Official Logo of Urhobo Historical Society



Effurun & Agbarha-Otor, Nigeria

October 28 - October 31, 2004



Held at Excel Hotel, Hotel Excel Limited

Excel Drive off Refinery Road

Effurun, Nigeria


October 28, 2004

3:10 PM – 5:30 PM


Prepared by Onoawarie Edevbie

Secretary, Urhobo Historical Society



: Chief Isaac Abollo, Chief Eddy Akivie, Dr. Tiko Alakpa, Chief Johnson Barovbe, Mr. Andrew Edevbie, Dr. Helen Ekeh, Professor Peter Ekeh, Mrs. Felicia Emessiri-Akusu, Professor Perkins Foss, Mr. Simpson Obruche, Chief Gabriel Ofotokun, Mr. Alfred Okejevwa-Bobson, Mr. Ejiro Okene, Mr. Patrick Okene, Chief William Okorotete, Mr. Onajevwe Omo-Ejakpovi, Dr. Thomas Salubi, and Mr. Ejiro Ughwujabo.


The Annual General Membership Meeting (AGM) proceeded, with Peter Ekeh presiding, along the following issues:


1. Opening prayers were offered by Tiko Alakpa


2. Introductory Remarks by Peter Ekeh:


Peter Ekeh in his preliminary remarks provided some background to enable individuals present to understand why UHS came into being and why we were in Effurun at the time. Many Urhobo organizations, both in the United States and United Kingdom, he noted were before UHS was formed, in disarray as they were fighting over issues of legitimacy. In this period of disagreements among Urhobo groups in the Diaspora, came the Warri crisis. The internet service was relatively new then and many groups among the Edo, Itsekiri and Yoruba were using the technology to portray their interests and views on public issues. Urhobo viewpoints on the other hand were not being heard obviously because they were not disseminated. UHS was formed and inaugurated in New York in August of 1999 to fill the void. Perkins Foss, Andrew Edevbie and Peter Ekeh were among those he said were present at the New York inaugural meeting.


The first UHS Conference and General Meeting was held in 2000 at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. The 2001 was held at New Jersey in the United States. Participation in the New Jersey Conference was hampered by the events of September 11, 2001 and by visa restrictions for those coming from Nigeria. The Conference moved to London, England in 2002. The move was to involve more people, and United Kingdom was considered ideal not only because a bulk of Urhobo live there but also because travel restrictions to UK, unlike those for the United States, were relaxed enough to allow individuals from Urhoboland and elsewhere in Nigeria to attend.


At the London Conference, a number of individuals notably Johnson Barovbe suggested that UHS move its Annual Conference and General Membership Meeting to Urhoboland and that was why we were at Effurun. Peter Ekeh concluded his remarks by noting that although UHS began its activities in a humble way, the Society has acquired enough strength and maturity to be able not only to defend Urhobo interests while respecting the views of others but also to expand its activities to cover the affairs of the surrounding areas of Niger Delta.


3. Review and Adoption of Minutes of last General Meeting of November 2, 2003


Onajevwe Omo-Ejakpovi read out to the hearing of members present, the minutes, copies of which were circulated to all members present at the beginning of the meeting. Following the general reading and review by individual members, the minutes were adopted on a motion moved by Ejiro Ughwujabo and seconded by Johnson Barovbe.


4. Matters Arising from the Minutes

(a)     Status of UHS Application for Tax-Exempt (Charity) /United States Revenue

       (IRS) Code Section 501(c)(3)


In answer to Thomas Salubi’s inquiry, Alfred Bobson explained that the tax-exempt status allows individuals in the United States, who make donations to charitable organizations like UHS, to claim exemptions for the amount of money donated in their annual income tax returns. Perkins Foss also wanted to know whether anyone files tax papers for UHS, noting that filing of tax papers could be a major and complex task for a young organization like UHS.  Peter Ekeh indicated that an agency that had worked well for him in the past, had been asked to undertake the responsibility of filing for UHS. Tiko Alakpa also asked for some explanation regarding the choice of beneficiary of UHS assets in the event of dissolution. Peter Ekeh reiterated that IRS did not accept UHS’s choice of Urhobo Progress Union, which the agency deemed as an organization operating outside the United States, and therefore not qualified for designation as a beneficiary. Following the rejection, Peter Ekeh added, the designated beneficiary would therefore come from among organizations in the United States that work for Urhobo interests.



(b) Operating Status of UHS branches


Simpson Obruche sought clarification on the operating status of UHS chapters as it related to the position of UHS Editorial and Management Committee (EMC). What level of authority, he asked, do the branches have?  Do they have the same level of authority as the EMC or do they act in subservience to EMC in the United States? Peter Ekeh, in response, indicated that EMC had no major problems so far in its relation with the various UHS chapters springing up. The good relationship he explained was due the EMC’s practice of shunning the use of big titles, and its stated goal of shifting its activities to Urhoboland where people could be called upon to write history of their localities or to provide account of what they know about Urhobo. Peter Ekeh therefore advised that the issue of responsibility or authority for the branches that had sprung up, should be deferred to such a time when it could be revisited as a constitutional matter, possibly at a General Membership Meeting.


Thomas Salubi in contributing to the debate indicated that he did not consider UHS as a political party that would require party branches, but as an organization that is dedicated to serving Urhobo interests. He took the opportunity to express his concerns about the state of Urhobo language, which he regarded as dying for lack of adequate use. He called for efforts to reverse the decline in the use of the language, stressing that the only body he believed, was capable of taking up the challenge is UHS. He therefore urged UHS to remain compact and accept the challenge of working to solve the language problem at least in the interest of future generations before it becomes too late to save. 


Ejiro Ughwujabo redirected the discussions to the issue of operating status for UHS branches. He indicated that if UHS was to remain committed to writing and recording of Urhobo history and culture, he saw no need for organizing a structure that will make branches independent or to act independently of EMC and of one another. Tiko Alakpa added that UHS as a young organization should be allowed to grow and acquire a good measure of stability before thinking of giving authority to its branches. Ejiro Ughwujabo asked for a motion to say that the current organizational structure of UHS should remain as it is until further notice.


Onajevwe Omo-Ejakpovi said he would prefer to allow branches to have responsibilities so that they can organize activities, satisfy local appetites and sensitivity as a way of contributing to the overall development of Urhobo history and culture. Felecia Emessiri-Akusu advised that UHS should at least use its branches particularly those in Nigeria, to spread the word about UHS activities. Simpson Obruche urged members to accept the current structure of UHS and implored all those who want to contribute, to channel their information or advice to the EMC in North America where its members now reside. He called for caution, noting that accommodating all 22 kingdoms of Urhobo and creating offices as suggested by some others, could become disruptive. He said that members should be careful about creating offices that might end up being filled by individuals who have little or no understanding of the goals and objectives of UHS.


Following the discussions on the pros and cons of centralizing the organizational structure of UHS, Ejiro Ughwujabo moved a motion, that the current administrative structure of involving EMC and its organizational committees that feed information to EMC should remain. The motion was seconded by Tiko Alakpa who added that retaining centralization even for a period of 5 to 10 years to allow for growth and maturation until time dictates otherwise, to him, was not a bad idea. Before the vote could be taken, Gabriel Ofotokun rose not only to support the motion but also to praise UHS and urged EMC to continue its good work. Johnson Barovbe also said good things about UHS and indicated to members that UHS had already made so much progress to the point where it was being seen or perceived in some quarters as a threat. He asked the house to recognize Gabriel Ofotokun as one of those who had been supportive of UHS causes at various gatherings. The motion to retain the organizational structure of UHS was unanimously carried on a voice vote. 


5. Meeting the Needs of UHS Operations and Activities


Peter Ekeh briefed members on UHS’s need for an endowment that would provide funding for many of UHS activities. The most visible areas of need include publications, organizing of conferences, hosting of UHS web sites and the development of Urhobo language. Individuals, he said, have in the past, provided money to meet all of these needs except those posed by the decline in the use of Urhobo language. He added however that it was becoming increasingly difficult to rely on such a small number of individuals for help all the time. He cited the example of the benevolence of Senator David Dafinone and his Editor, Peter Ishaka, who saved UHS from the high cost of publishing UHS book on Warri. He also stressed that UHS would need a reliable source of funds to meet the rising cost of organizing its annual conferences and general membership meetings, and hosting its web sites. The web sites, he said, have attracted a lot of attention and a tremendous amount of goodwill and UHS needed to devise a better way of raising funds to continue the editorial work required to keep the sites running.


A number of suggestions on how to raise funds for UHS activities came from the floor, in response to Peter Ekeh’s plea for help. One was from Perkins Foss who suggested that UHS indicate clearly where donors can send money. He also advised UHS to organize a team of talented individuals to help with managing the web sites, with Peter Ekeh serving as a senior advisor. Peter Ekeh followed up on the suggestion by pointing to how many web sites have failed or died for lack of proper management, including failure to update information. He added that UHS was anxious to develop talents that would help. In order to keep up with developments in cyber space, Patrick Okene advised UHS to always strive for the use of latest technologies in the field for its work.


To initiate proper funding for UHS, Peter Ekeh called for the house’s authorization to open a bank account in Nigeria and to set up a body to help raise funds for the Society. Simpson Obruche suggested that UHS appeal to the eight local government councils in Urhoboland to set aside money in their budget to help fund UHS. Peter Ekeh was however concerned that approaching the local councils for money would involve politics, which UHS is running away from. He would prefer raising funds independently of governments and from willing individuals and non-governmental organizations and businesses. He therefore urged UHS to set an exploratory committee to investigate and come up with ways to raise needed funds.


Ejiro Ughwujabo followed on the discussions by suggesting that Thomas Salubi be made the Chair of the Committee and that such a committee be empowered to recruit others to strengthen its work. The discussions over the need to raise money to funds UHS activities was brought to a close with the decision of AGM to approve the setting up of a Committee To Raise Funds for UHS for the purpose of providing funds to finance UHS operations in four key areas namely (a) Holding of Conferences, (b) Hosting and Maintaining of UHS Web sites, (c) Publication of Books, and (d) Development of Urhobo Language.


The Committee is empowered by AGM to raise funds; keep such funds in bank accounts that the Committee is authorized to open with signatories that it shall decide upon; and to release portions of these funds for UHS operations on the recommendations of UHS Executive. The Committee shall make annual reports to AGM. The Annual General Meeting of 2004 created, for a start, a Convening Committee of five members drawn from among prominent individuals of Urhobo origin with the power to recruit others to increase its membership to constitute a full working Committee To Raise Funds for UHS. AGM also stipulated that membership in the full committee shall not be less than five or more than nine at any given time. Consequently, the AGM empowered UHS Executive to invite the following persons to serve as members of the Convening Committee: Dr. T. E. A. Salubi (Chairman), Olorogun Moses Taiga, Mr. Goodie Ibru, Arch. O. Charles Majoro and Mr. Ede Dafinone.


AGM also authorized UHS Executive to register Urhobo Historical Society as an association, with the appropriate Federal Government agencies in Nigeria in order to facilitate UHS operations in Nigeria. Towards this end, UHS Executive was also empowered to open and operate a bank account in Nigeria. The bank account was directed to be opened and operated as follows:


(i) UHS Accounts shall be opened with any reputable bank in Nigeria with the Chairman and Secretary of UHS as signatories

(ii) The Chairman of UHS shall be authorized to withdraw on his own signature any amount of money less than N500,000 (five hundred thousand naira).

(iii) Any amount of N500,000 Naira and above shall be withdrawn only upon the signatures of both the Chairman and the Secretary of UHS.


6. Planning 2005 UHS Annual Conference and General Membership Meeting


Johnson Barovbe urged members to consider hosting the 2005 Conference and General Meeting at a venue other than Warri as suggested by Daniel Obiomah during the 2003 Conference in London, UK. Daniel Obiomah was concerned about the problems of dealing with elements with vested interests in Warri and its environs. Isaac Abollo concurred, expressing a view that Urhobo people are sufficiently energetic to move around and would have no problem hosting the conference and meeting in other places like Lagos. Further discussion of the issue was however deferred when Thomas Salubi suggested that the choice of a venue for the 2005 Annual Conference and General Membership Meeting should be left to UHS Organizing Committee in Nigeria to handle.


7. Other Matters


(i) Onajevwe Omo-Ejakpovi expressed his concerns about the legitimacy or level of acceptability of the choices made by members of the Award Committee to the Urhobo public. He suggested that UHS involve the Ivie of Urhoboland in the process of selecting individuals to be honored with UHS awards in order to increase the level of its legitimacy among the people. Johnson Barovbe countered the advice by saying that UHS like any other organization was free to give awards to whomever it likes and does not need the approval of people or anyone outside such a group.


(ii) Perkins Foss also took the opportunity to introduce his friend, Chief William Okorotete who he said had been with him through thin and thick in his work on Urhobo arts.  A number of members expressed their pleasure in having in their midst, the person of Chief William Okorotete who incidentally had completed registration papers and paid membership fees to become a member of UHS just before the meeting began. Chief William Okorotete in his response thanked Perkins Foss and UHS for their work on Urhobo. He told members the story of how Dr. Johnson J. Ejaife who though was married to a West Indian woman, made a lot of efforts to promote Urhobo interests. He urged UHS members to emulate the dedication of Dr. Ejaife, and to continue its good work of promoting Urhobo interests


In the absence of further discussions the meeting was adjourned after closing prayers by Ejiro Ughwujabo.