WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE HELD AT THE OGHARA HOTEL ON THE ILLEGAL AND FORCEFUL ACQUISITION OF OGHARA LAND BY THE NIGERIAN NAVY LOGISTICS COMMAND OGHARA
Nigerian Navy Return our land, Okurho Citizens Demand
Oghara, Delta State…Citizens of Okurho in Delta State have cried out to the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Flag Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Navy Logistics Command, in Oghara town, to vacate the land equivalent to 600 x 600 which they have illegally annexed, and forcefully acquired from the original owners of the said lands. This plea was made by the Oghara Centre for Social Justice, OCSJ, a pan-Nigerian group of Oghara Kingdom and coordinated by Chief Stephen Egbivwie, Tony Omene and The Rev David Ugolor.
The lands in question are not wild forests. Large parts of them have been cultivated with cash crops like Rubber, palm fruits, plantain, mango, pepper fruits and others which sustain the livelihoods of about 50% of the people of Oghara. There are also ancestral dug out ponds, ancestral shrines and cemeteries of the people. Sometime in October last year, our people sought to resolve the land problem with the Navy. But with every attempt we have made, we have been rebuffed by the Navy.
We have been seeking a peaceful resolution of this problem by asking the Navy to compensate citizens affected by this illegal acquisition. However all our efforts have been either rebuffed or met with very harsh responses whenever our people have entered their farms and fish ponds.
In 2006 when the Nigerian Navy requested land for the construction of a barrack, a piece of land in the community which was initially meant for the Nigeria Mobile Police was traded to the Navy, and the Police relocated to Ogharefe. But the Navy have illegally acquired all lands close to lands ceded them including the Catholic Mission belonging to the Order of St Augustine, measuring 600ft by 500ft.
We are a peace-loving. But the Navy should not take our love for peace and orderliness for docility. We are already near the end of our tethers. Our people need their lands back, and want to carry on with their lives. We recognize the already tensed situation in the Niger Delta, and have no intention of contributing to that tension. But we need our lands back, and our people want to carry on with their lives.
In the light of this, we humbly ask Mr President and Commander-in-chief of the armed forces to order the Nigerian Navy to:
(i) Move back to the area of land initially allocated them
(ii) Tear down the fence covering areas far and above 500m x 500m initially allocated to the Navy
(iii) Initiate proceedings to pay damages and compensation to our community members who have suffered loss and trauma for the infraction and trespass on our lands
(iv) Refrain from further despoiling and destroying cash crops on our lands which form the mainstay of income for our people.
(v) return our illegally acquired lands to us in the interest of peace in Oghara land and Delta State.
Chief Stephen Egbivwie,
The Rev David Ugolor