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Delta Community, monarch clash over the award of chieftaincy title

A crisis is currently brewing between the Sapele Okpe community leaders in the Sapele Local Government Area of Delta State and, Maj. Gen. Felix Mujakperuo (rtd), Orhue the 1st, the Orodje of Okpe kingdom, over the installation of a community leader as a chief in the Kingdom.

The Sapele Okpe community leaders were said to have written a petition to the Okpe king urging the traditional ruler to stop the installation of Otonyasere Community chairman, Dr Austin Arieja as the ‘Oghane’ (the complete one) of the Okpe kingdom.

The petition which was said to have been handed over to the monarch before his 15th coronation anniversary last month July was alleged to have been ignored by the traditional ruler with a promise to look into the issue, only for the King to go on with the conferment of the title on the People Democratic Party, PDP, Chieftain, days before the anniversary celebration.

A Sapele Okpe community leader who confirms the story under the condition of anonymity said the community leaders have long had a running battle with Dr Arieja on issues concerning community autonomy.

HRM Major Gen Felix Mujakperuo Mni Cfr, the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom

While Sapele Okpe Community has continued to lay claim to Oton as part of its vast Community,  Arieja was said to have rejected the claim, insisting Otonyasere where he holds sway as the chairman was autonomous, a claim which has drawn both parties at war with youths regularly accusing each other of trespassing and a royalty said to be coming from oil companies has led the two communities to drag each other to court, with each claiming to have won at the court.

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The Chief who claimed to be an insider said, what the Sapele Okpe community leaders wanted the king to do was to reject the Otonyasere community chairman push for a chieftaincy position, insisting Arieja shouldn’t have been installed as a chief bearing in mind that what they are accusing him of, was the offence a popular All Progressive Congress, APC leader in the town was accused of years back, an issue that made the Monarch turn down the APC Chieftain bid for a chieftaincy title then.

Not happy with the decision to go on with the conferment, Sapele Okpe community leaders were said to have tactically withdrawn their participation in the King’s coronation anniversary, a commitment many felt led to the decision not to congratulate the monarch with a paid advert in the national dailies, an annual ritual the community has undertaken since the king was installed.

“It was obvious they were not happy and I can tell you that ninety per cent of the decision taken by the community leaders is being backed by Chief Ede Dafinone, the late Senator David Dafinone’s son, who has stood behind these Sapele Okpe community expos, even when others were battling their legitimacy then”

Part of the activities lined up for the king’s coronation was the commissioning of the Chief David Dafinone hall at the King palace by the Senator’s children, Chief Igho and Ede Dafinone, but the source claim from the way the children left early it was obvious they were not happy with the monarch.

“Making Otonyasere Community chairman a chief, to the Sapele Okpe community leaders means the King is in support of what Arieja is doing, and that is what they are angry at.

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“Otonyasere is part of Sapele Okpe community, trying to be autonomous is what we don’t understand, Sapele owns Oton, to claim that the community is not part of Sapele, is rubbish, Arieja’s father is not from there, while his mother is from Ugboren, to say Oton is not part of Sapele is like saying Ojolu is not part of the town,” the insider said.

In mid-August 2019, a heated row broke out between the communities, after youths of Otonyasere allegedly assaulted their counterparts from Sapele-Okpe.

Some persons were said to have erected a structure close to an oil rig in Otonyasere for commercial purposes, which resulted in s3curity agencies wading in

Sapele Okpe community had accused Otonyasere youths of attacking them and destroying their bus, with accusing fingers being pointed at Arieja.

Meanwhile, the Lodge in a bid to find a solution last week Tuesday was said to have set up a seven-man committee to look into the grievances of the Sapele Okpe Community against the palace for conferring Chieftaincy title on Mr. Austin Ariaja of Oton-iyasere.

The committee members are expected to come up with a recommendation to Udogun Okpe on how best to amicably resolve the impasse between the Sapele Okpe Community and the palace cum immediate cause of the disagreement between Sapele Okpe Community and Otonyatsere enclave and recommend a permanent solution.

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