Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi, has called for calm following the judgment of a federal high court in Lokoja, which granted the control of three local government areas (LGAs) in the state to Idakwo Ameh Oboni, the attah Igala.
In the judgment delivered on June 2, 2020, the court had granted the traditional ruler ownership of Ajaokuta, Lokoja and Koton Karfe LGAs.
While Ebira, where Bello belongs are the dominant ethnic group in Ajaokuta, the people of Oworo, Ebira, Nupe and Bassa are the main groups in Lokoja and Koton-Karfe.
Igala is the largest ethnic group in Kogi.
The court also ruled that a N10 billion compensation should be paid to Igala kingdom, after granting the plaintiff’s prayer on the basis of an 1841 agreement between the British colony and the traditional ruler at the time.
A 1962 article titled “The ‘Civilizing’ Mission of 1841: Aspects of an Episode in Anglo-Nigerian relations”, makes reference to the 1841 treaty by the attah at the time, who was referred to as Ocheji.
“On 6 September, 1841, the Attah signed (through his deputies) the treaty for abolishing the the slave trade and promoting legitimate commerce in Igala, as well as an “additional article” for the cession of a piece of land near the confluence,” it read.
The land chosen at the time is said to have “stretched from Lokoja (at the confluence) to a point 16 miles down the right side of the Niger, and 5 miles inland.”
However, the new judgment has generated tension in the state, with indigenes of the affected LGAs insisting that they do not belong to Igala kingdom.
Commenting on the issue at a media briefing on Friday, Bello urged the people of Kogi to seek justice in courts.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen and dear citizens of Kogi state, I want to urge you to remain calm, be law abiding, don’t take laws into your hands. Those that are concerned as far as that pronouncement is concerned, I urge them to seek the legal redress,” the governor said.
“But let me caution and warn that this administration abhors all ethnic segregation, tribalism, sectionalism. In fact, world over, imperialism has no face again in this modern world.
“We anchor this particular administration on unity, togetherness and prosperity, equal opportunity for each and every citizen of this state. Therefore, any act that suggests segregation, tribalism, imperialism will meet stiff opposition and will be resisted vehemently.
“We will ensure that as a government, we will continue to foster unity and togetherness. I urge our seniors who are hell-bent on telling us history or stories rightly or wrongly that will divide us to please desist.
“All our programmes, policies and projects have always been with fairness, equity and justice. I’m sure you have seen what is happening across the world today starting from the United States of America where one black individual was killed, George Floyd, and the world is reacting in unison. We cannot afford to divide ourselves here in Kogi state.
“Those of you that are on the social media or any conventional media trying to sow seeds of division should please desist. You have nothing to gain out of it.”
He emphasised the need for calm, and said the state “will not allow law and order to degenerate”.
“Nobody, I repeat, nobody, no matter how highly placed you are or lowly placed you are, should test the will of this administration,” he added.