Delta’s Ugbo seek justice, government’s intervention

Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase

Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase

The plight of the people of Ugbo, Ibrede, Ndokwa East Local Council of Delta State is reminiscent of the Biblical Jews banished from their homeland and sent to exile in Babylon. Hundreds from the community have been displaced following the April 30, 2014 intra-ethnic clash. Now, they are calling on government to end their agonies.

The pains at Ibrede might not compare with that of displaced people in the North Eastern part of the country. Still, it is pathetic, as dozens of houses were burnt and properties worth millions of naira were either looted or destroyed.

The bone of contention was the expanse of land at Ibrede, which is rich in lakes and brooks. The locals are mostly farmers and fishermen. The Ugbo family insists the land is theirs, bequeathed by their forbearers. The rest of the villagers disagreed, arguing that the land and the resources should be for all.

Uneasy calm turned to open enmity when an Ugbo family member who had a quarrel with an Ibrede person decided to bring in law enforcement agents from Asaba, the state capital, to arrest his adversary. The policemen had hardly left the place when the sleeping dogs of war were let loose. Peeved, village toughs took the laws into their hands, as violence engulfed the community.

In a petition dated October 6, 2015, the Ugbo drew the attention of the state government to alleged abuses and destruction of properties and plot to alienate the family. Signed by Edwin Ndidi and Israel Aruleghie on behalf of the family, they noted that 52 houses belonging to the Ugbo were burnt and that their inhabitants were driven into exile, and remain in exile till date.

Ndidi and Aruleghie noted that they have written letters to the authorities: the Deputy Governor on March 1 2014; Inspector General of Police on October 24, 2014; and Delta State Government on December 17, 2014 on the treatment meted out to them by the Ibrede.

They noted that on March 25, 2014, the family got an order from a High Court, adding that the matter was deliberated upon by the state security meeting of May 15, 2014 where the then Deputy Governor, Prof. Amos Utuama, gave order that the burnt houses be re-built within the shortest possible time, and that the orders of the court and the ex-deputy governor have not been executed.

They wrote: “This said order given by the court has been treated with such levity and contempt, and to worsen the situation, they continue to say they are highly connected and as such nothing can be done to them.”

At over 100 years, a victim, Pa Onwutani, the second oldest person in Ibrede and a father of six, spoke through an interpreter. His house was reduced to ashes. A farmer and fisherman, all he escaped with was his life, a shirt and a pair of trousers. He urged the state government to create a settlement on the disputed land for the Ugbo family. “We want the government to create our own community on the land in question. It is a virgin forest. It is a very vast land. Six generations of Ugbo family have farmed and fished on the land,” he said.

Well over 90, Chief Samuel Okodi, a partially blind fisherman, also narrated his ordeal. He said the Ugbo family does not have qualms with the rest of the community but that the bone of contention is the fertile land and lakes, which were passed to the family from their forefathers. “I have no land in Ashaka; I am a stranger here. I want to go back to Ibrede. I can no longer go to the farm; I can’t even see well. Where do I start from?”

Another victim, Mr. Robinson Ogboru, 60, and a father of eight said he was in his house at about 9am on the fateful day when arsonists came after him. He said: “We decided to leave, but shortly after, I saw smoke. My car, house, retirement money were burnt. All my properties were destroyed. The building was completely razed. They harvested our crops, and against court injunction have been farming on the land and fishing in the lakes. I lost all I laboured for in life. Where do they expect us to go?”

The state police spokesperson, Celestina Kalu, had initially said she was not aware of the violence, pleading for time to find out the true state of affairs.

Kalu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, later admitted that the police did receive report of the destruction at Ibrede, adding that some persons were arrested and charged to court and that the refugees have started going back home, as the case has been resolved.

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