Group kicks against resettlement plan for Okuama indigenes

GodGift Ifunanya
4 Min Read

A group known as the Concerned Ijaw Citizens has kicked against the Delta State Government’s plan to embark on the reconstruction of vandalized public structures such as schools and health centres in the troubled Okuama community in Ughelli South Local Government Area of the State.

This was contained in a statement signed by its Coordinator, Seigha Manager, copies of which were made available to journalists in Warri on Wednesday.

According to the group, “Delta State Government should have invited the neighbouring Okoloba people and their leaders, give them listening ears and let them bare their hearts on their challenges, pains and fears, before embarking on any rehabilitation agenda for the displaced Okuama indigenes”.

It will be recalled that the Okuama community was vandalized by military troops in retaliation for the March 14, 2024 killing of 17 Army officers and soldiers said to be on a peace mission over the Okuama and Okoloba crisis.

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Consequently, displaced Okuama indigenes and farmers fled for safety into the creeks until recently when the military pulled out its troops from the community while the government also urged them to return and rebuild the ruins of their ancestral homes.

The government also established an Internally Displaced Camp located at Ewu Grammar School in Ewu-Urhobo kingdom for the rehabilitation of the returnees.

However, the Concerned Ijaw Citizens faulted the approach the Delta State Government adopted in handling the resettlement of the displaced Okuama indigenes saying that “talking to just one party in a crisis and ignoring the other could give a sense of apathy instead of empathy and that could be counter-productive in the quest for lasting peace for Okuama/Okoloba crisis”.

The Concerned Ijaw Citizens maintained that “after having engaged the leadership of the Okoloba community on the root cause of the lingering Okuama – Okoloba communal crisis, the group’s findings had revealed that Okuama had crossed the ancestral boundary line between Akugbene and Okoloba, which was undisputably in existence long before the Okuama arrived, moved deep and aggressively into Okoloba side”.

The group noted that this had continuously been the pain of Okoloba and urged Governor Sheriff Oberevwori to “address those challenges and pains and of course allay their (Okoloba’s) fears, especially as it concerns the alleged threats of mass killings against them by Okuama people, and assuring them of government’s equal attention and protection at all times”.

The group also urged the Government to “get specific terms of commitment from them, particularly, their leaders to continue to co-operate and collaborate with the state government and security agencies in maintaining peace in their community, and of course along the River Forcados as a whole”.

Also, the group enjoined the Government to “listen to the cry of the Diebiri people as far as their resettlement to their ancestral home is concerned and take urgent and specific steps to address their plight”.

By so doing, the group submitted, “the Government would have laid a solid and immutable roadmap to restoring enduring peace in the state, not just in Okuama/Okoloba case but everywhere else in Delta State”.

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