The long-drawn Okwuvo and Okwidiemo land dispute in Okpe Local Government Area of Delta State was finally settled in 1991 by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, then still sitting in Lagos.
In a final and conclusive judgement of the apex court, the Supreme Court decided the case in favour of Okwuvo and granted that community ownership and possession of the disputed land.
Unfortunately, ever since the judgement was delivered, elements of Okwidiemo community have remained recalcitrant and conducted themselves with brazen defiance to a judgement of no less than the Supreme Court by insisting the land is still theirs despite the judgement of the highest court in the land.
Indeed, to that extent, investigations reveal that elements from Okwidiemo have resorted to brazen harassment of persons who lawfully bought land from Okwuvo Community, insisting they must also buy the same land from them and resorting to intimidation, destruction of property and violence whenever such illegality is resisted.
At a point, a fracas over the land issue even led to the death of at least one individual.
These excesses have spared no one, not even indigenes of Okwidiemo who happened to purchase land from the Supreme Court declared owners, Okwuvo Community.
A case in point is a tract of land bought from Okwuvo Community after the Supreme Court decision by renowned educationist, playwright, author publisher, big-time farmer and elder statesman, the late B.E. Onokpasa, for one of his wive’s, Mrs Anna Onokpasa, also now deceased.
Interestingly, the late B.E. Onokpasa, author of the play, “The Hero Of Sharpeville”, 1962, and founder of Trinity College, Okwidiemo, now Holy Trinity Grammar School, Okwuvo, is arguably the best known indigene of Okwidiemo.
Nevertheless, certain elements in Okwidiemo have of late encroached on the land and have even been insisting that the land be repurchased from them several decades after it was bought, and, even longer after the Supreme Court judgement that declared Okwuvo as legitimate owners of the land was rendered by the apex court.
When contacted on the issue, fiery lawyer, writer, public affairs commentator and All Progressives Congress, APC, chieftain, Jesutega Onokpasa, said that he is “an indigene of Okwidiemo and proudly so.”
Nevertheless, he admitted that in fact, Okwuvo won the land case at the Supreme Court and that he is “probably the only indigene of Okwidiemo still alive who was at the old Supreme Court in Lagos when the judgement was delivered”, having gone there, while then a student at the University of Lagos, with his father, the late B.E. Onokpasa, and that “as a senior lawyer”, he could not deny a Supreme Court decision.
Probed further, Onokpasa said that “Okwidiemo and Okwuvo people are one and the same Okpe people and I believe we can all resolve our differences and live amicably as brothers and sisters according to our time-hallowed Okpe culture, our cherished Christian values and of course in accordance with the law of the land and pronouncements of the courts”.
With respect to the encroachment on the land of the late Anna Onokpasa, the popular lawyer said that “there can be no dispute over that land for it was bought by my father for Mrs Anna Onokpasa and it therefore belongs to her children, case closed”.
Despite the expression of hope that peace will reign by the renowned lawyer and, whereas the encroachment and harassment are now the subject of police investigation and separately the subject matter of a case in court, the Okwuvo – Okwidiemo land issue is a stark reminder of a growing tendency of disobedience to court orders and disregard of judicial pronouncements, indeed, a situation that analysts believe can only lead to a state of anarchy in the country if left unabated.
Residents of the area, including those from Onokpasa Community, Okwidiemo Community and Okwuvo Community, and nearby Adeje Community expressed hope that the Okpe Traditional Council, under the headship of the revered Orodje of Okpe, HRM Orueh I, CFR, will step in to resolve the crisis, while expressing disappointment that a Supreme Court judgement delivered more than 30 years ago is being flouted in such a brazen manner by those who lost the case.