Urhobo Historical Society

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
November 3-5, 2000

   Who Owns Warri?
The Politics of Ethnic Rivalry in the Western Niger-Delta Region of Nigeria

By Onoawarie Edevbie
Detroit, Michigan

This paper examines the conflicting claims of ownership of the Oil City of Warri by  Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urhobo, three indigenous ethnic communities resident in this  area of Western Niger Delta. It explores the colonial roots of the ethnic rivalry and the political dimensions that have been brought to bear on the conflict that resulted from the strife. Using theoretical framework offered by classical and modern theories of ethnic conflict, the paper evaluates the premises for the various claims made and rejects the notion that Warri belongs to any one particular ethnic group to the exclusion of others.  The paper also demonstrates that the multiethnic composition of the area can only lead to the adoption of a differentiated political community: A Tri-Ethnic City of Warri, one that offers a logical opportunity for the sharing of jurisdictional rights, including those of the ownership and control of all resources within the area.


One of the most noticeable pieces of evidence of ethnic conflict in Warri, in recent times, flows from an action of the government of Western Nigeria, which officially changed the title of the Itsekiri King from the Olu of Itsekiri to the Olu of Warri in May, 1952. The change was made at the request of the Itsekiri over the objection of the Urhobo who felt that the title, Olu of Warri, would give the impression that the Olu was a paramount ruler of Warri. The city, however, continues to be regarded not only as a home to the Itsekiri but also to the Ijaw and Urhobo, the other indigenous ethnic groups in the area, who considered the government decision as an imposition on non-Itsekiri peoples of Warri. The resentment turned into violence when an Itsekiri procession in Warri was attacked by some Urhobo elements near the Catholic Cathedral, a location which incidentally was also close to the sacred Agbassah Juju Shrine.(2)  The parade may have been seen by the Urhobo as an act of provocation but more importantly as a show of authority and power of the Itsekiri in ways that appear to intimidate non-Itsekiri communities in Warri.(3)  The confrontation erupted into a riot that quickly spread all over the city and to other places, including Sapele and Itsekiri settlements along the River Ethiope, particularly at Igun, Idjerhe, Eku and Salubi, with considerable loss of lives and property.

Although law and order were eventually restored to Warri, the issues that triggered the events of 1952 remain unresolved. Indeed, some 50 years later, the city, once again, was treated to a series of violent confrontations following the decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria to relocate the headquarters of a local government area from Ogbe - Ijoh, an Ijaw community in Warri to the Itsekiri Village of Ogidigben. Disturbances were reported in many places, most noticeably in Sapele, Koko, and Benin River but the tempest was unleashed with the burning down of the Warri residence of Chief E. K. Clark, a prominent Ijaw spokesman, in the early hours of March 25, 1997, allegedly by some Itsekiri youths. (4) The reaction from the Ijaw was swift and it did not take long before Warri was plunged into one of the most vicious and destructive armed conflicts known in the area, which was to linger on for over two years. Even in the absence of reliable figures, hundreds of lives were believed lost and damage to properties belonging to members of both opposing ethnic groups were extensive. In spite of their supposed non-involvement, the Urhobo community was not spared the atrocities generated from this round of ethnic clashes. The Urhobo community of Okere in Warri was reported invaded on June 4, 1999, early in the day, by Itsekiri youth , again with loss of lives and massive destruction of property, including the palace of the Ovie of Okere-Warri, whose appointment the Itsekiri oppose. (5)

Thus the crisis in Warri, arose, each time, from the struggle to dominate local politics. The conflict is centered on the use and distribution of community land in Warri, which for the most part, can be attributed to the failure of British colonial policies. The three indigenous communities of Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urhobo have lived independently of one another in relative peace before the arrival of Europeans in the coastal area now known as Warri. The British, who eventually gained control of the area, ushered in an administration that brought together these people who are culturally different into the same political unit, purely for commercial ends, without regards for the lack of cultural affinity and common will among those involved. "Such a society", according to Horowitz, "held together by the dint of the force of colonial power is inherently a precarious and unstable social form" (6). Of the many unfortunate outcomes of colonial presence, none poses as much barrier to the stability and development of the area as the contention over land rights. The colonial arrangement created an obvious abnormality which unfairly gave an Itsekiri chieftain, Dore Numa, the authority as a political agent, to lease land. The leases of land were contracted without the consent of the communities concerned and clearly in violation of treaties signed earlier between the British Colonial government and the communities that owned the land in dispute. The question of who owns the land and who is entitled to rents accruing from them, has become the subject of endless litigation and a series of government commissions since the beginning of the twentieth century. Land disputes, however are not unique to Warri but have become a major factor in political conflict in many areas of Nigeria, including Kafanchan in Benue State, Ife-Modakeke in Oyo State, and Umuleri-Aguleri in Anambra State and around the world in such places as the region of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia; of course, ethnic conflict is a recurrent phenomenon in human history. Much of Eastern Europe and certainly the Balkans have experienced waves of disturbances based on ethnicity before and after the emergence of modern states. A recent study indicates that between 1945 and 1980, state-sponsored killing of members of various ethnic and political groups were responsible for a greater loss of lives than all other forms of deadly conflict combined.(7) One may delve further into history to learn that the ethnic groups of ancient Greece provided the model for ethnic cleansing as demonstrated through the brutality of war tactics used. (8)  Major world events such as decolonization, the collapse of empires and the recent fall of communism have contributed to incidence of ethnic conflicts; yet, it is legitimate to ask questions about the land factor in Warri, as a part of attempts to understand why ethnic conflict seems to be particularly virulent in the world today. Who among the communities was occupying the area now known as Warri at the instant of history, which in this case, is typified by the arrival of Europeans to the area? Should the community or communities claim rights of ownership of the land and its resources? Would the normative rights of one community exclude those of others in the area?

The answers to these questions are urgently needed not only for clarity of issues involved in the land factor but also for a number of other reasons. Foremost is the need for urgent resolution of the conflict to restore peace and stability to the area. Warri, as part of the Niger Delta, has been torn apart by hostilities among people who have lived side by side in relative peace for years. Many foreign workers are being kidnapped by certain individuals who demand huge ransoms before release of the victims. Many people and businesses now consider Warri unsafe and are moving out. The Anglo-Dutch Oil Company, Shell Petroleum has announced its decision to relocate its administrative headquarters to Port Harcourt. Normal life is disrupted by the presence of so many soldiers and security agents who are sometimes accused of taking sides in the conflict. The crisis in Warri as an oil city has enormous impact, not only on the economy of the area but also on the national economy of Nigeria. Communal violence which characterized life in the Niger Delta through most of 1999, had forced investors out of the oil town of Warri, creating hardships for all communities in the region. Frequent interruption to oil operations in the area scaled back production to the point where the oil companies were not able to meet obligations to supply oil to overseas customers. The former military ruler of Nigeria, General Abdulsallami Abubakar, in his budget speech of 1999, admitted that temporary closure of oil wells in the Niger Delta caused a sharp reduction in oil revenue with the result that the expected 1998 earnings of N216.336 billion from oil could not be realized. (9)  The conflict also prevents the communities from getting together, meaningfully, to tackle the crucial issue of wrestling ownership rights and control of the mineral resources of the area from the Federal government of Nigeria. Nigeria produces all of its oil, an average of 2 million barrels per day from the Niger Delta and the sea off its shore, through a consortium of some dozen foreign oil companies and a state-owned National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). NNPC commands a 55-66 % of shares in each of the oil companies. (10)  The oil revenue accounts for over 90 % of Nigeria's annual revenue, most of which is used for the benefit of major ethnic groups in Nigeria with hardly any regard for the interest of the oil-producing minorities.

Competing Claims of Indigenousness (11)

The dispute between the ethnic communities in Warri reflects the desire of the parties concerned for some form of political affirmation based on ethnic identification. The identification, invariably calls for group entitlement which encourages one group or some groups to claim that a country or a region ought to belong to them and that the political system should be made to reflect this. Other groups may want nothing more than the right to participate in the affairs of the state or region on equal terms. Ethnic claims to priority are based on group legitimacy within a territory as a link to ownership. One of the most common claims to legitimacy is predicated in indigenousness, with the implication that a group that is indigenous to an area "owns the area" even if that group comprises a small minority of the population of the area. The claim to primacy by dint of indigenousness is widespread and can be a powerful political tool to secure privileges. The term bumiputera or "sons of the soil" is commonly used in many parts of Africa and Asia by some people to demand special rights or recognition against more recent settlers, even if these settlers are the majority. In a clear departure from the notion of strict quality, indigenousness has been used to justify special electoral arrangements to perpetuate or to inflate the power of the indigenes, in Fiji and Sikkim for example, and to reserve employment, restrain the alienation of land, and in other ways, secure for "the local people a pride of place in their own land" (12)

Although many claims of indigenousness are difficult to verify, relative time of arrival to an area remains a common basis of distinction among people. Nevertheless, the claims are usually surrounded by ambiguities that are couched in legends. The legends tend to associate people with places in order to create myths of occupations, often without regard to the perennial movement of people. What you find in these stories, therefore appears to be, not so much about factual history, but ideas about migration. The history of Niger Delta is replete with accounts of series of migrations, the earliest believed to be that of the Ijaw, from the hinterland prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century.(13).  Benin and Itsekiri legends help to establish the arrival of a Benin prince, Ginuwa, to an area near Forcados. Ginuwa's successors were said to have moved after a while, to found Ode-Itsekiri as a capital of a new Kingdom imposed on a group of earlier immigrants, collectively known as the Itsekiri people (14)  The Urhobo claim that they migrated from Agbarha-Otor and Okpare in Urhobo hinterland to settle in their present locations in Warri in the 13th century. (15), however, Moore, an Itsekiri historian, places the Urhobo migration into the Warri area during the time of Olu Irame, who is believed to have reigned sometime between 1546 and 1588:

During the reign of Olu Irame, a fatal skirmish occurred at Agbassa-Otor, and the quarters which suffered most in casualties resolved to migrate, and so they came to Olu Irame and begged for a place wherein to dwell. He apportioned to them the place Ubumale where they built a town (present town of Agbassa) and settled down.(16)
If Moore's account is to be taken at its face value, it will mean that the Urhobo community of Agbarha Warri had been in the present location for at least 400 years from the time Ginuwa arrived to settle in Ode-Itsekiri. Obiomah raises doubt about the ability of the Itsekiri monarchy to master the locality in such a relatively short time of 66 years after Ginuwa's flight from Benin. It is doubtful that the monarchy will be in any position to give land to emigrants like themselves across the rivers that separated them from the mainland; however Hubbard shifted the migration to the 18th Century:
A migration occurred, probably late in the 18th Century, from a Sobo town called Agbarha about twenty three miles east of Warri in the middle of Sobo country …..[they] crossed the Warri River and by negotiations with the Jekri [Olu Otugbuwa], obtained land from them … built a village of their own which they named after hometown Agbarha (Agbassa). This is now one of the quarters in Warri (17).
Even then, the accounts given by Hubbard and Moore seem to contradict that of Sagay who had indicated that Prince Ginuwa conferred with some Urhobo in Ugharegin (Oghareki) on his flight from Benin in 1480 (18). As Obiomah emphasized, both Moore and Sagay were probably not aware that the Urhobo communities in Idjerhe and Ugharegin left Agbarha-Otor as a second wave of migrants after the Urhobo team that came to Warri. (19)  The oral traditions of Ijaw and Itsekiri also suggest that Prince Ginuwa and his entourage had traveled up the Forcados river from an earlier settlement of the Iduwini town of Amatu, an Ijaw homeland to Ode-Itsekiri. (20)

Why are the various accounts of indigenousness so inconsistent or conflicting with one another? Perhaps, one could find some explanation for this chain of claims and counterclaims from Coser's definition of conflict: "Conflict is a struggle in which the aim is to gain objectives and simultaneously to neutralize, injure, or eliminate rivals" (21). In an age when it is fashionable to decry colonial injustice that held people in an unhappy state for a long time, it seems reasonable to expect the parties in conflict to claim legitimacy on grounds that ante date colonial arrival and to establish connection with the soil. The situation therefore calls for investigation of the objectives and methods used in the struggle for primacy. Unfortunately, no definitive study has so far, been made regarding the origin of Warri. The use of the name Warri, loosely, especially by nineteenth century historians, has created a lot of confusion in the minds of many, including those who are searching for a solution to the crisis in Warri. Warri is considered a corruption of  Iwere, a term the Itsekiri sometimes used to refer to themselves and the capital city of Ode -Itsekiri. On the other hand, the Ijaw insist that Warri is a corruption of an Ijaw word  wari meaning house. Warri had also been used to designate a colonial province before the change from Warri Province to Delta Province. An 1891 map cited by Ikime shows different locations for Ode -Itsekiri and the nineteenth century trading post that grew into the present Warri township.(22)  Some Itsekiri elements may likely have moved from Ode-Itsekiri, sometime in the nineteenth century to be close to European traders who have shifted their activities to the present Warri Township. In the present circumstances, it may be worthwhile to mention that neither the Ijaw nor the Urhobo ever claimed to own all the lands in Warri as the Itsekiri do. The Urhobo limit their claim of ownership to the areas of Agbarha and Okere that they claimed they first occupied. In 1933, the Ijaw petitioned the Colonial Resident at Warri for ownership rights of what is known as Ogbe - Ijo (23). As Ikime inferred, it is highly probable that the three independent indigenous communities of Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo, separated from one another by brush and bush, in pre-colonial times, grew with time, into each other, to form a metropolis now known as the modern township of Warri (24). The inference seems more likely for an area that has no history of war or conquest involving capture of land and payment of tributes or homage by the conquered to their conquerors. (25)

Colonial Roots of the Ethnic Conflict

The issue of who owns lands in the Warri metropolis was probably not as contentious as it is today before the advent of Europeans. The indigenes of Warri, like most other African communities, had a rudimentary land law, obviously for the simple reason that land had always seemed abundant in relation to demand. The distribution of land and permanent rights to land were traditionally controlled by groups indigenous to an area (26). The arrival of Europeans, particularly the British, ushered, as will be explained later, in its wake, events that together, helped to increase the worth of land: the onset of legitimate commerce, growing population and the introduction of cash crops. The British colonial rulers, in efforts to make sense of a new environment and to create order, had by 1900, began to seek and acquire land for administrative purposes. The various land deals were handled through Dore Numa, an Itsekiri, who signed the leases that released the land to the colonial administration. While the Urhobo and Ijaw communities contend that Numa had illegally leased their land without proper authorization, the Itsekiri had argued successfully in a series of court cases, up till 1936, that the leases were contracted by Numa on behalf of the Itsekiri people (27). Both the Urhobo and the Ijaw have refused to accept Itsekiri legal victories as just and have resisted any political or administrative measures that seem to legitimize Itsekiri claims of ownership.

The Itsekiri had scored political advantage over the other indigenous people of Warri, supposedly through early interactions with the Europeans particularly the British. The Itsekiri people like the Kikuyu in Kenya, the Baganda in Uganda and Hawaiye and Isag in Somalia were opportunely situated near centers of early colonial activity (28). Settlements along a waterway, near a port or some center of trade such as a harbor or a natural resource to be exploited, were the main points of early contact with Europeans. The Itsekiri country lay in a mangrove swamp that is transected by Benin River, and the Escravos and Forcados rivers. The Benin River connects River Niger to the sea through a network of creeks within which lies a number of isolated islands where the Itsekiri lived. Many villages in Urhobo hinterland could also be reached by a number of rivers that empty into the creeks and the Niger. The Urhobo who lived on the mainland were able to interact with the Itsekiri who came in their canoes to establish markets on the river banks. The Ijaw settlements were also found along the creeks, spreading across the most southerly area of the Niger Delta from Arogbo in the west to as far or beyond Nembe in the east. (29)  With this system of waterways, it was possible as Llyod remarked, for one to travel on a canoe from Benin River through a series of coastal lagoons to reach Lagos, a major trading center in pre colonial times. Thus, the rivers as waterways, provided valuable links between market centers on the coast, and those of production further inland.

With the accessibility offered by the rivers, the Portuguese were able to navigate through the delta, up the Benin River to reach Ughoton (Gwato), considered the nearest port to the headquarters of Benin Kingdom. (30)  The Papal Bull of 1493 had granted monopoly of trade in practically all of Africa to Portugal. The trade at Ughoton was strictly controlled by the state and the Europeans had no opportunity to dictate terms, a situation that probably prompted the Europeans to look elsewhere. As described in Captain Pereira's diaries, the Portuguese did venture elsewhere beyond Ughoton into the Warri area in 1502 :

Five leagues beyond rio dos Escravos is another river called Rio dos Forcados Whoever enters this river will find that it branches to the right and to the left, five leagues up the left branch is a place of barter, which consists chiefly of slaves and cotton cloths, with some panther skins, palm oil and some blue shells the natives call 'coris'. The inhabitants along this river are called Heula. Farther in the interior is another country called Suobo, which is densely populated. Beyond these dwell other called Jos. (31)
Pereira's records seem to be confirmed by Moore's claim in his History of Itsekiri, pp. 13, that
Prior to the advent of the Bini Prince Ginuwa, the territory now known as the Kingdom of Itsekiri or Iwere, was inhabited by three tribes, namely Ijaws,  Sobos, and the Mahins. They [Sobos] occupied the hinterland, while the Ijaw  occupied the coastline, and the Mahin squatted on the sea-shore near the Benin River.
The absence of the Itsekiri from the records, raises some troubling doubts about the importance of the Itsekiri in the western Niger Delta by 1500. However, Ryder (cited by Lloyd) believes that although the Portuguese had met the Itsekiri on the lower Forcados area, the capital city of Ode-Itsekiri was not founded until later in mid-sixteenth century. The new Itsekiri Kingdom developed for the next two centuries under the influence of the Portuguese, mainly through missionary activities, to full maturity and independence from Benin. (32)  However by late eighteenth century and the first half of nineteenth century, Ode-Itsekiri had started to lose its commercial appeal and people began moving away to the lower Benin River. The migrations were considered due to exodus of people from the oppressive rule of a tyrannical king, Olu Akengbuwa I, but more likely to emergence of legitimate trade and the need to maintain contact with European traders. The early Portuguese traders had traveled through Forcados River to Ode-Itsekiri. The Dutch and the English who took over by 1800, considered both the Escravos and Forcados rivers to be un-navigable and chose instead to anchor their ships at Eghoro in the Benin River. Eghoro also became the residence of the Governor. Ikime listed Bobi, Jakpa, Batere and Ebrohimi as among Itsekiri settlements that were founded in Benin River as a result of the migration from Ode-Itsekiri.(33)  With the abolition of slave trade in 1807, overseas slave trade which was never as great in the area as it was in eastern Niger delta, was replaced by trade in palm oil, and later rubber and timber. Patrick Manning in his article  "Slaves, Palm Oil and Political Power," opined that palm oil came to dominate legitimate trade as a result of demand in Europe for raw material to manufacture soap, candles and lubricants.(34) The trade created new problems that called for new ways of organization, including a new kind of relationship between the European traders and the people of the delta. By the end of 1840s, factories were built by English firms at Horsfall near Bobi and at Harrison near Jakpa, all in Benin River. The building of these plants marked the beginning of a new era of trade for the Itsekiri.(35)

The onset of legitimate trade and the establishment of British rule, essentially to regulate trade, set in motion, events that revolutionized the politics of Niger Delta like never before. The Itsekiri who migrated to Benin River, to be close to European traders emerged as middle men between the traders and the now more distant suppliers of palm oil, and slaves which had by now become illegal. The decline in trade in Ode-Itsekiri and the movement from the capital, also meant the loss of revenue to maintain the Itsekiri royal establishment. The decline in the wealth of the kingdom was blamed largely for the collapse of political order and the long interregnum that followed the death of Olu Akengbuwa in 1848. The traditional chieftaincy system was severely weakened. What emerged, was a novel political system with a leadership that was shared by the heads of big trading houses, one of whom would be recognized by British consuls as 'Governor of Benin River'. Nana Olomu was the last of a series of governors that started with the installation of Chief Idiare in 1851 by John Beecroft who was appointed in 1849 by the British Government as Consul for the Bights of Benin and Biafra. (36)  Chief Idiare, along with Idibofun, Olomu (Nana's father), and a host of other elders subsequently signed a treaty with Beecroft to protect trade in the area (37). Neither of the other indigenous people in Warri, the Urhobo and the Ijaw, seemed to have been ruffled in any serious way by any of the developments taking place in Benin River until the 1880s. The British worried by growing German and French interests in Africa, became aggressive about setting up a proper administration in the Niger Delta (38). The British were no longer satisfied with leaving the affairs of the Niger Delta to one consul to manage. Consul Beecroft was stationed in Fernado Po and later Calabar, and was responsible for a large area running from the Cameroons to Forcados. Britain was not willing to leave anything to chance and believed, now was the time to institute a colonial rule to protect the area from encroachment by any other European power.

British Treaties of 'Protection'

The British began its colonial policy of administration by requiring the traditional rulers or elders of various communities in the Niger Delta to sign treaties with the British crown. The terms of the treaties could not be negotiated as they were printed in England and distributed by imperial agents. Yet the first article claims provocatively that "Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland &c., in compliance with request of the Chiefs and people of ……….. hereby undertakes to extend to them, and to the territory under their authority and jurisdiction, Her gracious favour and protection."(39) Given the prevailing circumstances, it is doubtful whether those who 'signed' for the communities involved, did so, willingly or under coercion or duress and whether they understood the terms well enough to know that they were signing away their sovereignty. How for example, Ikime asked, was notion of protectorate explained when the various languages in the area, do not embody such concepts in ordinary usage? Clearly, many who signed the treaties did not understand the implications of the provisions involved but one would wonder why those who knew how much their authority had eroded under British interference did not object. Ikime advances two reasons. (40)  First, some of the communities were interested in securing middleman positions for themselves in order to make profit off the trade. Secondly, the consul who signed on behalf of the British crown, came into the various communities concerned, on board, a  man-of-war, a British naval ship built for fighting on high seas. The communities were intimidated and many felt that as long as the treaties guaranteed their trade, it was fine to comply rather than face hostilities. All the rulers who proved stubborn or refused to accept orders from colonial rulers were severely dealt with and in many instances were seized, tried and deported. Such indeed was the case for Nana of Ebrohimi and Jaja of Opobo, both of whom had resisted British attempts to limit their power and control of trade in their territories. The lesson was clear, no one could disobey a colonial ruler and get away with it. It was simply impossible then, to fight against the British and win, given their superior arms and method of fighting.

Much as the British were determined to enforce the treaties on the communities, as events later proved, they were not acting in good faith. The rulers or elders who signed the treaties were later betrayed as 'Her [British Crown] gracious favour and protection' was not extended to them when they needed help, although they had kept their side of the treaties. Consul Hewett, in his treaty signing trip across the Niger Delta, in late 1880s and early 1890s, secured many treaties of protection, including four from various Urhobo communities in Warri and two from the Itsekiri. The treaties clearly recognized the ownership rights of land occupied by the Urhobo communities whose leaders entered into agreement with the British. The treaties also established that the British had consistently identified the Itsekiri geographically as people of Benin River, in much the same way as Nana Olomu and his predecessors in office, were known as Governors of Benin River. Perhaps, it is worthwhile to indicate the locations where the various treaties were signed. The treaties with Itsekiri were signed in two places, the first on board H.B. M.S. 'Flirt' anchored in Benin River on July 16, 1884, and the other at 'Benin' on August 2, 1894 on board HM 'Alecto' (41). The treaties with the various Urhobo communities namely:

were signed in the new township of Warri. Armed with these treaties and those negotiated by the Royal Niger Company, Britain continued with its international bargaining that was taking place in Europe after 1884 for trading rights in Africa. The treaties provided the basis for the British claim that the Niger Delta area lay within her sphere of influence. They also enabled the British to proclaim after the Berlin Conference, that it had established what it called the Oil Rivers Protectorate. The Protectorate was reorganized into the Niger Coast Protectorate in 1891, partly to accommodate the feelings of Itsekiri traders who had complained to the British Government that the Royal Niger Company, acting through small English merchants, was taking business from them. The new arrangement expanded the bureaucracy from one officer, a consul to a group consisting of a Commissioner, a Consul General and a team of some six vice-consuls and other officials. (42)  The newly established consulates, included one at what was now called New Warri, near the UAC premises, another at a point along the Benin River and a third at Sapele. The consulates were charged with the responsibility of putting into effect the desire of the British Administration to advance into Niger Delta hinterland behind the coast belt to reach palm oil-producing centers. The new arrangements further undercut Itsekiri traders and certainly did not address their earlier complaint of encroachment by English merchants.

Dore Numa and Land Holdings in Warri

In order to implement the plan for new consulates, the British Government decided to acquire land for building offices and residence for officials of the consulates. The determination of the English merchants to trade directly with the Urhobo hinterland, posed a serious threat to the Itsekiri traders, many of whom have grown wealthy from the trade. Nana who was appointed in 1884 as Governor of Benin River, opposed the planned move into interior and was reported to have stopped all trade in 1886 and 1892 to force English merchants to pay higher prices. Opposition to Nana, grew not only from the merchants but also from those Itsekiri traders including Dore Numa, who had suffered from Nana's monopoly. By 1891, Nana had been stripped of his powers as Governor but nevertheless continued to act as one and the Itsekiri still considered him their leader. The methods the Colonial Administration used to cut off Nana's influence in the area, greatly affected the way the leases for land in Warri, were handled. The methods provided the opportunity for another Itsekiri man, Dore Numa to rise to prominence through his opposition to Nana and the help that he gave in the 1894 war against Nana. Dore Numa also helped to put together a British expedition that was successfully used to defeat Benin in 1897, a feat that eventually led to the trial and deportation of the Benin's Oba to Calabar. He was awarded medals of honor for both services and was soon after Nana was defeated, further rewarded in 1896 with appointment as a British Political Agent for the Benin River District, a kind of Special Assistant to Vice Consul, Gallwey and other British officers.(43) As Political Agent, he was given many responsibilities, including the Vice Presidency of Benin River Native Council with enormous powers to try cases, the right to receive subsidies paid out of custom duties levied on European traders, and the authority to sign leases to the British Government and other bodies on behalf of various communities.

So when the British Government wanted plots of land in Warri, they turned to Dore Numa for the necessary leases to facilitate acquisition. The leases were transacted under the Public Lands Acquisition Ordinance of 1903, Clause 6 of which states:

Where lands required for public purposes were the property of a native community, the Head Chief of such community may sell and convey the same for an estate in fee simple, notwithstanding any native law and custom to the contrary.
Thus the colonial administration clearly intended to recognize Dore Numa as a community head, in Warri even before his appointment under the Native Authority Ordinance of 1917 as 'native authority'. Dan Obiomah, and J. O. E. Sagay not only identified a number of leases that were executed in Warri before and after 1903 but also showed how the leases changed hands over the years as follows: (44)
1. On April 16,1894, Mr. Saturino Perigrino Wilkey, a Custom Officer, under the Colonial Administration, leased land, now known as Daudu or Alders Town from Chief Igbi of the Urhobo community of Agbarha Warri. The deed, witnessed and signed by the British Consul was duly entered into Lands Registry at Warri in 1905.

2. In 1898, Messrs. Alexander Miller Brothers of Liverpool, James Pinnock and other companies obtained land free along the Okere Creek to build a trading factory. According to Sagay, citing Moore, all the companies had to do, was to provide drinks during an annual festival held in commemoration of the Olu.

3. In 1900, Southern Nigeria Protectorate Government leased from Dore Numa, land where they built residential quarters, barracks and offices (45).

4. In 1906, the British Government leased from Dore Numa, 360 acres that included an Ijaw hamlet known as Ogbe-Ijoh Village to make room for 'White Only' residential area and offices also called Government Station. The Ijaw community had to be evacuated and resettled in what is known as Ogbe-Ijoh market. The intention to relocate the Ijaw people was expressed in an October 21, 1895 notice signed by P. E. Crawford stating the British government's decision to take Ogbe-Ijoh under its protection.

5. In 1908, the British Government took a comprehensive lease from Dore Numa for several lands, including the 90 acre land that was originally leased to Mr. S. P. Wilkey as stated earlier. According to Salubi (cited by Sagay) the Agbarha Chiefs, Owe and Owerhiavwe who spear-headed the protest against the deal were arrested, tried and banished by the British Government from the area.

 6. In 1911, the British Government leased some more land, 350 acres, from Dore Numa. The land according to Obiomah, included much of Agbarha village, its market and adjoining farmlands. Another Agreement replacing the 1911 lease, was drawn, complete with survey plan, and signed by Dore Numa in 1932, just before he died. The move was made to establish boundaries which could not be delineated in the 1911 lease, not minding the fact that one of the original signatories, Ogbe Youren had died.

7. In 1915, the British Government leased 1360 square yards of land, a small portion of land in Okere, from Dore Numa for building Warders Quarters near Her Majesty Service Prisons in Warri.

 8. In 1924, the Olu Fund was created by Lt. Governor Colonel H. C. Moorehouse to place the exercise of over-lordship of Itsekiri lands on a triumvirate of Dore, Omagbemi and Skinn under the supervision of the Resident. The creation as will be explained later followed the Consent Judgement in Dore Numa versus Denede of 1921, which proclaimed for the first time, the over-lordship of the Olu.

9. In 1930, the Itsekiri Native Council was created to replace the triumvirate. Judicial powers for native courts was invested in Dore Numa, leaving Omagbemi to exercise executive powers.

10.  In 1936, a newly installed Olu of Itsekiri, Ginuwa II, was named the Chairman of the Itsekiri Native Council. Consequently, the Olu and the council assumed responsibility for the over-lordship of Itsekiri lands.

11. By 1943, the Colonial Government had begun to sublet many portions of the land covered by the 1906, 1908 and 1911 leases to individuals and businesses. The lease deals were in violation of the treaties and Cap 110 and 112 of Nigerian land laws of 1908, which restricted use of communal lands to public purposes only. Many of the individuals that benefited from the sublease, according to Obiomah were Itsekiri who had been encouraged, since 1924, to migrate in large numbers to Warri

12. In 1959, the deeds covering the 1906, 1908 and 1911 leases were released and invested in the Warri Division (Itsekiri Communal Lands) Trust. The Trust was created in compliance with the Communal Land Rights (Vesting in Trustees) Law that was enacted by the Government of Western Nigeria in1959. As the name suggested, the authority of the Trust was limited to lands that were communal and Itsekiri. Nevertheless, the Trust laid claims to all lands in Warri as Itsekiri owned and proceeded to grant leases without the consent of the communities who lived in the lands affected. In addition, many individuals and companies who had obtained leases on the lands, prior to the inception of the Trust, were forced to take out fresh leases for the land they already owned. The company, Messrs. John Holt Transport Limited, for example, had to take another deed of lease in 1959 in spite of the existence of a deed between Ogbe and John Holt & Co. (of Liverpool) Limited in1911 (46)

13. In 1978, the Land Use Decree entrenched in Section 274(d) of the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria, abolished the Itsekiri Lands Trust. The various functions of the Trust, including the collection of revenue were turned over to the Bendel State Ministry of Lands.

As shown, Dore Numa as Political Agent and Ogbe Youren representing the Itsekiri establishment, signed the various leases that released land to the British Government. The position of Dore Numa as an agent remains the major factor in deciding the ownership of Warri. The three indigenous communities of Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo were already living in Warri when Dore Numa signed the leases without authorization from them. The leases, can therefore be seen as indications of the level of duplicity employed by British colonial rulers in handling matters of interest to the people of Warri. The British ignored their own treaties which recognized the ownership rights of land occupied by the various communities in Warri. However, with the passage of the Land Use Decree, it became possible for the court to declare in Dzungwe versus Gbishe & Anor (1985) 2 NWLR that "a right of occupancy represented the nearest equivalent to rights of ownership as obtainable in the Southern part of Nigeria." The decree in effect, killed the notion of over-lordship as it related to land with the exception of communal land which is vested with the state government.

Legal Challenges and Commissions of Inquiry

Many of the cases revolved around the right of Dore Numa to sign leases to the British Government and other bodies on behalf of the various communities in Warri. Also contentious is the use and distribution of rents accruing from the leases. The affairs of the Itsekiri Communal Lands Trust were not only examined by a commission of inquiry but also became a cause for a series of legal challenges. Moore, Obiomah and Sagay described accounts of many of the legal tussles including the following (47):

1. Denedo, Moore and Omasachiche for and on behalf of themselves and the members of Olu Akengbuwa Family versus Dore Numa, was held at Onitsha, May 2, 1923. The  plaintiffs in the case deposed that they as the descendants of Olu Akengbuwa are the owners of parcel of land known as Ogbe Ijaw and Alder's Town Warri. The ownership entitled them to the rents and profits accruing from the land. The Judge, His Honor, Mr. Justice A. F. C. Weber ruled in favor of the defendant stating that Dore and not the plaintiffs, is the person the Government recognized as the head of the Itsekiri, meaning as Ikime points out, Dore Numa's appointment as Paramount Chief was put over Itsekiri laws and customs. The case was lost on appeal. However in a consent agreement, sponsored by Lieutenant Governor Colonel H. C. Moorhouse in 1924, an Olu Trust Fund was set up. The fund was to receive five - sixths of the rents, leaving one-sixth for Dore Numa.

2. Ometan versus Dore Numa, 1929 was a protracted case that started in 1921 with Ogunu and Ogegede suing Dore Numa on behalf of people of Agbarha Warri. The plaintiffs asked the courts to set aside the leases of 1908 and 1911. According to Sagay, the case was dropped at a stage only to be resurrected in 1925.The court found that Agbarha people by waiting for 17 years to prefer the case for rents from the land, had lost claim to the lands. This means that the portions of land involved namely Ogbe Ijaw, Alder's Town, Wilkey Town and Pessu Town, had as a result of the long delay in filling a claim, become known as Itsekiri lands.The court also ruled, as Sagay indicated "the rights of Agbassa to occupy Agbassa, Odion, and Fugbe according to native law and custom could not be denied provided the over-lordship of the Olu [of Jekri] was recognized". The court according to Obiomah, had denied the counsel for Agbarha people the permission to subpoena the Governor General Office for a copy of the 1893 treaty British Government signed to protect Agbarha land, the Agbarha copy having been lost. The case went all the way to the Privy Council in London and Ometan lost at every step of the way.

3. Chief Commissioner, Western Province versus Ginuwa II, Olu of Itsekiri, Sam Warri Essi, and Obiomah Ejenavbo, Suit No. W/44/1941 was initiated by the Government. The Government wanted to determine who should collect rents from portions of land that include the later African cemetry in Warri, that had been acquired compulsorily. The court awarded about 5% of the rents to the Olu and the rest to the people of Agbarha.

4. Chief Commissioner, Western Province versus Ginuwa II, Olu of Itsekiri, Sam Warri Essi, and Obiomah Ejenavbo, Suit No. W/3/49, was also initiated by the Government when it acquired more of Agbarha land. The court ruling was the same as that in Suit No. W/44/1941.

5 [Chief Commissioner, Western Province versus Itsekiri Establishment, Agbarha People], Suit No. W/22/56 was also initiated by the Government when it acquired more of Agbarha land. In court, this time, the award for Itsekiri rose to 1/3 of the rents and that for the people of Agbarha dropped to 2/3 of the rents.

6. Itsekiri Communal Land Trustees versus Dick Olueh & ORS for the Itsekiri People of Ugborodo and Ogidigben, Suit No. W/46/69 was brought to challenge denial of rights to collect compensation on some land in Benin River. The Federal Government was required to pay compensation for portions of land it acquired from the people of Ugborodo/Ogidigben. The people refused to share such money with the Itsekiri Communal Land Trust (48). The case rested on a provision of the Trust instrument that prevent assault on Family Lands: "The said rights (that is to demise land accept surrender of leases) shall not include any rights exercisable by any persons in respect of family land on behalf of the family." The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Nigeria which directed that the sum of  £27,416:13s:4d be paid to the Ugborodo people and the balance of £13,708:6s:8d to remain in Warri High Court pending the determination of another appeal in the Supreme Court. However, in separate suit, the presiding Judge, Honorable Justice Atake, ordered the payment of the £13,708:6s:8d to the Itsekiri Communal Lands Trust. Mr. Godwin Boyo, the Attorney for the people of Ugborodo/Ogidigben objected and was cited for contempt of the court. Mr. Boyo appealed the contempt charge and won. The case had no direct bearing on Warri but it destroyed the whole notion of over-lordship of the Olu and its claim of entitlement to compensation from private property.

7. Chief Arthur Prest versus the Itsekiri Communal Lands Trust, Suit No.W/15/1970, was instituted to seek annulment of deeds granted to Messrs. John Holt of Liverpool limited by the Itsekiri Communal land Trust on land belonging to Ogbe family in Warri. The Presiding Judge, Honorable Justice V. E. Ovie-Whiskey, found for Chief Prest and declared among other findings: "For the avoidance of doubt, especially as there are numerous cases pending in the Warri Court on the this over-lordship issue, I hereby make it abundantly clear that the defendants have no power whatsoever in law to exercise the Olu of Warri rights of over-lordship over lands owned by private individuals and families in Warri Division." The judgement was upheld in an appeal in 1972.

8. Idundun & Ors [The Olu of Warri and Co.] versus Okumagba family of Okere-Urhobo was held in Warri High Court, Suit No. W/48/68 and later in the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Suit No. SC. 309/74. The case sought to question the rights exercised by the Okumagba family over certain plots of lands in Okere section of Warri. The Supreme Court ruled for the Okumagba family and indicated: "A point which the plaintiffs (i.e. Olu and Co) and their counsel have tried to urge on this court that because the land in dispute is in Warri and so in in Warri Division, the Olu of Warri has right of over-lordship over it because as Olu of Warri, he has rights of over-lordship over all lands in Warri Division. The whole argument is erroneous. The Olu by title is Olu of Warri, but his rights of over-lordship relate only lands of Itsekiri people and even then, there is ground for saying that it does not relate to all lands of all Itsekiri." The decision seemed to concur with an earlier declaration by the British Colonial Administration when it approved on September 1,1952, the Western Nigeria Government's recommendation to change the Olu's title from Olu of Itsekiri to Olu of Warri to wit: His Honour approves the change in the Olu's title from that of Olu of Itsekiri to that of Olu of Warri. It should be made quite clear, however, that, the change in title does not on any account imply an extension of the Olu's traditional authority." (49)

9. Thomas Commission of Inquiry was set up to look into the Affairs of the Itsekiri Communal lands Trust, in 1963. The Commission uncovered series of illegalities including the allocation of plots of land in the Government Reservation Area (GRA), Warri, to a number of Itsekiri, because of political affiliations and personal interest. The report also listed a number of individuals, including the Rewane Brothers, who had not paid the necessary fees although they had proceeded to erect buildings on the plots assigned to them.

10. Both the Nnaemeka Agu Commission of 1993 and the Idoko Commission of 1997 recommended the creation of separate councils, one for each of the three ethnic groups in Warri, to enable them to exercise their rights of self-determination.(50)

Jurisdictional Rights and Ownership of Resources

As the various treaties signed by the British Colonial Administration show, and as the series of legal challenges confirm, Warri is not ethnically homogeneous. Neither will it be fair, in light of prevailing evidence to the contrary, for anyone group, to claim exclusive communal ownership of lands in Warri. It is in recognition of this type of diversity in many areas, that Nigeria as a country, opted for a federal system of government during the pre-independence era. A federal structure allows the different communities the opportunity to come together to form a country, without the communities surrendering the rights to control their own local affairs. As the case, in many of the countries of sub-Sahara Africa, citizenship is more meaningful at the sub-national level or ethnic group level than at the state level. Since the fall of Songhai Empire, the people have learned to depend on their communities for their needs and support. The nation-state that arose from the ashes of Songhai and has persisted to the present through colonialism, has not been able to meet the needs of security and protection of individuals in the state. (51) It would therefore make sense that any attempt to resolve tension between the state and sub-national levels should consider adopting a pluralistic policy which enables the sub-national realm to provide a foundation that will support national citizenship (Ekeh 1990) (52). As Ejobowah correctly infers, such a pluralistic policy recognizes the ethnic communities as political communities with rights to autonomy. Thus when people of different ethnic backgrounds choose to unite as one country, they must be allowed the right, not only to decide what powers to delegate to the center, but also to manage their own affairs at the local level. In this way, the jurisdictional rights of the country are shared at two levels in such a way that neither of the levels has the absolute power to eliminate the rights of the other. The failure of Nigerian federalism is that it was constructed around the major ethnic groups without any protection for the rights of those who are numerically inferior. Indeed, Nigeria has evolved through successive military governments into a unitary state, which exercises absolute power that has abolished the community's right of self-determination. The current Nigerian government, in spite of its pretension to democracy, has done nothing substantial to safeguard the interests of the communities especially those located in the oil-producing areas like Warri.

Yet, the government continues to control the oil wealth located in these territories, as if they are colonial possessions, for the benefit of others outside the region. The Nigerian government, like the colonial state before it, considers itself, the legal owner of large tract of land belonging to the indigenous people of Niger Delta. The government has, over the years, ceded much of the land to multinational oil corporations for oil exploration with deleterious effects on the lives and fortunes of the people. The result has been the rise of disadvantaged local youths as minority right activists fighting for the control of resources in their communities. The crisis in Warri has been exacerbated by the proximity of the city to many oil wells in the region. Many of the youths are unemployed and they direct their anger towards insensitive oil companies who prefer to hire people from outside the host communities. (53)  Thus the conflict in Warri has become an extension of the on going struggle between state and ethnic minorities for primacy of rights to control local resources. One other reason for rise of activism in the area, is the loss of revenue to oil-producing states caused by the elimination of the derivation principle as an index of revenue allocation by the government. Many activist groups including the Ken Saro-Wiwa led Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and the Ijaw Youth Council, have issued the Ogoni Bill of Rights in early 1990s and the Kaiama Declaration of 1998 respectively, calling on the government and the oil companies to vacate their land and to end exploitation of the people (54). The mood of the people in Warri and other oil-producing communities is summed up in a passionate plea for fairness by The Delta Minorities Forum when it noted among other things that:

The oil-producing communities of the southern minority states …have continued to bear the burden of generating the national wealth and prosperity from oil mineral operations. The burden has been painful and oppressive. The communities are not given any satisfactory treatment for their onerous contribution. What they have in common and in varying degree of abundance, is abject poverty ……. The federal government institutionalized legal structures to wrest ownership of oil mineral deposits from these paradoxically blessed communities thus depriving them of the natural fruits therefrom.(55)
The response of an overzealous federal government and the oil companies has been more repression and undue interference in local affairs, favoring some communities over the others. The government and oil companies are being accused of massive corruption including offering of huge bribes and oil royalties to certain community leaders, to seek their support, without any corresponding effort to improve the standard of living for the common citizens of Warri and its environs. Many in the area, including the Urhobo, have expressed concerns about the prospects of cozy relationships between the oil companies and various Itsekiri establishments. Many Itsekiri organizations including Ugbajo Itsekiri and the Itsekiri Survival Movement, have consistently condemned the Ijaw youths for occupying oil flow stations situated on lands leased to Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited and Chevron Nigeria Limited by Itsekiri communities. The Ijaw contend that the flow stations are in fact located on Ijaw lands and deeply resent oil companies that pay royalties to the Itsekiri Establishment for crude oil collected through these stations. The youths were also incensed by the huge environmental degradation of the area, that threatens the very existence of the oil-producing communities (56). Oil exploration has led to large scale deforestation, destruction of arable land through flaring of gas and the resulting acid rain. Frequent oil spills have left rivers polluted and marine life destroyed.

Emergence of Jurisdictional Privileges

The tactics of setting one community against the other is reminiscent of the situation in 1849 when John Beecroft was appointed consul for the Bights of Benin and Biafra. The appointment of the consul was the beginning of efforts to interfere in local affairs in order to set up the necessary machinery that will serve British interest in the area. The Itsekiri, like the Efiks and the eastern Ijaws, who had the advantage of early contact with European traders became the early favorites. Although the favorites were minorities in the Niger Delta, they were placed in positions to dominate others in the region. The appointment of Dore Numa as a political agent in 1896 for the Benin River District as has been shown, further strengthened the position of the Itsekiri people, more so after the death of George Eyube in 1910. Mr. Eyube, an Urhobo man from Agbarho, was the political agent for the Warri District. The British did not replace Mr. Eyube but chose instead to expand Dore Numa's power to include jurisdiction over Warri area. (57)  The Urhobo people, probably because of their history of migrations into what is known as Urhoboland, have never been able to evolve a central government, as the Itsekiri did under the Oluship. It probably explains the apparent lack of unity and possibly why the British considered the Urhobo to be too incompetent to cope with needs of a modern administration. While the British considered it convenient to ignore Urhobo people, they intensified the training of young Itsekiri for positions in the colonial administration. In 1900, Sir Ralph Moor, the High Commissioner, asked a number of Itsekiri Chiefs to bring a son each for education at the Ogungunmanga Government School, Bonny (58). When Government School was opened in Warri and Sapele in 1903 and 1904 respectively, majority of the students were Itsekiri. The missionary schools, Saint Luke CMS school, Sapele opened in 1902 followed by Saint Andrew CMS School, Warri in 1903, were also used to serve the educational needs of the Itsekiri (59). These schools provided the early crops of graduates that served as interpreters, court clerks, bailiff, tax collectors and a host of other positions in the colonial administration. In contrast, there was no meaningful education in Urhobo hinterland, outside of Sapele and Warri, and until 1927 and the Urhobo were in no position to compete for jobs that require western education. The lack of qualified Urhobo might be one of the reasons why the Native Court established at Abraka to serve Urhobo settlements, had by 1896, no Urhobo on the bench which sat fifteen Itsekiri and one Ijaw. The predominance of Itsekiri officers continued for quite sometime. The hand over notes prepared by Mr. H. G. Aveling, District Officer, Warri Division, in 1922 identified only one Urhobo, and seven Itsekiri among the seventeen clerks who were serving in Itsekiri and Urhoboland (60). However, Urhobo, by the end of decade, had started to produce young men who were educated enough to compete with the Itsekiri and other Nigerians for jobs in the colonial administration. The importance of the Itsekiri as those known for loyalty and service to the British had thus begun to wane, setting the stage for Itsekiri - Urhobo rivalry.

The appointment of Dore Numa as a paramount chief for Warri Division and subordination of Urhobo to him did not augur well for Itsekiri - Urhobo relations, but only served to worsen them. In 1924, Dore Numa was made the sole authority charged with nominating the Urhobo to the Colonial resident, for appointment as native authorities in Urhoboland The District Officer, Mr. Murphy observed the impracticality of Dore's new role and cautioned in a memorandum to the Resident:

The proposal that Chief Dore should appoint Sobo chiefs as subordinate authorities among the Sobos is I think quite impracticable. The Sobos owe no allegiance to Chief Dore who is of the Jekri tribe and any attempt to give him an artificial dominion over the Sobos would be opposed by them. (61)

Dore Numa himself did not appear to be bothered and proceeded to use his position to benefit other Itsekiri. He appointed many Itsekiri to serve as warrant chiefs in native courts in Urhoboland and in the Native Court of Appeal (chaired by him) in Warri. It did not take long before the Urhobo started to agitate for the removal of the Itsekiri chiefs who have become overbearing. Dore Numa himself was accused of several improprieties including disregard for evidence and use of his position for economic gains. The various protests against Dore Numa led to the establishment of a new appeal court at Kwale in 1923, and the removal of Sapele from the jurisdiction of the Warri Appeal Court in 1926. Although these arrangements seemed to have reduced Dore Numa's power, the Chief still retained a considerable amount of power over these courts and their decisions. The supremacy of Dore's position was reinforced in the findings of a law suit (Denedo versus Dore Numa of 1922) brought by fellow Itsekiri. The suit was instituted to challenge Dore's position as the Paramount Chief of Jakri, and the right to lease land (Ogbe-Ijoh and Alder's Town) in Warri, to British Government and to collect rents on the land. The siting Judge, Mr. Webber left no one in doubt of British's love for Dore when he declared:

[The British Government, not the Itsekiri Nation] in appointing him  [Dore Numa], the Paramount Chief and spokesman for all Jakris, he was officially recognized as the head of the Jakri nation and the man with whom the Government would negotiate in all matters connected with the Jakri nation and their land. (62)
The colonial administration also made it clear in the Agbassah Land case of 1925, that Dore Numa's area of influence or authority extended to the Urhobo community in Agbarha Warri. Justice Maxwell based his judgement on the earlier findings of Judge Webber on Denedo versus Dore Numa.. Justice Maxwell did not seem, before ruling, as the court proceedings indicated, to have bothered to first establish that the said land was Itsekiri land before or at the time Agbarha people moved in. As frustrating as these court decisions might have appeared to the parties concerned, they seemed to have been made in line with the British policy of indirect rule in Nigeria. Ikime drove this point home in his comparison of British attitude towards Nana and Dore:
……… In 1894, Administrative Officers seemed to have listened avidly to Nana's misuse of his power and position. In the 1920s and 1930s, the British Administration shut their eyes to the glaring instances of abuse of power by Dogho. Well, they might. Nana was an African nationalist who refused to yield to British imperialist ambition and so had to be broken. Dogho was a British lackey whose position and authority had to be upheld at all cost. (63)
The British's preference for him thus explains why Dore Numa, in his lifetime, did not lose any of the suits brought against him by the Itsekiri and the Urhobo in Warri. The courts upheld all the prerogatives conferred by the British on Dore Numa, their protégé or surrogate.

In spite of British's determination to prop up Dore Numa, it did not seem that they ignored all the complaints of abuses against Dore and his warrant chiefs. The British administration, according to Ikime, had the difficulty of identifying proper excuse for removing warrant chiefs until the opportunity came with the reorganization of the 1930s. The reorganization was carried out to facilitate the collection of taxes in accordance with the Native Revenue Ordinance as amended in 1927. The reorganization which was completed in 1934, resulted in the creation of the Jekri - Sobo, Sobo and Aboh Native Administrations with headquarters at Warri, Ughelli and Abraka respectively. The Jekri - Sobo Administration covered all Itsekiri and five Urhobo clans of Agbon, Oghara, Okpe, Udu and Uvbie, all of which were considered territorially close to Itsekiriland. The Sobo Administration or Division covered Isoko clans and the rest Urhobo clans except Orogun and Abraka which fell under Aboh Division. While the Urhobo in Sobo Division were happy to have an administration with headquarters in Urhoboland, the Urhobo in Jekri - Sobo Division asked to be separated from the Itsekiri. Urhobo resentment of Itsekiri domination that arose during the native court era was still fresh and the Urhobo did not want anything to do with Warri which they associated with Itsekiri predominance. The request for separation was granted in 1938 although the newly created Western Urhobo Native Administration with headquarters at Orerokpe, still existed within the Jekri - Sobo Division. However, the separation was made complete in 1949 and the Western Urhobo Division was transferred to the Urhobo Division. Whatever was left of the Jekri - Sobo Division became known as Warri Division. The new arrangements did not however, solve the problems of indigenous Urhobo communities in Warri. According to Obiomah, the Urhobo community in Agbarha Warri, regarded the retreat from premiere Warri as a capitulation and refused to join Western Urhobo in 1949 when the offer to join the division was made.(64)

Installation of Olu , Ginuwa II
and Other Effects of the Reorganization of 1930s

The introduction of native administration was suggested as the impetus that pushed the Itsekiri to consider reviving the Oluship to help unite them. Although the Urhobo lacked the tradition of central and unified kingship, the British were pleasantly surprised at the ease with the Urhobo cooperated, in spite of their clannishness, to oppose taxation (65). The British became interested in using traditional authorities, being a king or council of elders, instead of the much despised warrant chiefs in collecting taxes. In Urhoboland, the authorities were based on the clan councils with members drawn from  Ekpako, titled men and often younger educated elements who were encouraged to help. In absence of an Olu, the Itsekiri relied on the system of sub-tribal council made up mainly of heads of leading families with other notables like the Olotu, Chief Omagbemi and Dore as ex-official members. The Itsekiri arrangement did not work well in face of rivalry between various factions and the position of Dore Numa himself.(66)  It was later replaced in 1930 by the Itsekiri Native Council that now included some educated young men and by 1934, it was sufficiently organized to form part of the Jekri - Sobo Division. The obstacle to Itsekiri unity, posed by the presence of Dore Numa had been removed when Dore died on September 24, 1932. On February 7, 1936, after an interregnum of about 88 years, Gbesimi Emiko, the great grand son of Akengbuwa was installed the Olu, with the reigning title of Ginuwa II.

The enthronement of the Olu had immediate effect on Itsekiri - Urhobo relations in Warri. The Itsekiri were reported claiming that the Olu had full powers to rule over the Ijaw and the Urhobo. (67)   They also called on the colonial administration to style their ruler as the Olu of Warri instead of the Olu of Itsekiri as he was hitherto known. The Urhobo objected, arguing that the title would give the impression that all the people of Warri were subjects to the Olu, since Warri incidentally was also the name of the entire division and province. The objection was sustained but that did not prevent the Itsekiri from renewing the demand for change of Olu's title in a petition to the Chief Commissioner, Western Provinces in 1944 (68). The Commissioner also rejected the request and offered to change the title to the 'Olu of Iwere'. The issue was dropped until 1952 when the political climate became more favorable. On the other hand, the Urhobo, except those indigenous to Warri seemed to have gained a lot of jurisdictional rights since the reorganization of the 1930s. And now, in 1946, Mukoro Mowoe, President of Urhobo Progress Union, was appointed under the Richards Constitution of 1946, as the provincial member to represent Warri Province in the Western House of Assembly (69). When Mowoe died suddenly in 1948, he was replaced by Jessa Ogboru, another Urhobo man from Abraka and the Itsekiri were agitated (70). When the Richards Constitution was revised in a conference chaired by Arthur Prest, a young Itsekiri lawyer and member of the Itsekiri Native Authority Council, Warri Province was granted an additional seat in the Western House of Assembly. The new seat also went to another Urhobo man, Mr. W. E. Mowarin, from Agbarho as the second member from Warri Province in the House (71). The appointment were made to favor the Urhobo because of their numerical superiority in the province. However, the table began to turn in favor of the Itsekiri following the first country-wide elections in 1951 under the revised Richards Constitution now known as Macpherson Constitution of Nigeria. In the elections, six Urhobo men got seats under the platform of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (N.C.N.C.), Arthur Prest, an Itsekiri, declared for the Action Group Party (A.G.) and Festus Sam Edah (later known as Festus Okotie-Eboh), an Urhobo man originally from Uwherun, with strong Itsekiri orientation, also won as N.C.N.C. candidate (72). The Action Group mustered enough seats to form the government. The Action Group Government of Western Nigeria was then able to nominate Arthur Prest to the Central Legislature where he was appointed the Central Minister of Communications. The Urhobo, because they belonged to a party other than the one that formed the government of the day, had no minister either at the regional level or at the central level.

The change in political climate seemed to indicate that the apparent ascendance of Urhobo in provincial affairs from 1938 to 1949, was about to be halted. The Itsekiri were poised to exploit the instrument of government to create advantages for themselves. So, in 1952, the Itsekiri successfully persuaded Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Western Regional Minister of Local Government and Leader of the Action Group Party to recommend a change in the Olu's title, to the full House. The Urhobo objected and cited the same reasons they advanced when the issue was debated in 1936 and 1944. The government ignored Urhobo arguments and granted the Itsekiri request and in May, 1952, the Olu came to be known as 'The Olu of Warri' (73). The non-Itsekiri members for Warri Province, particularly the Urhobo, were incensed and had suggested that the government change the name of the province from Warri to Delta Province as a way to reduce the anger or to appease people in their constituencies. The government obliged but it was too late to stem the spate of violence that resulted in loss of lives and extensive damage to property. Arthur Prest was considered the main force responsible for the change in Olu's title. The other Itsekiri politician, Festus Okotie-Eboh who had risen to become by 1956, a very powerful politician and Nigeria's first Minister of Finance, was also known to have used his position to promote Itsekiri causes and to work against electing responsible leaders among the Urhobo. Another Itsekiri, Alfred Rewane, was made the Chairman of two state-owned corporations, the Western Nigeria Marketing Board and the Western Nigerian Development Corporation, which were considered the main source of revenue and the spending arm respectively of the Action Group government. The Olu was moved from his ancestral home and cultural headquarters of Ode-Itsekiri to reside in Warri where he can now be reached by land. (74)

Disenfranchisement of Non-Itsekiri Peoples of Warri

The series of party patronages, some believed, gave the Itsekiri, the opportunity to solidify their position in Warri Province. The obvious drive was to make good on the claim that Warri is the exclusive homeland of the Itsekiri by seeking government policies aimed at disenfranchising the non-Itsekiri people of Warri. The fear of marginalization of minority groups in Nigeria was considered serious enough to be placed on the agenda of Constitutional Conference held in London in 1957 and 1958. One of the most noticeable outcomes of the conference was the setting up of the Willink Commission to examine the fears of minority groups in any part of Nigeria and to propose ways to allay such fears. The Commission did not recommend the establishment of separate states for the minorities as many had expected as a way of allaying the fears of minorities. Instead, it called for the establishment of a minority area and other special areas which it believed, will encourage social and economic progress among minority groups. The Itsekiri pressed their case with the commission and were specifically mentioned in its report to wit:

.... In the town of Warri where they [Itsekiri] number less than a sixth of the population, they consider it an injustice that other tribes should have a vote or any say in the affairs of the town. (75)
The fears of the Ijaw and the Urhobo, the other indigenous ethnic groups in Warri, may have been discussed in the overall context of minority rights in Nigeria, but unlike the Itsekiri, they were not specifically cited in the Commission report. So in 1958, when the Communal lands Vesting in Trustees Law was passed by the Western Nigeria Government, the Itsekiri readily used the opportunity, to secure control of all lands in Warri. In 1959, the Itsekiri Communals (Warri Division) was formed to implement the law in Warri. Under the law, the government surrendered the leases of lands acquired by the British Colonial Administration in 1906, 1908 and 1911, to the Trust as the pristine landlord of all lands in Warri, including those belonging to the non Itsekiri people of Warri (76). Many individuals were required on the pain of confiscation to take fresh leases on lands they already owned. The new round of efforts to control land, ignored the feelings of all indigenous people of Warri, who as Rodolfo Stavenhagen inferred, know that "land is not only an economic factor of production, it is the basis of [their]cultural and social identity; the home of ancestors, the site of religious and mythical links to the past and to the supernatural". (77)

The effects of the 'land-grab' were to be observed in gerrymandering, the division of an area into election districts, so as to give one group an advantage over others, and other unfair methods of distributing political power. Under the influence of Festus Okotie-Eboh, the powerful N.C.N.C. politician from Warri Division, it was enshrined in the Midwest Constitution of 1963, that only the Itsekiri were eligible to run for political offices in the Division (78). All other people of Warri could vote but cannot be voted for. This constitutional provision means that Urhobo like Dr. F. O. Esiri who was elected Chairman of the Warri Urban District Council, 1954 - 1958 and Chief Daniel Okumagba, a former elected member of the Western House of Assembly from Warri, 1955, can no longer aspire to any elected political office in Warri. Beginning in 1976, a number of autonomous Ijaw local government councils in Warri Division have also been gerrymandered into districts that favor the Itsekiri. The legal instrument, WRLN 176 0f 1955 which established the Warri Divisional Council stipulated that the divisional council was made up of three autonomous Itsekiri councils viz Benin River Local Council, Koko Local Council, and Ugborodo Local Council with headquarters at Gbokoda, Koko, and Ugborodo respectively; three Ijaw autonomous councils namely Gbaramatu Local Council, Ogbe-Ijoh Local Council and Egbedema Local Council with headquarters at Oporoza, Ogbe-Ijoh and Opuema respectively. The seventh, Warri Urban District Council was reserved for the Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo who are indigenous to the Warri urban area. The electoral arrangement for the Ijaw and the Itsekiri, thus complied with the Western Nigeria Government Chiefs Law of 1957 Cap 19, now applicable in Delta State, which states that "The Olu of Warri is the prescribed authority of Warri Division excluding Egbema, Gbaramatu and Ogbe-Ijoh Council Areas". (79) The legal instrument of 1955, also delineated within the Warri Urban District Council area separate electoral wards for the three indigenous ethnic groups, including Wards C1, C2 and F1 (Government Area) for the people of Ogbe-Ijoh in Warri. All these wards have been systematically replaced by Itsekiri wards thus depriving the Ijaw of any representation in the Warri council. In addition, Itsekiri villages of Ode-Itsekiri, Orugbo, Obodo and Omadino have by electoral registration exercise of 1998 been included as wards in Warri metropolis, solely as many Ijaw believed, to give electoral advantage to the Itsekiri over other groups. The villages had been traditionally considered to be outside Warri metropolis. (80)

The Dawn of A New Era in the Ethnic Politics of Warri

The military take over of Nigeria in 1966, brought in changes that affected the electoral arrangements in ways that stroke a new note in the politics of Warri. The Federal Military Government of Nigeria suspended all constitutions both at the federal and regional levels, including that of Midwest Regional Government which banned non Itsekiri from seeking political office in Warri. The whole of Warri Division, including Warri Urban District Council, was merged by Obasanjo local government reforms of 1976 into one Warri Local Government Council of twelve councilors, six of which were Itsekiri, four Urhobo and two Ijaw. The Council ran for some thirty months amid acrimonious dealings before it was dissolved by a newly elected government controlled by United Party of Nigeria (UPN) and replaced by a Management Committee of only Itsekiri members. The UPN government also transferred the Ijaws in Warri, over their objection to emerge with their kith and kin in Burutu Local Government Area. The presence of Ijaw in Warri area was also diluted by the transfer of Tsekelewu, an oil-rich Ijaw constituency from Bendel State and made to join Ondo state, where the Ijaw feel they do not belong. It took another government, this time controlled by the National Party of Nigeria, in 1983, to dissolve the All-Itsekiri member Committee and to return the Ijaw to Warri. In 1991, the military government of General Babaginda, split Warri into administrative areas, Warri South Local Government and Warri North Local Government. Warri South was more or less the former Warri Urban District Council covering the two Urhobo clans of Agbarha and Okere, and some Itsekiri settlements in Warri. Warri North consisted of all four Ijaw clans of Egbema, Gbaramatu, Isaba and Ogbe-Ijoh and some Itsekiri settlements with headquarters at Koko. The arrangement for Warri North proved to be difficult for the Ijaw who must now travel on water through the Escravos to Warri and proceed, from there by land through Sapele and Ethiope local government areas to reach Koko for official business. The Federal Military Government recognized the problem and was persuaded to reassign the Ijaw to Warri South. (81)

The reassignment to Warri South was no longer sufficient to satisfy the Ijaw as they began to press for a separate local government of their own. After investigation by the Delta State Government, the Federal Government on the advice of the state government, created in October 1996, the Warri South-West Local Government Council with headquarters at Ogbe - Ijoh, an Ijaw community in Warri. The new council was made up of all the Ijaw clans except Egbema which remained in Warri North along with some Itsekiri settlements. The three councils of Warri North, Warri South and Warri South-West as currently constituted are not popular and some view the creations of the councils as another example of government's acquiescence to Itsekiri demand for full control. Although the Itsekiri are considered minority in each of the councils, the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria, assigned to them more electoral wards than those given to the Ijaw and Urhobo majority. Some have attempted to justify this lopsided arrangement on the ground that both the Urhobo and the Ijaw were already represented adequately in other areas of Delta State and Bayelsa State respectively (82). The argument could not be valid since no one ever said that the Yoruba in Kwara and Kogi States should have no representation in those areas simply because they are already well represented in homogeneous Yoruba states of Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo,and Oyo states. The Ijaw while still unhappy with the electoral arrangement, became more incensed when the Abacha Military Government decided to relocate the headquarters of Warri South-West Council from Ogbe - Ijoh to Ogidegben, an Itsekiri village. The Ijaw believed that the Itsekiri Establishment had persuaded some government functionaries to alter earlier plans that placed the headquarters at Ogbe-Ijoh. The Ijaw saw the new government directive as unfair and refused to abide by it. The standstill in no time degenerated into violent clashes between the Ijaw and Itsekiri, resulting, once again, in loss of lives and extensive damage to property.

Strategies To Reduce Ethnic Conflict

For any attempt to succeed in reducing ethnic conflict, it must be preceded by an understanding of the sources and patterns of the conflict. The order allows any one interested in seeking solution to the crisis in Warri to see in advance, how seemingly intractable obstacles can be placed on the way to accommodation among ethnically divided people. Ethnic conflict may, therefore be difficult to control, especially when it involves institutions of society and polity, unless something is done to remove the root causes. The common Itsekiri persons are led to believe that a diminution of the status of their Olu would be a substantial threat to individual identity. On the other hand, neither the Urhobo nor the Ijaw national, conscious of past injustice, is willing to accept what they regard as the Olu's over-lordship of Warri. Under these circumstances, it would appear, according to Horowitz, that the Itsekiri, like the Sinhalese, the Hausa/Fulani, the Malays, the Fijians, the Assamese are troubled by invidious group comparisons with others in their midst (83). Horowitz based this feeling of uncertainty on Ross's observation that "individual sense of identity is the feeling of being a worthy person because he fits into a coherent and valued order of things, ego identity depends heavily on affiliations". (84)  Any threat to these affiliations is therefore bound to produce anxiety and defense. Berkowitz (cited by Horowitz) indicated that "people often express hostility towards those who create uncertainty about the correctness of their own behavior and that of the groups to which they belong" (85). Neither the Ijaw nor the Urhobo, until recently has any ruler of comparable status of the Olu. The lack of a unified central kingdom headed by one king among the Ijaw and Urhobo, probably explains why these non-Itsekiri groups might not be able to appreciate the cultural and emotional attachment the Itsekiri people have for their Olu.

In as much as these divisive issues and concerns limit the possibility of accommodation, a number of reasonable options are available to reduce the ethnic conflict. The options include those advanced by theorists and others implemented by practitioners. Many theories of conflict regulation are based on the assumption that it is essential for ethnically divided people to live with ethnic cleavages rather than wish them away. The theories stipulate that efforts to reduce conflict must begin with those of seeking the agreement of ethnic leaders. Group leaders are easier than people among the masses, to work with, since the habits, sentiments and loyalties of followers may prove difficult to change in the short term. The people are also likely to listen to leaders who can offer hope, even in face of hostilities. Of course, not every leader will be interested in promoting accommodation, especially if such leaders benefit politically or materially from the continuation of the conflict (86). Notwithstanding, Nelson Mandela and President Pik Botha, two opposing protagonists in South Africa during the apartheid regime, were reported to have met several times in secret to discuss ways to resolve the crisis in their country. Lijphart (cited by Horowitz) offers four proven techniques for dealing with ethnic problems, namely (1) "grand coalition" of all ethnic groups; (2) mutual veto in decision-making; (3) ethnic proportionality in the allocation of certain opportunities and offices; and (4) ethnic autonomy (87). The thrust of these measures is to mitigate the unfair domination of one group by another. These techniques seem to have worked well for European countries like Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands which are known to have attained democracy and stability, in spite of considerable heterogeneity. Lijphart attributes the success to consociation "cooperation by the leaders of the different groups which transcends the segmental and subcultural cleavages (88)". Since cultural cleavages are perceived to be deeper and hostility more intense in many developing countries, consociational practices may not in the short term, affect deeply held attitudes but they are considered helpful in softening hostility. However, consocianalism will only work when ethnic leaders of all significant segments of the various groups, including traditional rulers, elders, youth leaders and religious leaders are able to come together in a "grand coalition" to fashion a political arrangement for peaceful coexistence.

The task of choosing good leaders by the various groups is not always an easy one and it could degenerate into an elite competition, which by itself, is one of the sources of ethnic conflict. It will therefore be a mistake to assume that all leaders have good intentions, in absence of good political reasons for entertaining such a notion. Yet, there are sound incentives for leaders to want to cooperate for the common good. Foremost among the incentives, is the cost of doing nothing. The common people expect results and return to conditions that are sufficiently peaceful and stable enough to allow them to go about their normal business. No reasonable leader in the Niger Delta will want to incur the wrath of the people especially the restive youths who are anxious for solution. The youth revolt in Isoko that chased and kept the traditional ruler of Irri out of his palace for several months, and the recent murder of Kumani Owin, Eruwede II, the Ovie of Evwreni in Ughelli East Local Government area, allegedly by irate youths, are evidence of tragic consequences of failed leadership (89). For the leaders to remain credible, they must be able to forge with their constituents, a strong bond that could strengthen their hands during negotiations. Although leaders are often accused of betraying interests when they tend to cooperate with leaders of other groups, good leaders work to convince people that the alternative to accommodation is continued strife and marginalization.

Once a "grand coalition" of ethnic leaders is put in place, the alliance must then seek ways for the groups to live together in peace and harmony. One way to reduce conflict is for the coalition to formulate policies that encourage alignment based on common interests other than ethnicity. Concerns for environmental degradation, ill-equipped schools, poor roads, lack of health care, portable water, and other basic infrastructure in Warri can compete with ethnic conflict for attention. The impetus for cooperation on these issues flows from the realization that Warri has been left destitute because the Federal Government of Nigeria is exploiting the resources of the people of Warri for the benefit of powerful ethnic groups outside the area. The provision of basic amenities will raise the standard of living for all, thereby reducing, in the long run, disparities and dissatisfaction among or between groups. Some countries have developed some pluralistic arrangement such as full federal system that guarantees all ethnic groups some form of legally recognized representation or participation in the political system. Already, there is popular demand for the restructuring of Nigeria into a true federal system which allows ethnic nationalities to control their resources with unrestricted opportunities to plan and develop their areas in accordance with their desires and aspirations. Any attempt to make Warri a protected federal territory as demanded by some elements in Warri, would appear to be a negation of the principle of self-determination as such a move is bound to lead to further alienation of the area. The Nigerian government like the colonial administration before it, is being blamed for many of the problems in the area and it cannot be trusted to safeguard the interests of the people. As would be expected in a true federation, Delta State Government should be allowed to use its authority to create separate local government units that are linguistically homogeneous within the city to reflect the tri-ethnicity of Warri. The creation will guarantee each community the opportunity to exercise its right of self-determination, and the freedom to develop its culture, as free citizens without interference from others. (90)  The right of ethnic groups to administer their own local governments also allows each community, to choose its own leaders, including traditional rulers, if it so desires. Under this arrangement, the devolution of power to the homogeneous unit means that many issues will be contested within the groups rather than between them as many of the contested issues will have been reduced to ethnic-level cases. Issues of mutual concerns or interests, such as building roads that run through communities can be handled through cooperation provided each group has the right to veto any plan that it finds disadvantageous. Ethnic conflict may also be further reduced by fair allocation of opportunities and offices at the federal level based on ethnic proportionality, without any requirement on the groups to surrender control of resources located in their territories.


The history of Warri is that of a small cluster of villages, where three indigenous groups, Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo, when left alone, were able to live in relative peace, in spite of differences in customs and traditions. The British intervention, early in 1900s, designed to advance British interest in the region, destroyed this harmony. The disruption of peace began with the establishment of a consulate close to the center of growing commercial activity on mainland immediately north of Warri River. The acquisition by colonialists, of land needed for development of the new township was handled unjustly not only to deny communities compensation due them but also create privileges for Itsekiri establishment. The Itsekiri establishment profited from the British presence largely through the emergence of Dore Numa as a lackey that helped to perpetuate British interests in the area. With the end of British rule in Nigeria, the economically and culturally privileged Itsekiri minority, now finds its privileges and interests questioned by the Ijaw and Urhobo, the other ethnic groups in the area. The Itsekiri reaction to the challenge is to organize to maintain privileges by relying once more, on the instruments of the government in power, to safeguard interests. (91)  The Ijaw and the Urhobo majority, nonetheless, continue to demand jurisdictional rights for the collective good and interests of all peoples in Warri. One would have expected that when communities are in conflict, the State as a neutral body, to step in to restore order, arbitrate between the groups, or to correct torts that may have been inflicted on any of the communities by the other. What happened in Warri, showed that the State whether it was Action Group Government of Western Nigeria or the military regime of General Abacha, became, for one reason or the other, a party to the conflict by aligning itself with the Itsekiri establishment to the detriment of other groups in the city. The government had at various times, imposed solutions that only served to provoke further misunderstanding, rivalries, tensions, friction, conflicts and sometimes violence between the ethnic groups in the area. The non Itsekiri indigenous elements of Warri do not appear to be willing or prepared to abide by measures which they regard as efforts to enforce domination through local colonization in ways that are reminiscent of British Colonial imperialism.

The intensity of the conflict, on the surface, is hard to explain to writers like Lloyd and others in the western world who consider ethnic riots as urban issues that involve working class people. Lloyd in his attempt to explain the ethnic politics in Warri posed the question: What had the Itsekiri common man to gain from these struggles? The conflict does not appear to have much to do with economic competition between the groups. Warri has not been known for any labor unrest that arose from factory closings or evidence of businesses that are specifically limited to any one group. As Lloyd inferred the presence of the Urhobo has been exaggerated to create a climate of unnecessary hostility. Neither is there any immediate likelihood that the Itsekiri will lose their identity because of emergence of Ijaw and Urhobo as political forces to reckon with in Warri. Nevertheless, Llyod may have sensed the real reason for the ethnic problem, when he remarked that: " ….. one ought to look closely to see which individuals gain from exploiting this tension and study the means by which they seek to gain their ends". (92) Lloyd's accounts confirm what many in the Niger Delta had known for a long time that the common Itsekiri man, is susceptible to manipulation by his rulers. The Itsekiri establishment had exploited the cultural affinity its ethnic followers show for the Olu and had used the followers to defend narrow interests that are not theirs. In normal times, the ordinary Itsekiri person relies on mutual economic ties with his or her immediate neighbors, the Bini, Ijaw, Isoko and Urhobo to make a living. The Itsekiri that live in Sapele, an Urhobo town are more than those in Warri, many Itsekiri are known to flock during times of ethnic riots in Warri to Sapele and other Urhobo towns and villages for safety. (93) Thus Itsekiri fears of domination by Urhobo seem to be unrealistic and appear to be expressed out of proportion to the actual danger facing the Itsekiri.

Warri like many other Nigerian cities has become highly heterogeneous and polyglot. The reality of urbanization, means that the Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, and in fact, all groups of people in Warri, regardless of race, ethnicity or religious background, must learn to live together in peace and harmony, sharing common goals and working for a common destiny. The medieval doctrine of feudal 'over-lordship of Warri', imposed by the British, has long been deposed in Nigerian courts. Besides the lack of legal basis, using the notion of over-lordship to establish privileges for some while denying the same to other indigenes of the same area, is archaic and has no place in a modern society. Many members of the three ethnic groups, in spite of cultural differences and obstacles created by their leaders, much to their credit, continue to intermingle through marriages and business interactions, making the need for peaceful coexistence all the more imperative. The indigenous communities can improve on this trend by coming together through credible leaders to fashion a course of action to halt the theft of oil wealth and to wrest the control of the resources of the area from the federal government. The proceeds from the rich oil resources are enough to develop the area in ways that will guarantee employment, and improve the standard of living for all the peoples of Warri, and bring much needed stability to the area. In essence, Warri can be used as an experiment to determine what the society of the future will look like, a differentiated political community where individual rights are respected and protected. The success of the experiment, will have ramifications that go beyond the boundaries of Warri; it would have great implications for civilization and all mankind.


1. Parts of the paper had been discussed at the First Urhobo Historical Society Convention, held on November 3 - 5, at Hampton Inn At The Falls, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

2. The site of ritual worship of an ancestral deity by the people of Agbarha, the indigenous Urhobo Community in Warri. The ritual is considered sacred by the people and it is taken seriously, even by the Christians among them.

3. Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 271. Professor Ikime indicated that the Urhobo attack was made to disrupt an Itsekiri procession of welcome for Chief Arthur Prest, the Minister of Communication for the Central Government of Nigeria. Chief Prest was scheduled to visit Warri on May 8, 1952 but had been persuaded to change plans. The Minister, as the only Itsekiri member of the Action Group Party which formed the Western Government of Nigeria, was considered responsible for getting the government to change the Olu's title.

4. Council of Ijaw Associations Abroad (CIAA), Press Release No. 3, August 1, 1999, pp. 7: Chief Clark's residence along Baptist Road, GRA, Warri and two of his office buildings were attacked and burnt down, allegedly for leading the protest against the relocation of the local government headquarters. A member of Chief Clark's security staff, Mr. Emeka Ndukwe, was killed in the attack.

5. Urhobo National Forum (UNF), Press Release, June 15, 1999: The Itsekiri Survival Movement reported that the Urhobo and Ijaw had joined forces to attack the Itsekiri. The story gave the impression that the Urhobo and the Ijaw have teamed up against a defenseless Itsekiri population in Warri. The impression is unfortunate because there was no evidence of Ijaw involvement or presence in the June 4, 1999 attack on Okere-Urhoho, Warri.

6. Donald L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, pp. 136.

7. Kumar Rupesinghe. 1988. Theories of conflict resolution and their applicability to protracted ethnic conflict, cited by Rodolfo Stavenhagen's The Ethnic Question, pp. 76.

8.  For a discussion of the nature of conflict between Greek City states, consult Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War for an account of a long life-and-death struggle between Athens and Sparta.

9. Guardian, January 2, 1999.

10. Van Gelder et al, 1966, The Niger Delta: A disrupted Ecology, The Role of Shell and Other Oil Companies. Cited by John Boye Ejobowah in Who Owns the Oil ?

11. Donald L. Horowitz: Ethnic Groups in Conflict. The writer is indebted for the materials used to develop the theoretical framework for this section of the paper.

12. ibd, `pp. 202, cites Far Eastern Economic Review, July 11, 1990, pp. 30 - 32.

13.  Kenneth O. Dike, Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830 - 1885, pp. 21.

14. Peter C. Llyod, The Itsekiri in the Nineteenth Century, Journal of African History, IV, 2, (1963), pp. 209.

15. Daniel Obiomah, Warri, Urhobo and The Urhobo Nation, Appendix C: The Urhobo Itsekiri Feud: The Warri Question, pp. 2.

16. William Moore, History of the Itsekiri, pp. 185.

17. John Hubbard, The Sobo of the Niger Delta, pp. 7.

18. J. O. E. Sagay, The Warri Kingdom, pp. 4.

19. Daniel Obiomah, Warri, Urhobo and The Nigerian Nation, Appendix C: The Urhobo Itsekiri Feud: The Warri Question, pp. 2. We also learn from Captain E. A. Miller's Intelligence Report of 1929, pp. 7 that "There is little doubt that Agbassa-Oto, ….. was the original home of the people who now occupy Warifi - Warigi lands. Probably of a peaceful disposition, as there are no traces of any war-like tendencies, there was a general exodus from the parent town, owing to oppression and enslavement by neighboring Agbadu and Ukpe Sobos. Three distinct parties set out, one settled near Warri and called their town Agbassa, a second settled in the neighborhood of Jesse, and the third at Warigi Waterside, which place they named Iro.

20. E. J. Alogoa, Long - Distance Trade and States in the Niger Delta, Journal of African History, IX, 3, (1970), pp. 320.

21. Lewis Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict, pp. 8

22. C.S.O. 26 File 54176, Secretary, Southern Provinces, to Chief Secretary to the Government, No. S.P. 11328/231 of May 14, 1936, pp. 102.

23. Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 255. The Ijaw's claim of ownership is further collaborated by an Assessment Report prepared and sent by a colonial officer, Mr. P. P. Lynch on July 16, 1928 to the Secretary, Southern Provinces, Lagos, Nigeria. The report which also offers an earlier description of the area , in parts, reads: "The original settlement which in due course became the nucleus around which population settled, is known as Ogbe-Ijoh and the name is still retained to define that portion of the town around the present market. As the name indicated, Ogbe-Ijoh was originally an Ijaw settlement and translated literally means, I am informed ''he Ijaw fish market''.…. The Ijaw fisher, more always at home in them canoes than on land, fished up and down the stretch of water which now forms the Warri anchorage and made use of the settlement to sell their catches. In the main, the purchasers came from the Old Established Sobo hamlet of Agbassa and the more recent Jekri Village of Okere…… Beyond the swamp, in a westerly direction, stood the comparatively large village of Agbassa, while on the side, the growing hamlet of Okere was rapidly extending its boundaries…. Intercommunication between these villages and the riverside settlement was maintained by means of 'bush' paths which meandered around the edge of the swamp" (National Archive, File No. 20653)

24. ibd., pp. 255.

25.  William Moore talked, in various sections of his History of Itsekiri, about a series of inter ethnic wars that ended in the subjugation of groups who were made to pay tribute to the Olu. The Urhobo, in particular, deny ever paying tribute to the Olu, as they have no tradition or legend which supports Moore's accounts.

26. For an understanding of African concepts of ownership and possession of land, consult Teslim Olawale Elias: The Nature of African Customary Law, pp. 162 - 168.

27. Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 255.

28. Donald L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, pp. 151.

29. For some description of early settlements in the Western Niger Delta, consult Peter C. Lloyd, Itsekiri in the Nineteenth Century, Journal of African History, IV, (1965), pp.209; and E. J. Alagoa, Long - Distance Trade and States in the Niger Delta, Journal of African History, IX, 3 (1970), map on pp. 324.

30.  E. J. Alagoa, Long - Distance Trade and States in the Niger Delta, Journal of African History, IX, (1970), pp. 319.

31. Hodgkins Thomas, Nigerian Perspectives: A Historical Anthology, pp. 92. If one is to accept 1480 as the time Prince Ginuwa came to the Warri area, it is highly probable that Pereira's team did not meet the Itsekiri during this maiden voyage that occurred barely 22 years after the flight from Benin. Yet, according to J. F. Ade-Ajayi, The Niger Delta States of 1600 - 1800, pp. 329, another set of Pereira's records indicates: "The Portuguese Captain, Pereira, summarizing his countrymen's knowledge of the West Coast of Africa at the 16th Century, saw all the coast from Forcados River to Bonny River (Rion Real) occupied by Ijo-'Jos'. The stretch of coast does, in fact, correspond to the currently inhabited by the Ijo. Pereira's account suggests that those Ijo groups now living west of Forcados, had not yet arrived at their present territory by 1500. Arugbo was first mentioned in 1644.

32.  Peter C. Lloyd, The Itsekiri in the Nineteenth Century, Journal of African History, IV, 2, (1963), pp. 210.

33. Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 35.

34. Patrick Manning, Slaves, Palm Oil and Political Power, African Historical Studies, II, 2 (1969), pp. 280.

35. Peter C. Lloyd, The Itsekiri in the Nineteenth Century, Journal of African History, IV, 2 (1963), pp. 214.

36. For a discussion of the Governorships of Benin River, see J. O. E. Sagay, The Warri Kingdom, Chapters 6 and 7

37. F. O. 84/858, Beecroft to Palmerstom on March 20 and April 19, 1851.

38. Britain had cause to be worried about the growing influence of Germany and France in Africa. Germany under Bismark, had by 1870, successfully consolidated the German city states into a unified nation with the strongest army in Europe. Germany had no difficulty subduing France in the War of 1870. By the 1880s, Germany had turned its interests to Africa, seeking territories in Cameroons in West Africa and Tangayika in East Africa. France, herself, had become dominant in North Africa and parts of West Africa. Britain although, it lost the war of 1812 with United States of America, had developed herself into the strongest navy in the world and the leading colonial power in Africa. With the looming threat in Europe, particularly from Germany, Britain did not want to be left out in the race for territories to maintain its prestige in Europe.

39. The complete text of the treaties which are fairly uniform, can be found displayed in http://www.waado.org/UrhoboHistory/BritishColonialRule/ColonialTreaties.html [Available since September 23, 2000]

40. Obaro Ikime, The Fall of Nigeria, pp. 37.

41. Peter C. Lloyd indicated in the Journal of African History, IV, 2 (1963), pp. 229, that the treaty was in fact signed at Sapele on August 2, 1894 by the elders of Benin River and 'Warri villages', promising freedom of trade. Nana did not attend the signing ceremony, probably for fear of abduction as the British war formations against him were already underway. Nana had refused to comply with Acting Consul-General Moor's order to withdraw war canoes from River Ethiope. Nana had been actively engaged, using war canoes to prevent British merchants from trading in Urhobo hinterland. The Consul followed up the refusal by blockading the river and began seizing Nana's canoes.

42. Obaro Ikime, Chief Dogho of Warri, pp. 21.

43. ibd., pp. 25 - 27

44. The writer is indebted for most of the information about the leases to four main sources: Daniel A. Obiomah, Warri, Lands, Overlords, & Land Rights (Ometan Vs Dore Numa); and J. O. E. Sagay, The Itsekiri Kingdom with citations from William Moore's History of Itsekiri., and Obaro Ikime: Niger Delta Rivalry.

45. The circumstances of this lease which according to Sagay, was signed by Dore and Ogbe on behalf of themselves and the Itsekiri people, seem unclear. The enabling instrument used by the Colonial Administration to acquire land (Public Lands Acquisition Ordinance) through Dore, did not come into force until 1903.

46. The leases signed in 1906, 1908 and 1911, also known as B2, B5, and B7 leases respectively will expire between the year 2001 and the year 2008. In a 1999 petition, reacting to A Federal Protected Territories Bill, proposed by the Itsekiri, the people of Agbarha Warri, expressed their desire to get these plots of land back. The petition claimed that the lands covered by the leases belong to the people of Agbarha, who signed treaties with the British to protect them.

47. The writer is indebted to William Moore: History of Itsekiri; Daniel Obiomal: Warri Land, Overlords & Land Rights (Ometan Vs Numa) and J. O. E. Sagay: The Warri Kingdom, for most of the information used in this section.

48. The people of Gborodo and Ogidigbe had petitioned Mr. Herbert C. Clarke of Ekurede and Chief Inspector of Police, Warri, for help before an earlier court case (Dore Numa vs Olue of 1921) to say that their land belonged to their immortalized ancestor named Olaja-Ori, and that they were not subject to the Olu Itsekiri (William Moore's History of Itsekiri, pp. 125 - 129). Peter Llyod also indicated that: "The Gborodo people say that they arrived at the same time as Ginuwa migration, maintaining that until recently they did not recognize the Olu of Warri as their king". ( R. E. Bradbury's The Benin Kingdom and the Edo Speaking People of South-Western Nigeria, 1970 Edition, pp. 178)

49. The British Colonial Administration's letter of approval, Ref. 26801/1/7, pp. 2 also made clear: The title of the Olu of Warri is like that the Alake of Abeokuta. Just as the title, Alake of Abeokuta does not mean that the Alake owns the whole of Abeokuta which also include Ilaro and Egba, the title of the Olu does not confer the over-lordship or ownership of all lands in Warri on the Olu. Both Egba and Ilaro have their own Obas (kings) who are not in any way subject to the Alake.

50. Council of Ijaw Associations Abroad (CIAA), Press Release No. 3, August 1, 1999 pointed to the Commissions as peace initiatives put forth by both the Federal and Delta State Governments to reduce the conflict.

51. Peter P. Ekeh had argued that Songhai typifies an era when only traditional African states that cared for the needs of their people ever survived. The states that emerged after the fall of Songhai became subservient to Arab powers and their interpretations of Islamic doctrines. Many African states found it necessary to abandon the needs of their citizens, in order to survive. The redefinition of Moslem African states gradually spread to the rest of Africa, and was made more manifest with the introduction of international slave trade. Many of the African states in the slave trade era, no longer depended on their citizens for survival but relied on arms and ammunitions supplied by foreign powers to procure and sustain slave trade. The consequences were severe for the individual African as the states could no longer be held accountable to the people. British imperialism that followed on the heels of slave trade protected the interests and the needs of the people only to the extent that they served the protection and expansion of imperial interests. (The African State, The African Past and Prospects of A Stronger Future, pp. 10, Paper presented at the University of West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica, September 29, 2000 to mark the 40th Anniversary of Nigeria's Independence from Great Britain.)

52. Peter P. Ekeh, Social Anthropology and Two Contrasting uses of Tribalism in Africa. Comparative Studies in Society and History 32,(4): 660-700

53. The insensitivity of the oil companies is rendered more repugnant by the presence of well equipped living quarters for wealthy oil workers and executives. These quarters are surrounded by high fences to segregate them from the host communities and it is not unusual to hear privileged oil company personnel refer disparagingly to indigenes of the host communities as 'villagers' in much the same way that Colonial rulers referred to Africans as 'natives'(John Ejobowah. Who owns the Oil, pp. 5)

54. Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People. Ogoni Bill of Rights. The full texts of the Declarations can also be found displayed at http://www.NigerianScholars.AfricanQueen.com

55. Delta Minorities Forum, 1994, Demands of Southern Minorities of Delta State in the Proposed National Constitutional Conference. A Document submitted by the Minorities Forum, February, 1994.

56. Van Gelder, Jan Willem and Joseph Moerkamp, 1996. The Niger Delta: A disrupted Ecology. The Role of Shell and Other Oil Companies. A Discussion Paper by Greenpeace, Netherlands.

57. Obaro Ikime, Chief Dogho of Warri, pp. 31.

58.  William Moore, History of Itsekiri, pp. 112. As Peter C. Lloyd also indicated, Sir Ralph Moore's efforts seemed to be a follow-up of earlier attempts by Bishop Samuel Crowther, sometime between 1872 and 1874, to convince Olomu (Nana's father) about the idea of opening a school in the area (The Itsekiri in the Nineteenth Century, Journal of African History, IV, 2 (1963), pp.223)

59. Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 203

60. Ughelle Papers, file 33/1922, Handling Over Notes, Warri Division: H. G. Aveling (D. O.) to H. B. Butler (D. O.), 18 November 1922, cited by Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 204. Ikime also indicated that the inequality in educational opportunity seemed to have evaporated by 1936. Government School Warri had 157 Urhobo and 155 Itsekiri students out of a total of 389 in 1936 (C. S. O. 26, File 09098, Vol. X, Chief Commissioner's Inspection Notes, Warri Province, 1936, pp. 9)

61. Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 195 -196, cited Ughelle Papers, File 41/1921, Murphy to Resident, Memo of 3 November 1925. Murphy also pointed out that "The proposal that Chief Dore should issue orders to Sobo chiefs appears to be the negation of the principles of Government through tribes and clans which administrative officers have recently been exhorted to carry out".

62. ibd, pp. 214, cites quotation from William Moore's History of Itsekiri, pp. 161.

63. Obaro Ikime, Merchant Prince of the Niger Delta, pp. 193. In spite of Ikime's characterization of Nana as an African nationalist, Nana did a considerable amount of damage to Urhobo interests. As a British ally before he fell out of favor, Nana was noted for terrorizing Urhobo people particularly those who lived along the banks of River Ethiope, with arms and ammunitions supplied by the British merchants. He prevented Urhobo people from trading with others besides him. All those who dared to challenge his monopoly in Urhoboland, or refused to subscribe to his arrogance, including Ukavwe of Okpara waterside were harassed or humiliated. Nana's father, Olumo was also blamed for the Abraka Massacre of 1870s. We also learn from the Kingdom of Warri by Sagay that Nana was also reported to have intimidated with show of force, the Ijaw along the Escravos River, who resented his monopoly of trade in their territory. These allegations do not seem to point to Nana as nationalist as Ikime had professed but rather they paint Nana as a shrewd business man who did not believe in free trade. The problems he had with the British would then seem to have risen from his business practice and not necessarily from any desire to protect the interests of the people.

64. Daniel Obiomah, Warri, Urhobo and the Nigerian Nation, Urhobo National Politics and Warri, pp. 1. Obiomah's account seems to contradict Ikime's findings. According to Ikime, the Agbassa of Warri, in 1949, petitioned the Colonial Administration to have them transferred to join other Urhobo in Western Urhobo Native Authority. The request was denied. (C.S.O. 26/2, file 11857 Vol XVIII, Annual report, Warri Province, 1949)

65.  C.S.O. 26/2 File 11857, Annual Report, Warri Province, 1927, pp. 25, cited by Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 229.

66. The rivalry arose from competition that began around 1850 between two Itsekiri trading families, the royal group also known as the Emaye based at Batere, and the Ologbotsere family (an Ologbotsere is the traditional 'prime minister of the Olu) based at Jakpa. Both families competed for trade in Urhobo hinterland and each family sought the instrument of the only executive office, the Governorship of Benin River, in the Itsekiri kingdom during the interregnum, to secure some advantage over the other. In order to create some political equilibrium between the two important families, the governorship was rotated between the Emaye group and the Ologbotsere family. This pattern was disrupted when Nana succeeded his father, Olomu of Ologbotsere, as governor. Numa of Batere who was expected to succeed Olomu, is believed to have raised his son, Dogho, to avenge the disgrace to his family. Dogho was later to provide valuable help that the British needed to defeat Nana. With the help of the British, Dogho became so powerful that he could not be ignored in matters relating to Itsekiri affairs ( Obaro Ikime, The Fall of Nigeria, pp. 46)

67.  The Olu himself was reported to have claimed that he recognized no boundaries except that with the Oba of Benin, thereby disregarding the existence of the Urhobo [and Ijaw], his immediate neighbors (C.S.O. 26/2, File 1187, Vol XIV, Annual report, Warri Province, 1936, pp. 6 - 7, cited by Obaro Ikime in Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 253)

68. War. Prof., File W. P. 86, Vol. I,See H. F. Marshall, Acting Secretary, Western Provinces to the Senior Resident, Warri Province, No. 1132-343 of 9 October 1944, cited by Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 269.

69. Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry, pp. 267, citing C. S. O. 26/2 File 11857, Vol. XVII, Annual Report, Warri Province, 1946

70. ibd., pp. 267

71. ibd., pp. 268 but with citation C. S. O. 26/2, File 11857, Vol. XVIII, Annual Report, Warri Province, 1949.

72.  ibd., pp. 270, citing C. S. O. 26/2 File 11857, Vol. XVIII, Annual Report, Warri Province, 1951

73. ibd., pp. 270 citing C. S. O. 26/2 File 11857/S.I, Annual Report, Delta Province, 1952

74.  The Olu's palace in Warri is built on lease-held land. The land was privately owned and was leased to Mr. Wilson Gbesimi Emiko, Erejuwa II, by Chief Omagbemi for the Ewelofu family of Ekurede Warri. (Council of Ijaw Associations Abroad, Press Release No. 3, August 1, 1999, pp. 5). The lease was also an issue in the Consent Judgement in Warri High Court in Suit No. W/28/65. The lack of free land on which to build the palace has been used by the Urhobo and Ijaw as proof that the Olu, like many other Itsekiri who migrated to the area, are not native to Warri. In contrast, the Urhobo indigenous to Warri are as a matter of fact, according to Obiomah, free-land owners in Warri

75. J. O. E. Sagay, The Warri Kingdom, pp. 187, citing a section of the Willink Commission Report. Chief Michael E. R. Okorodudu, a prominent Itsekiri member of the Action Group Party, who was then, the Western Nigeria Commissioner in the United Kingdom, is credited to have pressed the Itsekiri case before the Commission.

76. Daniel Obiomah, Warri, Land, Overlords & Land Rights, pp. 86.

77. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, The Ethnic Question, Conflicts, Development, and Human Rights, pp. 100 -101.

78. Daniel Obiomah, Warri, Urhobo and the Nigerian Nation, Urhobo National Politics and Warri, pp. 1

79.  Chief A. O. Rewane, a prominent Itsekiri nationalist, may be referring to this law when he affirmed, as part of his plea in a court case against some other Itsekiri leaders that: "The plaintiff [Chief Rewane] will in this regard therefore contend that the Ijaw Clans of Gbaramatu, Ogbe-Ijoh and Egbema were never at any time under the autonomy of Olu of Warri as a prescribed authority" ( Suit No. LD/784/90 filed in a Lagos High Court, Lagos Judicial Division)

80. Council of Ijaw Associations Abroad (CIAA), Press Release No. 3, August 1, 1999, pp. 4

81. ibd. pp. 4 - 5.

82. Bayelsa State was created in response to a 1994 document released on behalf of the Ijaw: "The eight million people of the Ijaw ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta … could not boast of a single homogeneous state of their own in the 30 state structure despite being the original agitators for the creation of homogeneous states. The Hausa-Fulani ethnic group boasts 13 homogeneous states, … the Yoruba boasts of 6 … while the Igbo boasts of 4. (Movement for the survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality of the Niger Delta, 1994,. A Memorandum February 4, 1994.)

83. Donald L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, pp. 181

84. Alan Ross, Ego Identity and the Social order: A Psychological Analysis of Six Indonesians, American Psychological Association, Psychological Monographs, No. 542, (1962), pp. 27

85. Berkowitz, Aggression, pp. 171 - 172.

86.  India is probably the best-known example of communal conflict in the world. Although the secular state is against manifestations of communalism, some observers feel that certain elements within the state often exploit communalism for political purposes ( Chandra, Communalism in Modern India).

87. Arend Lijphart, Democracy in Plural Societies, pp. 25 - 44.

88. ibd., 16, 21 - 24, and 223 - 38.

89. Guardian January 24, 2000. The Ovie was reported assassinated on January 20, 2000 by aggrieved youths who were also alleged to have burnt down 12 houses which they believed, belonged to corrupt community leaders.

90. The current demand for the creation of Warri East Local Government Area for the indigenous Urhobo in Warri metropolis, can be considered a struggle for self-determination by people who feel marginalized by others in their own land (Frank M. A. Ukoli, The Place of the Elite in Urhobo Leadership, text of a lecture delivered in Warri during the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Mukoro Mowoe). The Urhobo demand is very much in accord with Charter of United Nations (Resolution 2625 [XXV] of 1970 which affirms: By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development and every State [Country] has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of this Charter.

91.  The Warri Council of [Itsekiri]Chiefs is currently sponsoring a bill to the Nigeria' Senate to create The Federal Protected Territory for Warri Division, without consultation with other indigenous people of the area. The administrative structure will be dominated by the Itsekiri, who are considered the minority group in the area. The bill also calls for the creation of a Territorial Force Command under the control of the Itsekiri to maintain law and order. Many fear that such a command will be used to intimidate any group, most likely the Ijaw , Urhobo and any other group who might be opposed to such a system (Vanguard, July 5, 1999, pp. 22 -23)

92. Peter C. Lloyd, Ethnicity and Structure of Inequality in a Nigerian Town, unpublished text cited by Donald L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, pp. 130.

93. The Orodje of Okpe, Ororho I, is credited with the leadership that works in the area to preserve peace and to forestall any attempt by anyone to intimidate or harass the non-Urhobo people of Sapele, including the Itsekiri


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