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Ijaw-Itsekiri: Lawyer urges Tinubu to uphold S’ Court verdict

President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly have been urged to respect the judgement of the Supreme court on the contentious issue between the Ijaw and Itsekiri over the name Okerenkoko and Okerenghigho, host community of the Nigerian Maritime University.


Prominent Lawyer of Itsekiri extraction and counsel to some illustrious sons and daughters of Omadino community, Messrs Edward Omagbemi, Oritseweyinmi Emmanuel Aginejuone and Tsaye Edeyibo-Mene, Chief Robinson Ariyo said the apex court had made clear pronouncement on the issue of contention, stressing that president Tinubu and NASS should ignore and also resist pressure from any quarter to go contrary to the judgement.


Chief Ariyo who is the principal partner of Robinson Ariyo & Co in his open letter to President Tinubu with the titled: “A further response to latter reactions to our publication on the subject of the Bill for an Act for the establishment of Nigerian Maritime University, “Okerenkoko” instead of “Okerenghigho”,” enjoined the president and the National Assembly to stick to the aboriginal name, “Okerenghigho.”


He said, “I wish to advise the National Assembly to effect the necessary changes to reflect the aboriginal name “Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenghigho”


The letter read in part: “…may we humbly restate the issue on the table borders on the dispute as to the naming of the Nigerian Maritime University as Okerenkoko instead of Okerenghigho.


“In this regard, may we reiterate the fact that the dispute was resolved as follows:


“The Supreme Court in James Uluba & Ors vs Chief E. E. Sillo & Ors (1972) LLJR-SC affirmed the decision of the Trial Court, declaring further that the Ijaws, who by virtue of their ancestor “Akpata” settled in that community, are the customary tenants of the Itsekiris, whose ancestors founded the Okerenghigho community. Justice Obaseki held as follows: “I find as a fact that the land in dispute is called Okerenghigho by the Plaintiffs who are Itsekiri and Okerenkoko by the Ijaws who are the Defendants”. The said judgment was delivered by the Supreme Court in favour of the Itsekiris of Omadino of Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State of Nigeria.


“The Legal opinion as per Ref. FMJ/DLD/LD/MISC/Bill 950 rendered by the then Attorney General of the Federation as at the 17th day of October, 2017 reads: “In the light of the judicial pronouncement, the situs of the Maritime University and the need to avert any ethnic crises, which may erupt should the Bill for the Establishment of the Maritime University be allowed to bear the opposed name “Okerenkoko”, I wish to advise the National Assembly to effect the necessary changes to reflect the aboriginal name “Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenghigho”.


“While our clients are urging Your Excellency to consider institutional memories in deciding this matter, the adversaries are not only denigrating both the Supreme Court and the Chief Legal Adviser of the Federation as per their decisions produced above, they are threatening Your Excellency with war.”


Ariyo further dismissed alleged efforts by some to create a picture that his clients were opposed to establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, adding that they were only demanding that all documents on location of the institution should revert to the aboriginal name Okerenghigho.


“Whereas it was apparent to any discerning mind that our clients have never opposed the establishment of the Maritime University but only opposed to its improper naming considering the decision of the Supreme Court, the makers of the said publication, feebly attempted to misrepresent our clients’ position. For the avoidance of doubts, may we humbly reproduce relevant portions of our clients’ publications below: “Our clients welcome the establishment of the University as a people who are renowned for encouraging and embracing human and infrastructural developments; especially where these would border on education and capacity building like the extant one; however, our clients’ cautious optimism in the circumstances springs from a combination of the following factors:


“The current grabbing of land by some …especially those on an ethnic cleansing mission, who have publicly vowed not to respect court judgments but to resort to the forceful acquisition of the land of their neighbours by which they seek to annex our clients’ land against our clients’….


“As Your Excellency very well knows, the history of intellectual development in the Niger Delta region is replete with the examples of exceptional leadership roles played by the Itsekiris in all spheres of human endeavours; permit us to cite Late Chief Alfred Rewane of the NADECO fame in this regard, one reason why as Your Excellency would have seen, …the Itsekiris particularly our clients thrive on the rule of law and insistence on respect for judgments of court including in the extant circumstances, that of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.


“Your Excellency sir, may we humbly submit; considering the content of our clients’ petition as above alluded and in the light of the content of the publication in view, that a reasonable man would seek answers to the following questions in these circumstances:


“Can a Judgment Debtor or any person claiming through a Judgment Debtor rely on his contemptuous act to make a claim to the subject matter of an action by describing the judgment as “fraudulent”, particularly where it is the judgment of the Supreme Court to which paragraphs 11 to 13 of the publication in view was made? We do not think so!


“Your Excellency sir, permit us to reiterate with appreciation the fact that Your Excellency’s legal status as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was reaffirmed by the same Supreme Court that the adversaries are seeking to disparage; we operate a Constitution that recognizes three coequal arms of Government but the adversaries are urging Your Excellency as the head of the Executive arm to set aside, alter, amend or review the decision of the Supreme Court, despite the fact that Your Excellency remains on oath to protect the same constitution. Is that (the request of the adversaries) an acceptable democratic practice? We don’t think so.


“The critical questions that should be asked the adversaries in these circumstances are:


“Will the university not be a university if the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the name were respected? Between the party asking that the rule of law should be observed and that alleging that the judgment of the Supreme Court was fraudulent and as such will unleash war, which one constitutes a threat to peace?


“Contrary to the claim by our clients’ adversaries that our clients have never spoken up on this issue since its inception, such a claim falls flat in the face of the legal opinion of the Attorney General of the Federation above referred. Obviously, it was as a result of our clients’ multiple protests that the said Legal opinion was proffered; same being a good reason why Your Excellency’s predecessor never acted against the said advice. Our clients also made multiple representations to the National Assembly during the said period.


“We hereby humbly make the following further demands in addition to our earlier conveyed demands as contained in our originating publication as well as the further publication: “That Your Excellency should be guided by the Oath of Allegiance“…to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” and in particular not to be stampeded into disrespecting the judgment of the Supreme Court.


“Not to tolerate forceful or illegal acquisition of land under any guise; particularly that of advocating the establishment of a university.


“To make the protection of lives and property by means of the instrument of law and state apparatus as a cardinal National Policy in general, the Niger Delta region and the area in issue in particular.


“One of the ways we know to deliver our points is by reference to the thoughts of noble men who have walked this earth before. John Locke, an English philosopher and political theorist once admonished; referring to the Government and how the Citizens should be governed: “They are to govern by promulgated established laws, not to be varied in particular cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favorite at court, and the countryman at plough.”, We humbly commend this thought as a policy direction to Your Excellency.


“Our confidence in Your Excellency’s management of matters of this nature remains enormous.”

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