscious of the fact that this latest armed conflict between some residents of the Itsekiri and Urhobo communities in Warri is yet another manifestation of the longstanding mistrust among the communities in this area and in order to diminish the potential for a wider conflict, Urhobo Historical Society's Editorial and Management Committee hereby resolves as follows:
1. We condemn the use of violence as the mode of solving problems that exist among the groups in the area. We also call on all parties to the dispute to desist from any actions that might provoke further violence in Warri.
2. We demand that the State Government institute an official inquiry to identify all those who were in involved in planning and executing this round of fighting in Warri and bring them to justice. While we welcome the pledge by the Delta State Governor to prosecute any of the 46 youths arrested and proven to be involved in the conflict, we also urge the state government not to relent in its efforts until all those who supplied the arms, or paid for them, are also apprehended and tried to the fullest extent of the law for any crimes they may have committed.
3. We ask the state government to live up to its responsibilities and to pay compensation for the loss of lives and property caused by this incident since it failed in its primary duty of protecting the lives and property of its citizens.
4. We urge the leadership of both the Itsekiri and Urhobo communities to engage in meaningful dialogue as an alternative means of resolving problems instead of resorting to violence which breeds severe consequences for our people. We strongly believe that such a dialogue must involve the masses of our people -- including women, men and especially the youth -- who must be made to understand that violence will destroy their future. Such a dialogue may enable the youth of Warri to understand that they are the ones who are likely to suffer the most from these unproductive armed conflicts.
5. We call on Niger Delta ethnic groups to work together in order to prevent hostile external forces from taking advantage of our differences. Our internal disunity may enable such hostile forces to instigate a wider conflict that could divert attention from the huge problems of environmental degradation and poverty that oil exploration has inflicted on our communities. Our people need not be reminded that these forces have militarized the Niger Delta. With so many arms already in the area, nothing will please enemies of the Niger Delta more than to see our people fight one another.
6. We challenge Itsekiri and Urhobo moderates in our midst to organize themselves into a Council of Concerned Citizens that will create mechanisms for preserving peace and harmony in our communities. This council will use its wisdom to formulate principles and policies that will help to divert attention from the use of violence in settling disputes. Such measures may include offering rewards to traditional leaders who promote peace and good order in their respective areas of influence. This group of citizens must also address the issue of leaders who instigate or pay youths to fight even as they keep their own children away from violence and from the difficulties created by deadly conflict.
7. We declare that Urhobo Historical Society is prepared and willing to work with any group inside Nigeria or in the Niger Delta Diaspora for the purpose of finding solutions to the problems arising from the inter-ethnic relations of our peoples in the Niger Delta region in general and in the immediate area of Warri in particular.
EDITORIAL AND MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
|Larry Arhagba, M.A||Onoawarie Edevbie, M. A., M.Sc|
|Peter P. Ekeh, Ph.D||Edirin Erhiaganoma, M.Sc|
|Joseph E. Inikori, Ph.D||Isaac James Mowoe, Ph.D, J.D|
|O. Igho Natufe, Ph.D||Ukonurhoro Diesode Omenih|
|Aruegodore Oyiborhoro, Ed.D., F.A.A.A||Ajovi Scott-Emuakpor, M.D., Ph.D|