REPORT OF THE HOUSE STANDING COMMITTEE ON OIL AND GAS ON A PETITION TITLED “PLIGHT OF OKAO GELE-GELE”
At the plenary of the house on Wednesday, 30th January 2013, Mr. Speaker announced the receipt of a petition titled ‘Plight of Okao Gele-Gele” written by one Mr. Philip Ibhagbe Okoh & Co. Legal Practitioners Dated 2nd July, 2013. He thereafter referred the petition to the house standing committee on oil and gas to investigate and report back to the house.
- Member of the committee:
- Hon. Ogierhiakhi, Friday……………………..Chairman
- Hon. (Mrs.) Activie U. Elizabeth……………..Member
- Hon. Ohio-Ezomo, Micheal………………….Member
- Hon. (Barr.) Ohonbamu Paul………………..Member
- Hon. Ehigiamusor Kingsley………………….Member
- Hon. Ehighalua, Monday…………………….Member
- Hon. Rose Oboh………………………………Secretary
- Hon. Omobah Otobo Edwin………………….Asst. Secretary
- TERMS OF REFERENCE
- To investigate the issue raised in the petition
- To make appropriate recommendations to the Honourable House
- HIGHLIGHT OF THE PETITION
- The petitioner, is Chief Joseph Ikponwonba Iyonmaha the confirmed “Okao of Gele” appointed by His Royal Majesty Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Oba Erediauwa in 1985.
- “Gelegele” is a community in Ovia North East local government area of Edo state and the inhabitants are Benin’s and Ijaws who are migrant fisherman form neighbouring states.
- The petitioner wrote to Dubri Oil company operating in Gelegele community requesting for Christmas/New Year gifts (See Annexure A)
- The Petitioner is not getting any financial benefits from Dubri Oil company
- A certificate of registration as a traditional chief under 111 of the traditional rulers and chief edict, 1979, of the Then Bendel state was issued to the Petitioner. (See Annexure B).
- The Petitioner also wrote to the chairman of Ovia North East Local Government council requesting for the payment of his monthly stipends (see Annexure C)
- PRAYERS: THE PETITIONER’S PRAYERS ARE:
- Dubri Oil company should recognize him as the “Okao of Gelegele and give him financial entitlement that are due to him.
- The head of local government administration, Ovia North East should approve the payment of his monthly stipends.
On the receipt of the petition the committee invited the petitioner and other stakeholders on 28th, January, 2013, the following person attended the meeting.
- The Petitioner, Chief Joseph Ikponwonba Iyonmaha, the “Okao of Gele-gele” and Barr. Phillip Ibhage Okoh the solicitor for the petitioner
- Mr. Chris Ikorok Base Manager, Dubri Oil Company and Mr. clement Seweje Manager, Community Relations.
- Mr. M.O Oikeh, Head of local government Administrations, Ovia North East local government council, Okada
- Representative of Gele-gele community; Rev. Dr. Godwin Saroaye Chairman, Gele-gele community, Chief Samson Kokoro, Representing the Ama-okosuwei of Gele-gele high Chief Macauley Ayuwe, Olu-Derimon, the General Secretary and Pastor Celys Wright, P.R.O Gelegele community
- Representatives of Ughton community were: Mr. Austine Omoregie the chairman Ughton community, Pa. Erhumwumonosee Izerbigie, Odionwere of Ughoton community, Mr. Victor Okunbor (Elder), Amos Osakwe, Odionwere of Gelegele, Thomas Okunbohon, Victor Osazuwa and Felix Eghiaruwa.
- RESPONSES FROM STAKEHOLDERS
The petitioners met with Member of the committee, and he reaffirmed that he was appointed as the “Okao of Gelegele” in 1985 by the Oba of Benin after going through different legal battle for the recognition of the Gelegele community But today he is not getting any benefits for what he fought for throughout the years. At the meeting held at the Amdiral Mike Akhigbe (Rtd) conference Hall EDHA, the chairman of the House standing committee on Oil and Gas Hon. Friday Ogierhiakhi thanked the community leaders present for honouring the invitation sent by the committee. The spokesman of Gele-gele community, Rev. Dr. Godwin Soroaye introduce Traditional Chiefs present and then he informed the committee that thy have “No” Okao or Odionwere in Gelegle Community instead they have the Ama-Okosuwei as the head of Gelegele Community and they are Ijaws with their different traditional heads and cultural beliefs. He said “Gelegele means “A Town of a Mountain” in Izon language and no traditional head should be imposed on them. The Base manager, Dubri Oil company Mr. Chris Ikorok informed Honourable members of the committee that Dubri Company will only deal with traditional heads that live in Gelegele he further advised that a meeting should be held in Gelegele community between the petitioner and Dubri Oil company with the member of the house standing committee present. In a separate meeting held with the traditional chiefs from Ughoton community, the chairman of the community Mr. Austin Omoregie, affirmed the “Okao of gele” and the Odionwere of Gelegele Amos Osakwe are both traditional heads in gele-gele community appointed by the Oba of Benin to over-see the activities in the community but the Ijaws in Gelegele drove them away from Gelegele community.
- WORKING VISIT TO GELE-GELE AND UGHOTON COMMUNITIES.
On Thursday 21st March, 2013 the committee embarked on a fact finding visit to Gelegele and Ughton communities both in Ovia North east local government area alongside the base manager, Dubri Oil company and the head of local government administration Ovia North East Okada, represented by Mr. Justine Oraviere and Mr. Ada Monday
The chairman and members of the committee were received by the traditional chiefs in Gelegele before heading to the resident of the Ama-okosuwei of Gelegele community. Member of the committee were ten conducted round Dubri Oil company facilities, where the committee noticed a very high atmospheric temperature within the company’s yard which was caused by the burning of natural gases (gas flaring).
The chairman and member were taken to the community town hall built by Dubri Oil company for more interactive session. The chairman of Gelegele community, Rev. Dr. Godwin Soroaye informed the committee that they have “No Okao or Odionwere of Gelegele an there is not Benin man living in Gelegele, he repeated that thy are all Ijaws by tribe and have their different traditions and “no” traditional head should be imposed on them and that Gelegele is purely and totally an Ijaw settlement with no single trace of any Benin man’s roof or grave and they are all peace of loving people of Edo State. He said Gelegele is rich in natural resources but have been denned of human and infrastructural development, he then appealed to the state and federal government to come to their immediate aid.
The committee went further to Ughoton community where it was received by the Odionwere of the community. Pa. erhumwumonosee Izevbigie, the chairman of Ughton community, Mr. Austin Omoregie then drew the attention of the committee to the infrastructural neglect and non-recognition and identification of the accredited leadership of Ughoton community, he also appealed to the committee to help call on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to urgently complete and energize the abandoned electricity project from Benin to Ughoton community, the competition of the abandoned staff quarters for teachers and health workers accommodation was not left behind in his request. The committee discovered that there were three (3) factions of traditional heads which ere: the Ohonkon, Chief Iyomahan (Okao Gelegele) and the Odionwere faction. The chairman of the committee is need to appeal to the benin monarch with a view of confirming who is the right traditional head in Ughoton community.
The committee later observed that the only health care centre built by Niger Delta Development commission (N.D.D.C) donated to Ughoton community has been lease to Integrated Data Service (IDSL), who converted it to a warehouse and a factory, the chairman and members of the committee frowned at the attitude of the leaders of the Ughoton community for converting health care centre for a different selfish purpose entirely, instead for the effective health care service for the people of Ughoton community
- The Ijaws are predominant in Gelegele community with an Ama-Okosuwei and other traditional leaders
- The Benin’s are predominant in Ughton community which has an Odionwre and other traditional leadership amongst whom is the petitioner
- Dubril Oil company has operation in both Ughoton and Gelegele communities
- Gelegele and Ughoton communities are historically linked to the ancient Benin kingdom, hence it is part of the Old Benin Province, now Edo South Senatorial district.
- The Petitioners with three (3) other instituted a suit in 1970 in a representative capacity for themselves and on behalf of Ughoton community against the Ijaws of Gelegele community for a declaration of title over Gelegele land and which said suit was decide in his favour and upheld at the supreme court. (Annexure D)
- In 1985 His Royal Majesty Omo N’Oba Edo Oku Akpolokpolo Oba Erediauwa vested the title “Okao of Gelegele” on the Petitioner
- The Petitioners said title has not been given any official recognition by the Ovia North East Local Government Council upon the creation of same from the old Ovia local government area.
- Dubril Oil Company has some measure of corporate social relationship with the local leaders of both Gele-gele and Ughoton communites.
- Gelegele and Ughoton Communities are presently in the High court in Benin over land dispute.
Arising from the above findings, the committee recommends as follows:
- The committee recommends that the petitioner upon a letter of formal introduction form the Benin Traditional council to Dubri Oil Company and Ovia North East Local Government Council, Okada, should be accorded all rights and entitlement as a foremost Chief and Elder in Ughoton Community.
- The committee recommends that there should be no interference with the land dispute between Ughoton and Gelegele communities as the same is subjudice.
This report and recommendation with the attached findings are hereby endorsed by undersigned