A CLEAR CASE OF PREMEDITATED MURDER AND CALL FOR JUSTICE
1. Gentlemen of the Press, on behalf of the leadership and the entire people of Oleh Community, I, Comr. (Chief) Believe Alakri welcome you to this Press Conference called to set the records straight in respect of the twelve Oleh indigenes killed in cold blood on Friday 16th October, 2020, at Ada bush, by persons believed to be from Ozoro community.
2. The names of the murdered Oleh sons and daughters are as follows: Mrs. Glory Emiedafe Gowon, Mr. Sunday Uyeh, Mr. Victor Egeme, Mr. Friday Egeme, Mrs. Bridget Egeme, Mrs. Naomi Egeme, Mr. Ogheneovie Egeme, Mr. Solomon Emmanuel and Mr. Dennis Ojokojo. Their bodies were recovered on Friday 16th October, 2020, by a combined team of security outfits of the Isoko North and South LGAs, while the bodies of two others, namely, Mr. Ogagaoghene Oletabe and Oghenekioja Egeme, were recovered on Wednesday 21st Oct., 2020, leaving one, Orezimena Egeme, still missing, though believed to have been taken hostage. All of the above victims were persons hired to work on a farmland leased to Hon. (Barr.) Lucky Okperi for farming purposes at Ada bush by the Oloro family of Oleh kingdom.
3. The Oloro family of Oleh, who is the rightful owner of the Ada land, with established landmarks and clear boundary, had long ago further ascertained their ownership vide a High Court Judgement in Suit No: HCO/13/1982, against the Odhegbe and Emealuedajor families of Ozoro, who were the rival claimants and Defendants. This judgment delivered 29 years ago by a competent Court of jurisdiction, precisely on 19th July, 1991, was not appealed by the Defendants. Despite this position, members of the Defendants’ families of Ozoro had consistently threatened the Plaintiffs’ family members of Oleh with dangerous weapons, thereby depriving them (Plaintiffs) of the peaceful use of their land and aiming to forcefully scare them into abandoning their land completely.
4. For instance, on the 9th of August, 2020, members of the Oloro family and their workers, namely: Osibi Henry, Ojojo Oghale, Agbada Oghale and some hired workers, who went to work at the Ada land along Oleh/Ozoro Road, where the gruesome murder of the Oleh 12 took place, were attacked by members of the defendants family, who are indigenes of Ozoro town. They (Oloro family members) were dispossessed of their cutlasses, phones and chainsaw by the attackers who were heavily armed, while chanting war songs. This incidence was reported to the Delta State Commissioner of Police by the Oloro family in a letter dated 21st August, 2020.
5. No doubt, there have been boundary disputes among families at the Oleh/Ozoro boundary axis from time immemorial. All such issues have always been subjected to dispute resolution mechanism, such as the court and constituted organs, including the Isoko Development Union, and decisions reached have always been complied with by the Oleh people, while the Ozoro people have always acted otherwise.
6. For example, the most recent intervention involved the Isoko Development Union (IDU), the apex social-cultural organization of the Isoko people. IDU undertook a thorough review of the claims of all the families involved and took a holistic decision that would settle the matter by delineating the boundaries between the communities with identifiable landmarks. While the decision was accepted by the Oleh people, the Ozoro people rejected the IDU decision. This led the Ozoro people to opt for traditional oath taking as another way of resolving the issues, which the Oleh people accepted. This traditional oath taking agreed by both parties was endorsed and facilitated by IDU and Isoko Traditional Rulers. Yet, even after the oath taking, the Ozoro people chose not to wait for the outcome of the oath before they protested to government which then intervened through its organ, the office of the Special Adviser to the Governor of Delta State on Peace and Conflict Resolution. While awaiting the government’s decision, Ozoro people once again grew impatient and embarked on several provocative actions against the Oleh people.
7. It is worth mentioning that since the era of Sir Raphael Afemarei, the former President General of Ozoro community from 2011 to 2013 up till the present leadership, the push for war by the Ozoro people through violent agitations against Oleh became heightened. Sir, Afemarei has been in the forefront of all violent actions against Oleh even though he is not a member of any of the Ozoro families sharing common boundaries with the ownership families from Oleh.
8. For instance, on the 14th of July, 2020, the Ozoro people under the supervision of some of their community leaders, namely, Sir. Raphael Afemarei and the current President General, Mr. Nicholas Areh, backed by youths armed with sophisticated weapons, moved bulldozers about two (2) kilometers deep into Oleh territorial land and opened up supposed streets along the Oleh/Ozoro Road, while the ever busy Oleh/Ozoro road was blocked, with the aim of maiming or killing any Oleh indigenes who dared to come forth to challenge them. They did not vacate the road that day until the intervention of law enforcement agents in Isoko North and South Local Government Areas, at the invitation of the IDU President-General and the leadership of the two LGAs.
9. Furthermore, in a meeting organized by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Peace and Conflict Resolution, Chief Edwin Uzor, at Opute Hall, Ozoro, in Isoko North LGA, on the 5th of August 2020, the speech delivered by HRH Anthony Ogbogbo, the Ovie of Ozoro, indicated the readiness of Ozoro people to use force to settle the lingering land boundary dispute between Oleh/Ozoro in no distant time. The drum of war actually sounded on the 5th of August, 2020, unknowing to the innocent Oleh community, when he specifically quoted Ecclesiastics, “it is time for war”. It should be noted that this speech made by HRH Anthony Ogbogbo preceded all the recent successive violent attacks against the Oleh people as stated below, culminating in the gruesome murder of the Oleh 12 on the 16th of October 2020.a) The attack on the Oloro family on the 9th of August 2020, as stated in paragraph 4.b) On Friday 9th October, 2020, again, Mr. Raphael Afemarei, Idisi Felix, Nicholas Areh, Prince Patrick Otekpo, backed by heavily armed youths from Ozoro went into the land belonging to the families of Idivre and Ekre-Ethe families from Oleh community along Ughelli-Oleh-Ozoro Road and maliciously damaged and destroyed properties worth millions of naira belonging to Mr. Erijo Obokparo Desmond, who legitimately acquired the land from the original owners (Idivre and Ekre-Ethe families of Oleh). After the destruction of properties, the same Ozoro youths, acting like a militia, laid siege to that large expanse of land including Obesa, Ebedhe, Edho and Okhite, belonging to Oleh people, thereby preventing them from accessing the farm lands they have been cultivating for countless years.c) Finally, the gruesome murder of the Oleh 12, on Friday 16th October 2020.
10. Let me point out that there had also been numerous threats of violence, amounting to self-incriminating comments, made brazenly by Ozoro persons on Facebook, a social media platform that confirms the premeditated nature of the gruesome murder of the Oleh 12.
11. Amidst these provocative actions of the Ozoro people, the Oleh community has always sought for peace, but the more the Oleh people tried to resist the clear acts of aggression by the Ozoro people aimed at provoking a war with Oleh over boundary issues, the more they (Ozoro) push for war. To them, war is the only means by which they believe they can achieve their desired goal of annexing Oleh people’s land, having failed by lawful means.
12. It is not surprising therefore to read that Ozoro people have been circulating a very fallacious claim that the land in reference, where Oleh people were murdered in cold blood, was sold or leased to Fulani herdsmen. This spurious and ridiculous allegation is a total fabrication being deliberately propagated to divert attention from diligent investigation of the real culprits. At no time did the Oloro family, owners of the land, or the Odio-Ologbo of Oleh kingdom, sell or lease the said land to any herdsmen. As a matter of fact, as at the time and date of the cold-blooded killings that took place on 16th October, 2020, there was no sign of herdsmen or cattle on the said land. Indeed, there has been no herdsmen’s activities in the bushes or forests of Oleh for the past five (5) years or more. Moreover, herdsmen are not known to stick feathers in the ground, as were found in the site of the murders, a traditional symbol of killer-warriors called “Ogbu” or “Igbu” common only to the Isoko and Urhobo people. It is therefore a deliberate distortion by the Ozoro people, with the sole aim of deflecting suspicion, to imply that the murder of the Oleh 12 was by persons from anywhere else, no matter how far away and improbable, but not from among the Ozoro people who have been threatening, intimidating and attacking Oleh people on the land as stated in paragraph four (4) above. We remain hopeful that, by God’s grace, the police and other security and intelligence agencies, working closely with the Delta State Governor, will arrest the murderers and bring them to justice in due course.
13. In conclusion, there’s no doubt that as a people and community, Oleh people are pained to the marrow as our souls have been viciously bruised by this unprovoked and premeditated murder of unarmed persons who were merely working for their daily bread. But while we pray for the repose of the souls of our murdered brothers, sisters and children and for the quick release of one other person believed to have been taken hostage, we WISH TO LET THE WORLD KNOW that it would be a grave mistake to take the peaceful disposition of Oleh people, their adherence to the rule of law, for cowardice. While Oleh people will not be goaded prematurely into war by a neighbour that seems to crave war, that prides itself as a war-loving people, we would defend the honour of our people.
14. Thus, while we appeal to our youths and the entire Oleh community, including the bereaved families, to remain calm, we wish to reaffirm that we shall not rest but, rather, deplore all positive efforts to ensuring that our slain heroes get justice. It is on record that Oleh is a peace-loving community, which has no boundary disputes with her other neighbouring communities: Olomoro, Emede, Irri and Akiewhe-Owhe.
15. In the light of the foregoing, we state the following in the interest of justice, equity and peaceful coexistence:a) That the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hafiz Mohammed Inuwa, who is currently handling the matter, spare no effort to arrest and prosecute the murderers, their co-conspirators and abettors. This must be done without needless delay. The blood of the slain is crying for justice and as the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.b) We appeal to President Buhari, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the Inspector-General of Police through the Delta State Commissioner of Police, the Director-General of the State Security Services (SSS) and the heads of other relevant security agencies to prevail on the leadership of Ozoro community to produce all those involved in the well planned and executed gruesome murder of the 12 innocent and struggling citizens.c) The immediate release of Orezimena Egeme, whose body is yet to be found and who is believed to have been taken hostage by the murderers. May God have mercy on the souls of the Oleh 12 gruesomely murdered as they went about their ordinary business of labouring for a living. And may God arise to aid the government, the police and security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime do not escape justice.
Thank you for your attention. God bless you.
Comr. (Chief) Believe Alakri President General
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