Our Reporter, Delta
If anyone is thinking that peace will soon return to the troubled Irri community,Isoko South local government area of Delta state, such person must have arethink following the alleged dangerous and demonic dimension the issues atstake has taken.
The recent alleged poisoning of the member representing Isoko South constituency 1, in thestate House of Assembly, Mr. Benjamin Essien Okiemuta who is said to haveinitiated peace processes so as to find a lasting solution to the over tenyears crisis is an indication that peace is not in any way near the people.
Speakingin a telephone interview with our reporter, the lawmaker who is an indigene of Irri town andChairman House community on peace and security, ethics and privileges allegedthat following his initiation of peace in the community “I was poisoned mybrother and several places I went to, to seek for help and dispose of thepoison, I was told that my predicament is not unconnected to my peace processesI have initiated in the troubled community. It took the mercy of God to flushout the head of a dock put inside my stomach with which I was poisoned. You cansee how wicked people can be.”
Accordingto the lawmaker, the crisis in the community has been before he contested forthe position of the House of Assembly and during his electioneering campaignshe did promised to bring a lasting peace to the Irri community adding thatimmediately “ I commenced the peace processes aimed at fulfilling my promisesmade to the people, I started receiving all sorts of spiritual and demonic actsfrom both left and right but the most damaging and fearful one was the recentone where I was poisoned with the placing of a dock head in my stomach. If notthe grace and mercy of God I would have been dead by now because I am bringingpeace to my community.”
It was learnt that before the lawmaker has been accused oftaking side with another faction in the community shortly he was elected amember of the house but this he swiftly debunked.
Irri community has been embroiled in bloody crisis betweenthe embattled sacked President General, Mr. Joshua Uturu and the entirecommunity over leadership tussle and the manner and way he was said to berunning the affairs of the community especially as it concern the AGIP oilcompany in the community which has consumed several souls.
In a letter of threat and warning purportedlyendorsed by the Odiologbo of Irri community, HRM Oviese Ebah Ojenuwe 11, thelawmaker was advised in his own interest to withdraw from the peace process hewas initiating.
According to theletter whose copy was made available to the media “We, the Odiologbo of Irrikingdom, Edios, traditional chiefs, the President General, chairman CDC, womenfolks, the elites and the youths had just rose from a general meeting and inthe meeting we reviewed your (Hon Essien’s) earlier plea to take over the UturuVs Irri community crisis for peaceful settlement. It behoves on us to statecategorically that you have been boasting that you have settled the Irri matterwhich is not true rather you are flaming ember of fire by trying all the bestof your ability to free Uturu from facing the law for his criminal activities.The Irri community in its entirety has the following against you. You went toAbuja to make some connection to free Uturu from police custody.
The letter stated that “Instead of you sidingUturu to the peril of the entire Irri community, you better disassociateyourself from the Irri matter, it is better for Irri community to be left aloneto bear its cross for peace to reign. Is it a crime for Irri people to havevoted for you, if you don’t know, Irri people can still pass a vote of noconfidence on you. Why is it that when Uturu is arrested it is then you willshow more concern about settlement. However any day you realize yourself andcome back to front for Irri people you will be taken aback.”
In his own response letter to the threat and warning letter addressed to the Odiologbo (traditionalruler) which copied Delta state governor, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan,SSG, Delta state, AIG zone 5, Benin city, Commissioner of police, Delta state,Director of SSS, Delta state, among others, Mr. Benjamin Essien Okiemuta stated
“Severalefforts have been made by my humble self in restoring peace to our noblecommunity as part of my agenda during my electioneering campaigns. As part ofmy promises I started all negotiations after my victory in the election withboth parties in making sure peace is restored in Irri town. You should notforget so soon, that I met with various executive of the community and allagreed that I should go ahead for the settlement. You will also recall thatseveral meetings and consultations has been going on at both home and abroadwhich has cost me time, energy and financial commitment of about eight million,two hundred thousand naira (#8,200,000.00) either by cash or kind just forpeace to reign in Irri. And there was need to discuss with groups of people orindividuals, but today none of them has responded in any for.”
The letter alsoadvised that for every dispute to come to an end in settlement, self interestmust be removed and the need to embrace the general interest of the communitymust come to heart adding that mediators should not be restricted orconstrained to only one party.
“More so, it’s pertinent to note in all that Ihave mentioned above, reverse is the case, However, it has come to my noticethat some members of the community are tirelessly thwarting my effort andbringing disrepute to my name. They have chosen to stand against this agendaand dragging this effort and community down to their own interest. Despite allills, I have struggled to calm most aggrieved parties. The state has alsomandated me as part of my plea to wade into this matter to a logicalconclusion, but some of our brothers and sisters who were supposed to embracedthis peace and be carriers of this message has seriously refuted this and hasnot in any way shift their ground. They have rather choose to carry outrumours, confusion, deceit and distractions only to disrupt this lasting peaceexercise.”
Following this andmany unforeseen circumstances, the lawmaker announced his withdrawal from thepeace process but however said that “Henceforth as son of this noble communityany contribution just like every other, I will not be left out, that any otherhelp I can render within my reach and position. Above all I want to echo to alland sundry that henceforth I have seized and withdrawn from this settlementprocess and should not be seen as the sole carrier of this crusade any longer.”
It would be recalled that few months ago the Delta stategovernment through the state Commissioner for Youth, Mr. Ebifa Ijomah had visitedthe warring Irri community as a way of finding lasting peace to the crisiswhich has claimed over twenty lives but the youths of the community insistedthat unless the 27 and half corpses of their colleagues lying in the mortuarysince 2008 are buried, peace will not return to the area.
The visibly angry youths told the state commissioner forYouth, Mr. Ebifa Ijomah during a town hall meeting held at the community that,adequate compensation should also be paid to the families of the deceased whilemachineries should be put in place for the development of the community andempowerment of its indigenes by Agip Oil Company and the state government.
Also speaking, chairman of the Community, Rev. John MarkOdhigbo who blamed both government and Agip Oil for the crisis said apart fromthe neglect that must be addressed, Agip Oil should empower their sons anddaughters economically through employment and skill acquisition.
However, after listening to the youth’s submission, Ijomahassured them that the government was poised to develop the entire state andappealed to them to sheath their swords as development cannot take place in anatmosphere of rancour.
While appealing to the aggrieved youths to unite andembrace dialogue and negotiation in articulating their demands, which thecommissioner stated would create the pathway to development; he solicited theirsupport for the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
He announced that his ministry would soon embark oncollection of data for youths across the state, explaining that the data basewould be used in planning various packages of empowerment for them.