By Emma Arubi in Warri
Auditor of the Local Education Authority (LEA), Mrs. Patricia Money, and several other workers of Warri South-West Council Area of Delta State were Monday morning taken hostage by some indigenes of Ogbe-Ijoh community for almost three hours before they were rescued following the intervention of the Ogbe-Ijoh kingdom’s monarch.
Narrating their ordeal to newsmen at the concrete Jetty at the main market, Warri on condition of anonymity, some of the victims said on getting to their offices that morning, everywhere was calm and peaceful but suddenly, sporadic gunshots rented the air and then every worker took to their heels towards the jetty to board any available boat back to Warri urban for fear and safety of their lives.
According to them, the workers, comprising natives of all the tribes in Delta state were taken hostage at the jetty by some Ogbe-Ijoh people made-up of both the elderly men, women, youths and even school children in uniform who had gathered there before their arrival.
The victims revealed that the people started abusing them, saying that “since Aladja people do not want their council to function, they would also not be allowed to go back to their homes and that they would in fact storm Warri South council Secretariat to shut it down.
“They said we will die with them if death come from the Urhobo people.
“The Itsekiri people are the ones sponsoring the Aladja Urhobo people to agitate for the relocation of the Warri South-West Council to the Itsekiri community of Ogidigben. They started abusing the Itsekiri nation and were specifically looking out for some them that works in the council that were not among those of us that were captured”, they revealed.
The victims further revealed that when information got to Warri as to the fate that had befallen them, phnoe calls were put across to highly placed government officials and security agencies, some chiefs of the kingdom including the paramount ruler of Ogbe-Ijoh who then moved swiftly by dispatching two chiefs to the jetty to speak with those that held the workers hostage before they left off the hook after almost three hours.
The threat of dealing with the Itsekiri has been on for quite some time now leading to all Itsekiri workers in Ogbe-Ijoh community to stay away from job until last Week Tuesday when leaders of the Ijaw community came to address them with the leaders of NULGE at the Warri South council Secretariat, assuring them of their safety.
It was this assurance from the ijaw leaders that led to their returning to workers with others when everyone was held hostage.
The age-long Urhobo Aladja/Ogbe-Ijoh communal crisis has festered for over 80 years over land ownership with each tribe claiming to be the rightful owners of the disputed land mass in spite of several concerted effort by the state government to settle the matter amicably but without much being achieved as no party is willing to shift ground.