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Delta community under siege, leaders, residents cry out

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•They‘re telling lies against me – HRM Samson Ogugu 1, Osuvie of Agbarho kingdom
•Angry youths invade palace, security guards whisk monarch away

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Perez Brisibe (Ughelli)

RECENTLY, youths and residents of Agbarho Kingdom in Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State, stormed the palace of the traditional ruler, His Royal Majesty, Samson Owhe Ogugu I, who they accused of intimidating his subjects, collecting taxes under the guise of security among other diverse allegations.

The July 2 protest in which they broke into the king’s palace and drove away the community’s Vigilante Toyota Hilux vehicles parked in the palace was unprecedented. A source said the Osuvie of Agbarho was secreted out of the palace through an exit route by palace guards.

•Osuvie of Agbarho kingdom

President General of Agbarho Urhobo Improvement Union, AUIU, Chief Ighoteguono Gbenedio, who corroborated the allegations, said the monarch was tyrannical in his reign, adding that no monarch has ruled the kingdom, comprising Avwredjan and Okparegbe sub-clans the way HRM Ogugu I was superintending it at the moment.

An eyewitness said: “But for the intervention of the police, who brought the situation under the control, it would have been a different ball game as rival groups set bonfires on the streets and shot indiscriminately, injuring about seven persons, including Oruwa Godswill, Ikurusu Aghogo, Ochuko Shishe and Collins Eneyevwa.”.

The protesting youths, who alleged that the monarch commandeered the affairs of AUIU, urged him to return security affairs to the union, as stipulated in the Agbarho constitution.

“He should refund all funds collected by virtue of Agbarho Land Verification Committee (set up by His Royal Majesty) to AUIU account or land owners, landlords and land developers, etc. As the 19th  Ajuwe of Agbarho kingdom, he should handle the traditional aspect of the clan and AUIU should report to him,” they said.

Gen Obada (retd) wades in

Before the matter escalated to the present level, notable leaders of the kingdom, including a retired army officer, Major General Orho Obada, who played a key role in the emergence of the king, interceded but to no avail.

Obada, described by the monarch as a father in the kingdom and who Saturday Vanguard found out to be a leading go-between in Agbarho, declined to speak to our reporters, saying he was wrongly portrayed by the media as shepherding protesters to invade the palace.

It was gathered that if not for the sustained peace efforts of the retired general, over the years, Agbarho would have witnessed a greater conflagration.

Contrary portrait in the palace

When Saturday Vanguard visited the palace of the Osuvie of Agbarho, the impressions were different from the picture outside, as pastors from within and around the kingdom were seen holding a prayer session at the Ovie Palace Hall, which is just by the entrance.

They were praying for peace in the kingdom and taking authority over the forces trying to pull down the king, which is ironical to the view of many residents that the monarch was the one allegedly pulling down the kingdom with the style of his leadership.

The Osuvie at first charged at the Saturday Vanguard crew that visited his palace, saying it was not this paper’s business to inquire into the affairs of the community.

Osuvie denies allegations, says protest a failed coup against him

He, however, calmed down after his outburst to refute all the charges against him, saying that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Muhammad Mustafa and Chairman of Ughelli North Council, Godwin Adode, were already handling the matter, adding that at no time since his assumption of office did he establish any security outfit under the guise of vigilante group to collect money in the kingdom.

The monarch, who later on pleaded that he was rushing for a meeting, accused some persons in the kingdom of sponsoring suspected cultists in a failed coup to oust him from the throne.

His words:   “On the day of the protest, they sponsored over 400 cultists, who invaded my palace and destroyed my CCTV cameras in a failed coup de tat to oust me from the throne. I was however, whisked away from the palace as they demanded for me.

“If a king has done anything wrong, you have the chiefs under the Council of Chiefs, the kingmakers, whom with me make up the Ajuwe-in -Council, none of these were exploited peacefully for a dialogue,” he asserted.

AUIU, messenger that reports to me

On his reported autocracy, the king said:  “Agbarho as a whole is made up of two organs of administration, which are the king and the chiefs on one side and the king and the union which is the Agbarho (Urhobo) Improvement Union, AUIU on the other side.”

He pointed out that as the traditional head of the entire clan and kingdom, the AUIU is the messenger and administrative head that reports to him, adding: “The Osuvie is the oldest chief by installation and not chronological age, making me the youngest of the 19 kings that have ruled the kingdom. Based on this, there were times when the kings were very old and not knowledgeable in ruler-ship, hence making it a field day for the AUIU.”

I didn’t hijack vigilante

On the disagreement trailing the running of the Agbarho security outfit, the monarch asserted: “When I traveled out of the country, there was a breakdown of law and order in the community as the vigilante made up of the Agbarho Vigilante Group and the Agbarho Taskforce group, which had been managed by the union, headed by Chief Ighoteguono Gbenedio was in comatose.”

•Chief Ighoteguono Gbenedio, president general, AUIU

“So, at the mid-year conference, we all agreed that they should give me back control of the vigilante and this was not my personal decision, so it is totally false and a wrong connotation to say that I formed a task force committee that goes about collecting revenue from people,” he disclosed.

On what caused the uprising against him on July 2, he said: “The entire Agbarho community agreed and announced that there would be an environmental cleanup exercise which would be observed by everyone with defaulters made to pay N50, 000, unfortunately, some persons defaulted and were apprehended by the Agbarho security outfit. They were five of them, including the owner of a popular pharmacy shop and they all asked to pay N100, 000 after appeals were made on their behalf.”

Keep your gunpowder dry until mid-year conference

The monarch urged those who want to take over the management of the Agbarho security outfit to wait until the mid-year conference rather than forcefully hijacking the group, adding, “They want to take over the management of the vigilante, I do not have any problem with that, but they should go back to the same conference that handed it to me, instead of using force.”

Commenting on his alleged illegal acquisition spree, the Osuvie said: “I am a Christian, what concerns people in the wealth of the king if you do not see greed and envy attached? I am a graduate, a Masters Degree holder and a pensioner. I have properties on rentals, calculate the cumulative income from them and what I get as a king and a pensioner, if I have N1million, what should I do with it rather than invest?”

“If God is blessing me as a thither that is in partnership with God, what concerns them? Why not they leave me alone for my God? This is just mere jealousy and envy,” he added.

Our king is repressive – Chief Gbenedion, president-general, AUIU

President General of Agbarho kingdom, Chief Gbenedio, said the king was economical with the truth, accusing him of maladministration and underdevelopment of the kingdom.

He said the kingdom has not known peace since February, last year, when the current Osuvie mounted the throne, pointing out:   “He (Osuvie) was banned for 10 years by his immediate predecessor, who swore that he would see the kingship, but there would be turmoil during his reign as king.”

“After dissolving the entire union executive upon his mounting the throne, he petitioned me, a sitting president general for over   two years,   that I am a gunrunner, a cult leader and I have sold land belonging to Agbarho worth more than N200 million and ate the money alone.

“Five other persons, who are prominent chiefs, including the son of the immediate past monarch of the kingdom were also tagged along in the petition and when the police came from Abuja, I showed them all the documents, as well as an audit report on the books of the union. When the police saw this, they agreed with us that the petition was anchored on greed.”

How Osuvie took over vigilante

On the operations of the vigilante, Gbenedio said: “The management of the vigilante is part of the union and he was the one that actually wrote to the mid-year conference on the need for him to manage the task force and we agreed so that we can see how he can manage it. “Anyone that flouts the environmental law on days of environmental sanitation is made to clear and participate in the cleaning process not by making him pay fine.

“But on that day, we heard that he sent the vigilante out to apprehend defaulters and they apprehended over 20 persons, including the owner of the pharmacy shop and told him that if he failed to pay his fine within seven days, he would be made to leave the community.

Cause of July 2 uproar

“This was what led to the unrest and uproar by youths from the community,   who protested to the palace, took away the vehicles of the vigilante group,   which were parked at the palace to the community hall and demanded to see him. “During the incident, seven persons were shot by security guards, who said the protesters cannot see the king.

“We have also taken over the management of the market by force, but had insisted that we cannot take over the management of the security outfit until that unfortunate day that the youths of the community in protest, took the laws into their hands and took away the security vehicles.

Agbarho under siege – Ibuje

Public Relations Officer of AUIU, Mr. Joseph Ibuje, who also dismissed the monarch’s account of the July 2 incident, plainly stated: “The facts are that Agbarho Kingdom has been under siege since early last year, 2107, and the relative peace the people have been enjoying with its rich and envious cultural heritage is gradually eluding us, since the inception of our monarch, HRM Samson Ogugu.”

“For the records, it is the arbitrary collection of money from traders, artisans, market women, okada riders, etc. The highpoint that sparked off the protest of the youths was when the monarch ordered his personal security armed guard to summon a popular medicine dealer in Agbarho to pay a levy of N200, 000 for not participating in environmental exercise or risk the option of banishment from Agbarho.

“The protest started as a peaceful march through the major streets of Agbarho by the unarmed youth on that fateful day, on getting to the palace, they requested their delegation to see the monarch, but his armed personal security refused entry of the youth’s delegation. This was what led to the face-off and the forceful entry into the palace by the youths and they carried two Hilux vehicles of the vigilante in the palace.

“This resulted to the monarch armed security shooting sporadically with some persons being injured. It should be noted that the cause of the protest by the youth is not the control of the vigilante by HRM Ogugu as reported in the media, but on the contrary, it is the brazen extortion of money from innocent traders through the instrumentality of the monarch-controlled vigilante that snowballed to the protest.

“The protest was purely a resultant effect of accumulated animosities by an oligarchy headed by the monarch and was not led by any community leader as the media reported,” he said

Victims decline to speak

Saturday Vanguard efforts to get comments from the owner of the pharmacy shop and others alleged to have sustained various degrees of injuries during the incident failed, as they refused to speak on the matter when approached. They argued that since the matter was a communal issue that had been resolved, they would not want to comment on it.

Okparegbe sub-clan threatens to pull out if…

Findings by Saturday Vanguard showed that peace remains a far cry from the kingdom, as the elders and people one of the sub-clans, Okparegbe,   have written the monarch, saying that if   he does not retrace his steps on the purported dissolution of the national executive of AUIU, sole operatorship of the Agbarho security apparatus and continued dealings with the suspended chairman of Okparegbe sub-clan, Mr Moses Okagbare, they “foresee the sub-clans will be alienated and go their separate ways…”

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