Ijaw, Itsekiri battle over name of maritime university site
The misunderstanding between the Ijaw and Itsekiri of Warri, Delta State over the name of the community hosting the Maritime University, is degenerating and it may cause communal clash.
The name of the site of the university as approved by the Federal Government was Okerenkoko, but with government announcing the formal take off of the university at Okerenkoko, the Itsekiri allegedly lobbied the National Assembly to ensure that the name in the bill establishing the institution bore Okerenghigho instead of Okerenkoko.
The move had angered the Ijaw.However, the crux of the matter was a memo from the office of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), in which one H. A. Tahir, of the AGF’s office issued a memo to the Senate President.
The memo stated that the correct name of the community hosting the Nigerian Maritime University should be Okerenghigho and not Okerenkoko, even as Malami was said to have given the advice on the strength of a Supreme Court judgment.
A former Delta State Attorney General, Charles Ajuyah (SAN), defended the memo, arguing that the AGF was in order and that the memo was meant to set the records straight and help the National Assembly to follow the Supreme Court judgment.It had affirmed the Itsekiri ownership of the land where the university is being built over the memo to the National Assembly.
Ajuyah urged the National Assembly to heed the advice of the AGF as the chief law officer of the federation in the passage of the bill establishing the university.
He noted that the area where the Maritime University is situated and its adjoining lands was a subject of litigations between the Itsekiri people in Omadino and the Ijaw of Kokodia, Okerenghigho and other surrounding villages from1949 and 1962 and that judgment was given in favour of the Omadino people.
“The last of the cases was in Sillo v. James Uluba. The Omadino people sued for possession and injunction. Judgment was delivered on October 3, 1969,” he said.
But angered by the development, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) appealed to the National Assembly to “resist the Itsekiri and their collaborators from achieving their aim, as such will only spell doom for the region and the Nigerian economy.”
The IYC said the sudden change of the site name was a diversionary strategy to cause unnecessary inter-ethic crisis in the area and the Niger Delta so that the university would not commence academic activities.
In a letter to the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, President of the IYC, Pereotubo Oweilaemi, urged the National Assembly to ignore the memo and avert the danger the development may cause to the Niger Delta in particular and the country at large.
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