Edo State Government has waded into the crisis between the Nigerian Army at Ekenwa Barracks and their host community, Oghede, in Ovia North East Local Government Area of the state as tension mounts in the area, after hundreds members of the community were sacked from their ancestral homes by the Army.
The Army was said to have invaded the community last week Thursday, under the guise that the land where the community members built their homes belongs to the Army. Children and women are now seeking refuge at the palace of the Enogie of Oghede, HRH Osadebamien Aghaghowa, who has appealed to the Oba of Benin and Governor Godwin Obaseki to come to their rescue.
Enogie Aghaghowa described the Army’s claim as false, saying that “our community gave them land years ago through the state government and it was gazetted but what they are doing now is encroaching on areas that were not given to them and sacking my people who have built houses in their ancestral homes.
The tension in the area forced Governor Godwin Obaseki to send his Chief of Staff, Mr. Taiwo Akerele, to the community last Saturday and the two parties were summoned for a meeting at Government House.
Speaking to newsmen, Mr. Akerele, who confirmed the meeting, said: “We heard about the problem and the governor directed I should go and find out the situation and plead for calm in the area. We met with the Garrison Commander in the barracks and he showed us the map of the area allocated to them which showed clearly the encroachment on their land by the community.
And from their own account, we found out that all those houses built by the community is within the military land from the map shown to us by the military. And the worst is that it is also close to their shooting range which is dangerous. He said that was why they were given the vast land due to their operation. They said because the place was not fenced, the community people started encroaching into their land and they have built several houses around that area.
Then after that we went to see the Enogie of Oghede and a very large crowd in his palace waiting for us. The community showed us a completely different gazette and a map which is at variance with what the military is claiming.
They showed us their own land and where the military own is. They also took us to see some bacon that was planted there several years ago and that their ancestral home is even in that area, asking how they have given out their own ancestral home.
We now urged them to be calm and they should not confront the military and the military should not confront them because the governor will not be happy to see any of his citizens brutalised. The military is claiming that their land has been encroached upon but the community people said no, the land given to the military does not extend to where they are.