Boundary dispute: Two communities in Edo and Ondo states on edge
Two very rich agrarian communities in Edo and Ondo States are on the verge of civil unrest. And in an effort to broker peace in the areas, where tension is already high, the Edo State Deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, on Thursday, led a high-powered delegation to Ondo State for a meeting with his Ondo State counterpart, Rt. Honourable Agboola Ajayi, on the boundary dispute between the two states in Sobe and Imeri axis of Ondo State.
The meeting was at the instance of the Director-General of National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Surveyor-General of the Federation.
Present at the Akure meeting were traditional rulers of the affected communities, His Royal Highness, Oba Okishimede Idogu III (JP) OON, The Olokpe of Okpe Kingdom in Akoko Edo Local Government Area of Edo State, and His Royal Highness Oba Babatunde Adeniran, The Onimeri of Imeri, alongside their chiefs.
Palace Watch had an interview with His Royal Highness Oba Okishimede Idogu III (JP) OON afterwards.
What was achieved at the meeting?
AFTER serious deliberations, we agreed on some areas, which were contained in the communique after the meeting. And the areas of agreement are: First, the areas of consensus are contained in the filed report map, which is hereby accepted.
Secondly, that for the remaining sectors, the following actions should be undertaken — the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation should superimpose the boundary of the old Western Region and the old Mid-western Region in the areas, thus referring to the Ondo-Benin inter-professional boundaries; That the old Bendel and Ondo and the present Edo and Ondo boundaries are on the working map for appropriate consideration.
Third, That Edo and Ondo States and the National Boundary Commission shall search and articulate relevant records of all the relevant arches that portray the necessary environs that constitute Sobe and Imeri communities, not later than one month of the day of the meeting.
Fourth, That the NBC should convene a technical meeting of the two states in May 2018 in Abuja, to consider the articulated documents and the map to be produced by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) and work out details of the expected additional field exercise to be carried out with a view to confirming the identity and locations of the communities of Imeri and Sobe environs.
Fifth, That additional fieldwork and autographic studies shall be carried out in October 2018. Sixth, That the two communities should maintain the present status quo until the boundaries between them are properly defined.
And that the next joint meeting shall be convened by the officials of NBC in Benin before the year ends.
What brought about the tension between the Okpe people and the Imeris, since they have been living peacefully and intermarrying for long?
The issue on ground is the effort to determine the exact boundaries between Okpe in Akoko Edo and Imeri in Ondo State. If you must know, Imeri was one of the communities of Okpe in Akoko Edo before now.
And since the Imeri people decided to move over to Ondo State, the boundaries will now have to be adjusted between Edo and Ondo States. And this has not been properly defined.
But is it proper for a community to just wake up one morning and say they are relocating to another state without proper structures in place?
The movement of the Imeri people was carried out during the military regime of late General Sani Abacha. There was no democracy then, and with military fiat they could do whatsoever pleased them. We were not in any way in a position to stop the military then. That was what happened.
As if this was not enough, the people of Imeri moved a step further by attempting to annex one of our villages “Ayetoju” to Ondo State, which was never done before now. This is the source of the crisis.
While all this was still brewing, what effort(s) did you make to reach out to the traditional ruler in Imeri, High Royal Highness Oba Babatunde Adeniran, the Onimeri of Imeri, so that this matter could be settled amicably?
People who know me very well will readily tell you that I am a man of peace. Crisis in any way or form does not bring about development. I am all for the development of my place.
Why then should I try to foment trouble? That is never my style. For the records, I made several attempts before we got to where we are now to reach out to the Onimeri of Imeri.
If you contact him, he will also confirm this. So, we have made lots of efforts for us to live together peacefully. One can’t really say why my peace overtures have not been properly reciprocated.
It maybe because they have lot of big people in their own areas who have far-reaching connections, maybe not. I can’t really put my finger on it.
But they all know on the other side of the divide, that it is not right and proper to just wake up and try to annex a community that has never been yours to another state.
It is never done. We are not against Imeri leaving Edo State, but what we have been saying is that they can’t take part of our land to Ondo State. Simple.
Has the Onimeri of Imeri been cooperating with you in all the peace moves you have made so far?
I am not in a position to say that Onimeri of Imeri is not cooperating with me in my quest for peace. In matters like this, it is very difficult to read the minds of men. Not only that, the position of other leaders in the community matter a lot; they can’t easily be ignored.
For example, as a king, I might have my own opinion on an issue like this but other subjects might also want to push their own points through. This is the way I am looking at the whole thing.
From your own assessment, would you say both Deputy Governors spoke the truth to the issues on ground?
I would not want to say that the Deputy Governors couldn’t tell themselves the truth. That is not in my position to say.
But the truth on the ground, because I raised it at the meeting, is that the National Boundary Commission officials have not really done a proper job, as to be expected, considering the facts on ground. What is being discussed right now is all on the surface, which is not supposed to be.
Until and unless one is on ground, he will not be in a position to assess appropriately the situation we are faced with.
This has made me to appeal to Edo State Deputy Governor to please find time from his very busy schedule to visit us in Sobe, so that he can personally assess the facts on ground the way they are. This I hope he will do very soon. We will be waiting for him.
Palace Watch later put a call through to High Royal Highness Oba Babatunde Adeniran, the Onimeri of Imeri, for his side of the story. He told us he was in a meeting, and would call back afterwards.
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