The leadership of Opuama, Tsekelewu, and Okirigbo communities in the Egbema Kingdom, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, has strongly opposed what they term as the illegal annexation of their communities into Ondo State. This comes following Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s creation of 33 new Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) and 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Ondo State.
Leaders of these aggrieved Delta communities have accused the Ondo State Government of unjustly merging their territories into Ilaje East Local Development Area, specifically under Ugbo Ward 5 of Ilaje Local Government Area in Ondo State. Their stance was articulated in a petition issued jointly by designated community leaders, including Hon. David Ugedi, Dr. Bright Abulu, Revd. Doyah Clement, Chief December Aweh, Chief Felix Adanse, and Sir Christmas Ukugha.
Copies of this petition have been made available to the press in Warri, with the community leaders voicing their resolute determination to resist any such attempts to unlawfully integrate their communities into Ondo State, regardless of the potential consequences. They maintain their unwavering belief that they are an integral part of Delta State.
“We say NO. Delta State is our own home. The general public, Federal, State and Local Governments should intervene and emancipate us from this conceived/attempted slavery of a people like us for economic benefits derivable from our lands. We would continue to resist our merger with Ondo State, no matter what it may cost us,” they stated in the petition.
The community representatives expressed their deep concern after being alerted to a map produced by the Ondo State Government’s Performance and Implementation Monitoring Unit. This map depicted Opuama and Tsekelewu Communities as part of Ilaje and Ese-Odo LGAs in Ondo State.
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“At the point of us wanting to react, we came across a press statement released by Hon. Donald Kimikanbo Ojogo, Member, House of Representatives, Ilaje-Ese-Odo Federal Constituency which was dated 12/08/2023.
“Though he was particular about the protests by Arogbo-Ijaw Kingdom and Apoi-Ijaw due to the perceived ceding of their ancient towns to Ilaje and Irele Local Government areas respectively, he however affirmed that there were obvious flaws in the said map but, that they were not intentional, and he was already interfacing with relevant officials of Ondo State Government with a view to clearing all grey areas”.
They additionally pointed out that on the 12th of August 2023, Mrs. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, responded to the protests by providing reassurances to them that “no land in the said map, was ceded or awarded to any community as it did not belong to Ondo State, and that the map in question was merely part of instructional materials and textbooks produced in 2022 and was distributed recently to public schools but swiftly withdrawn by the Ministry of Education on discovery of the errors”.
Nonetheless, the communities in Delta, who felt aggrieved, emphasized that they eventually came to the realization that “by the fresh publication of Ondo State LCDAs Administrative Map covering 33 newly created LCDAs and 18 LGAs”.
“In this fresh map, our communities that were earlier found in the first erroneous maps are captured in Ilaje East LCDA, under Ugbo Ward 5, of Ilaje LGA. Could this be a further error or a daring affront and invitation for war?
“This unhealthy political development has been a concern to Opuama, Polobubo (Tsekelewu), and Egbema at large, as this is not the first time, the government of Ondo State has attempted merger of the towns (Opuama and Tsekelewu) with Ondo State.
“For the records, in 1977 and 1978, the government of Ondo State contemplated and attempted transfer of the aforementioned towns and lands inherited from our forefathers to their state,” a part of the statement read.
The statement further read, “We are aware of the statement by the Hon. Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Ondo State, Mrs. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, in response to series of protests by towns displaced or dragged into the contentious map of Ilaje or Ese-Odo Local Council that no land in the said map, was ceded or awarded to any community, it did not belong in the state (Ondo).
“Therefore, we have strong feelings of insecurity of our towns and lands due to our past experiences and it is upon this background that we are categorically saying that the government of Ondo State, the Ilaje/Ese-Odo Local Council Authorities and any other group of persons or individuals, should desist from incorporating Opuama and Tsekelewu into any political arrangement/creation in their state since the two towns are ‘integral component of Delta State’; this status of the towns has been variously proved beyond reasonable doubt, in high quarters.
“Ethnically, Opuama and Tsekelewu are Izon communities: two of the numerous communities that constitute the Egbema Kingdom in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State. Culturally and linguistically, the towns do not have affinity with the Ilajes who speak Yoruba and Ilaje; though, we are South-western neighbors, we desire to be with our own original KIN and KITH of Egbema Kingdom.”