Following the judgment of a Federal High Court sitting in Lokoja, ceding Lokoja, Kogi and AJaokuta council areas to the Attah Igala, the Oworo people of Lokoja local government area has rejected the court verdict, said they are prepared to seek legal redress.
The Oworo people also rejected the claims of the Lokoja Traditional council who averred penultimate week that the Nupe/Bassa-Nge were the first settlers in Lokoja town, said on the contrary, the Oworo people were the first settler.
Justice W. Okorowa of Lokoja Federal High Court had in a suit file FHC/LKJ/C5/43/2017 granted the right of ownership of Lokoja, Kogi/ Koto-Karfe and Ajakuta Local government Areas of Kogi state as part of the Igala Kingdom over an 1841 agreement the then Attah, Ameh Ocheje signed with British government that was defaulted; and subsequently awarded the sum of ten billion naira to the plaintiff as compensation to be paid by the Federal Government.
Reacting on Monday in Lokoja, the Olu of Oworo, Mallam Mohammed Baiyerohi in a statement signed along with eight other traditional rulers and the Oworo Development Association, said the Federal High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit as land matters are terretorial in nature and reserved for the State High Court were the land is situated.
According to the statement, “The Attah’s Igala claims to the ownership of Lokoja on the basis of the sale of the model farm site to the British has no authentic basis because to the explorers, what did not belong to Etsu -Masaba of Bida must belong to the Attah’s of Igala since they were the two popular kingdoms they knew on their arrival along the course of Niger between Idah and Bida. The explorers were either ignorant or misled of the existence of smallers tribes like Oworo, Kakanda, Egbiraland Koto, Ebira Okene and Bunu not until they finally came to settle in Lokoja.
“The ‘sale’ can therefore not be considered as a trade transaction but an inducement to enable them carry out a peaceful and hitch-free activities as you cannot sell what you do not have.
“The Attah of Igala claims of ownership/Lordship or proprietary rights of the stretch of land along the bank of River Niger without a definite describtion and identity of the land is obnoxious, ambiguos, uncertain, speculative and misleading.
“The proof of ownership based on the agreement in the Deed of Cession between him and the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland in 16 September, 1841 before independence of Nigeria cannot be binding on sovereign nation, because the colonial contract agreement did not consider the interest of the first settlers of the land, and hence unforceable in the sovereign nation of Nigeria.
“It is also a know fact that the Aboriginal inhabitants of Lokoja (Oworo) and latter settlers like Kakanda, Nupe/Bassa-Nge, Ebira Koto and Hausas have never paid taxes, dues, rents, royalties and even loyalties to the Attah of Igala in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial era
“The original inhabitants of Lokoja were neither consulted nor joined in the suit, and to that extent denied the right to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.”
On the position of the Lokoja Traditional council stating the Nupe as first settlers in Lokoja, the statement reads further, “The Oworo people are opposed to the claims of Lokoja Traditional council release of 9th June, 2020 of the first settlers in Lokoja. It is a distortion of historical facts for the Lokoja Traditional council to have ascribed the first settlers/original inhabitants of Lokoja to Nupe/Bassa-Nge without recourse to the Oworo ethnic group or even the Hausa that came later to the town on trade expedition from the northern Nigeria.
“The Oworo are the first settlers in and around Lokoja, with their first settlement called ‘OKENGA’ On top of the Plateau now known as Mount Patti. All these development came before the colonial incursions into the town. Other tribes like Nupe, Bassa-Nge arrived after the Oworo and during the Nupe/Bida raids, while the Hausas came up as traders or in retinue of banished Emirs.
“Infact, Lokoja is located in the heart of Oworoland, which is bounded in the north by the Kakanda, East by River Niger and Egbiraland Koto, in the SouthWest by Ebira Okene and Kabba /Bunu people.
“On the strength of the above, the good people of Oworo who are law abiding reject in its entirety the judgement ceding Lokoja town or Lokoja Local government area to Attah of Igala kingdom, we are therefore prepared to seek redress.
“This pronouncement is capable of causing breach of the law, disunity and disharmony among the good people of Kogi state.”
The statement also eulogised the state governor, Yahaya Bello for his quick intervention that has help promote peace since the court verdict.