Gbaramatu Kingdom has yet again dismissed alleged attempt by the Ministry of Justice to change the name of the Maritime University site, stating that, it’s capable of scuttling the relative peace in Niger Delta region.
In a statement by the Spokesman of the Gbaramatu Council of Chiefs, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who is the Ibe-Benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, stated that changing the name from the known and existing name of Okerenkoko to any other name is capable of causing more crises than any other action and therefore warned Malami, H. A. Tahir and everybody that is signing the memo to the National Assembly that they are blowing the embers of crises in the Niger Delta. According to him, “Let it be known that the Ijaw people of Gbaramatu Kingdom, the Ijaw people of Wari South West will not, cannot, shall not, allow their community name to be bastardized by a group of persons who are always looking from trouble. “It is this changing of name and sitting of places that brought about Warri crises in the relocation of the local government from Ogbe-Ijoh to Ogidigben. Those who have not read about the Warri crises should know.
“From the publication, I understood that Malami and H. A. Tahir relied on a Supreme Court justice. The Supreme Court judgment was between one James Uluba and others v. E. E. Sillo and others. This is not the first time this is happening. The Itsekiris have always referred to this judgment.” Gbenekama opined that it is a contradiction as the name of the Nigerian Maritime University has never been Okerenghigho, it has always been known as Okerenkoko.
“The bill that was submitted to the National Assembly carried the caption: ‘Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko’; it has never been ‘Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenghigho’. “In Okerenkoko, there are other institutions like the Okerenkoko Secondary School, the Okerenkoko Cottage Hospital, the Okerenkoko Cherubim and Seraphim Church, the Okerenkoko Anglican Church, the Okerenkoko Primary School which was established in 1955. In addition, He stated that, “All these institutions carries Okerenkoko name. What of the delineation of wards?
It is Gbaramatu Federal Ward with headquarters in Okerenkoko. In Gbaramatu Kingdom and all over Warri South West, there is no place that is called Okerenghigho. “In the whole of Okerenkoko there is no single Itsekiri man. So how come they own the land? Were they driven out? Did the Ijaws capture the Itsekiris and killed all of them? When did that happen? Is there a historical fact to that effect? The Ijaws are the aborigines of Gbaramatu. One begins to wonder when this name ‘Okerenghigho’ is coming in. So, Okerenghigho is the imagination of evil forces to cause crises in Warri South West and Niger Delta at large.” The Traditional Council spokesman further stated that the National Assembly and the House of Representatives sent representatives and committee members to the university site and saw things for themselves. “If there is anybody to advise anybody, it is the National Assembly that is supposed to advise the Presidency and the Ministry of Justice on what they have seen and not the other way round.”
Going down memory lane, Chief Gbenekama stressed that before the Nigerian Maritime University was sited at Okerenkoko, the then sitting governor who was an Itsekiri man, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, published in the Nigerian dailies the acquisition of Okerenkoko land, not Okerenghigho land. For 14 days and for months, Itsekiri people never came out to challenge the publication until the land was acquired by the government, damages paid to Okerenkoko people. To further buttress their position, the Gbaramatu Traditional Council spokesman stressed that there is nobody with the name of James Uluba in the history of Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu people and in Warri South West. “James Uluba is a non-existent name that the Itsekiris have used to get some frivolous judgment. That is their style. They have always instituted their own Itsekiri people for Ijaw people and frivolously gotten some frivolous judgment,” he explained. In the same token, the release further explained that the Itsekiris relied on the judgment in Suit No SC/294/70 between the said James Uluba & others v. E. E. Sillo & others. The appeal rose from the judgment of Hon. Justice Obaseki of the High Court, Warri, Midwestern State of Nigeria Suit No W/29/1951.
“However, the Supreme Court judgment could not hold water because it was frivolously achieved in the absence of the unsuspecting Ijaw people. The Itsekiri people in a bid to make their judgment hold water re-litigated the case in the High Court of Warri in Suit No W/143/84 between Mr. Thomas E. Ugbameta for and on behalf of Omadino community v. James Uluba and two others for and on behalf of Okerenkoko community. “Now if a case is won in the Supreme Court, it is supposed to end there. If someone is now bringing the case to a lower court, what does it mean?” he queried.