Protests erupted in certain regions of Ondo State on Thursday, as residents from Ijaw and Akoko communities took to the streets to voice their discontent regarding the proposal to establish 33 new local council development areas (LCDAs).
Reports indicate that the Ondo State government introduced a bill to the state House of Assembly, seeking to create 33 new LCDAs by subdividing the existing 18 local government areas.
Nevertheless, this decision by the government did not sit well with leaders from the Ijaw and Akoko communities. During a public hearing on the bill held on Thursday, these leaders accused the government of attempting to relinquish their ancestral lands through this process.
The leaders of the aggrieved Ijaw and Akoko communities issued a 21-day ultimatum to the government, urging them to reverse what they perceived as the transfer of their lands to Irele and Ilaje local government areas under this initiative.
In a demonstration staged at the state House of Assembly, some of the traditional rulers, including Sunday Amiseghan, the Kalasuwei of Apoi land, and Pere Egbunu, the Agadagba of Arogbo-Ijaw, implored the state government to reconsider its decision, as they believed it placed their people in a disadvantageous position within the state.
They contended that instead of redistributing parts of their communities located in the Ese-Odo Local Government Area to other regions, the focus should be on creating additional LCDAs within Ese-Odo.
Addressing the press during the protest, Sunday Amiseghan, the Kalasuwei of Apoi land, expressed, “We, as the sole non-Yoruba speaking populace in Ondo State, are committed to safeguarding our cultural and traditional heritage. Our concerns pertain to the formation of LCDAs. The Ijaw community has long endured marginalization in Ondo State. Given our unique status due to the presence of bitumen and abundant oil, we anticipate special consideration. We are requesting the establishment of more LCDAs in Ese-Odo. We staunchly refuse to relinquish any portion of our land to either Ilaje or Ikale. It is imperative that the Ondo State Government withdraw the proposed map.”
Equally, Bonsuwei Ominidouha, Chairman of the Ondo branch of the Ijaw National Congress, asserted, “We are a community that values peace. We are calling upon the Ondo State government to halt this ill-conceived endeavor. The INC is committed to advocating against the cession of even an inch of our land. Sections of Okparama 1 and II as well as Ogidigba are designated for Ilaje. Elements of Apoi 4 and 5 are allocated to Irele Local Government. Our intention is not to engage in conflict with anyone. The Ijaw/Ilaje conflict was rooted in leadership failures, and we are resolute in preventing a recurrence of such strife.”
In response, the lawmakers reassured the public of their commitment to fairness, as they attentively listened to presentations from various groups and concerned citizens.
The state government had earlier called for calm and emphasized that no final decisions would be reached until the legislative process was completed by the assembly.