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Communal clash: Osun’s age-long land dispute remains unresolved

The land dispute between the people of Ifon and Ilobu in Osun State is as old as their ancestors. In the latest clash, many people…

The land dispute between the people of Ifon and Ilobu in Osun State is as old as their ancestors. In the latest clash, many people were killed and houses burnt. Valuable properties worth millions of naira were also destroyed, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

Residents were rendered homeless and majority of them relocated to Osogbo, the state capital.  To stop further killings and destruction of property, the state government and security agencies swung into action.

The crisis started when the people of Ifon heard about the purported plan by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Taoreed Abiodun Lagbaja, who hails from Ilobu, to build a military hospital in the town. The people of Ifon claimed that the proposed site of the project at Opapa village fell on their land but they were not carried along.

Ifon people said the military men who came from army headquarters to inspect the site paid courtesy visit on the palace of the Olobu of Ilobu and disregarded the Olufon of Ifon. They insisted that the military could not go ahead with the project. But the people of Ilobu insisted that the land proposed for the project belonged to them.

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The controversy eventually degenerated into a bloody clash between the people of Ifon and Ilobu. One of the residents, Mr Muideen Azeez, said all his properties were burnt down and he escaped death.

He said, “the only thing I have now is the cloth I am wearing. I beg the government to help me.”

Another resident, Mr Akindele Adeyemo, called on the state government to find a lasting solution to the incessant clashes among the towns, saying, “As you can see, people are leaving the towns and moving to Osogbo. The security men are trying but the situation is unfortunate. I pray there would be peace.”

Reacting, Governor Ademola Adeleke said the killings were unwarranted. He said the state government would take over the disputed land. Emphasizing on the curfew he declared in the area, the governor reminded the people that he had given a shoot-at-sight order to soldiers and other security men deployed to the area.

Adeleke said, “May God have mercy on those disrupting the peace of these towns. Osun State is peaceful, to the extent that other governors were asking me how I did it and I told them it was by God’s grace. Now, some devilish individuals want to disrupt the peace. If any of the parties go to that land again, such persons would be arrested. Security is very important. This kind of communal clash can scare investors away from Osun. You must be very careful.”

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the commissioner of police in the state, CP Kehinde Longe had led his men to Ifon and Ilobu to ensure that the situation was brought under control. He assured residents of the safety lives and property.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, also appealed to the warring parties to end the communal clash in the interest of peace.

“Why are we killing ourselves and destroying properties? Let us stop the killings. I am appealing to you from the throne of Oduduwa. We are one race. Please don’t let it escalate. Be your brothers’ keepers,” he pleaded.

The two towns have continued to trade words over the cause of the clash. The secretary, Board of Trustees of the Ifon Orolu Progressive Union, Chief Akinjide Adelaja Akinyooye, said the disputed land belonged to Ifon, but the spokesperson for the Olobu-in-Council, Chief Adegoke Ogunsola said Ilobu was its original owner.

Akinyooye accused the people Ilobu of trespassing into the land. He said the people of Ifon were not prepared for fight but Ilobu were the first to attack them on their way from the farm. He said last week’s clash started when suspected gunmen from Ilobu killed an indigene of Erin-Osun and shot an indigene of Ifon at Gbere-Odofin village junction on their way from Oba-Ifon.

He said the administration of former Governor Rauf Aregbesola ceded the land in contention to Ilobu through a gazette, which he said did not follow due process; hence would not stand. He noted that with historical evidence, the land belonged to Ifon, insisting that they would not cede it to Ilobu.

Going down memory lane

“There are overwhelming archival evidences that supports historical facts that the Olufon of Ifon-Orolu Kingdom is the  traditional landlord of the entire Irepodun Local Government that consists of Ilobu and Erin. Besides, the Intelligence Report by Assistant District Officer I. F. Schofield dated March 28, 1936 justified the superiority of the Olufon of Ifon-Orolu Kingdom.

“The earlier proclamation was made on March 24, 1919 by Oba Shiyanbola Oladigbolu, the Alaafin of Oyo when the issue of demarcation began. It can never be ignored. Besides, all the 16 kings of Olobu, including the incumbent Oba Ashiru Olatoye Olaniyan, were installed as Baale (district head). Thirteen of them were installed at Ifon by Olufon until when Baale Sanusi Araoye was installed as the Olobu of Ilobu.

“The incumbent Olobu of Ilobu was initially installed as Baale in 1970, just like all his predecessors, before his recent upgrading and subsequent wearing of beaded crown ceremony in December 13, 1986 by the late Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III; which still did not qualify him as a permanent member of the Oyo State Council of Obas until later when Osun State was created.

“There are uncountable archival records dated back to the pre-independence era of Nigeria when the Ibadan Native Administration Inner Council members authoritatively confirmed ‘Olufon of Ifon-Osun as the traditional landlord of Olobu of Ilobu’ during the reign of Oba Alayeluwa Bankeesa Atanda Akinyooye, the 30th Olufon of Ifon-Orolu Kingdom.

“The State Boundary Commission should have properly been guided and strictly conclude the boundary between Ifon and Ilobu communities based on this. But it rather complicated the matter during the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola when he made a legal notice number 9 of 2014, published in the Osun State of Nigeria Gazette number 1 Volume 24, dated October 13, 2014.

“It is glaring that it was either politically motivated or erroneously passed because it is the main subject of the crisis between Irepodun and Orolu local government areas,” he said.

He called on Governor Adeleke to quash the Aregbesola Gazette that ceded the land to Irepodun Local Government. The controversial gazette by the administration of Aregbesola was actually without the consent of Olufon and Orolu people, who are the traditional landlord of both Irepodun and Orolu local government areas. It was based on the same gazette that the people of Ilobu are laying claim to Adara village that accommodated Orolu-South Area Council in Diisu Ayekale, which was created by the same administration in 2015.

The spokesman of the Olobu-in-Council, Chief Adegoke Ogunsola, also gave historical background to the issue of ownership of the disputed land. He, however, noted that the matter was in court and judgement expected this month.

He said, “Laarosin, the founder of Ilobu and Olobu stool was the first settler on the vast virgin land known today as Ilobu, Ifon-Osun and Erin-Osun. That was centuries ago. Later, the people of Ibokun, known today as Ileesi and one Oosalokun, the founder of Ifon and Olufon stool, approached Laarosin at different times for land to settle on. Laarosin then granted them land for farming and settlements.

“There was no crisis about land granted them until 1917 when Bankesa Atanda Akinyooye Moronfolu I, Olufon of Ifon-Osun trespassed into part of Olobu’s land that was not granted to Olufon or Eleesi. In 1830, Ifon-Osun was sacked during Fulani raids on Ilobu farms and settlements. As a result of the Fulani invasion, Olufon approached Olobu for land. The then Olobu granted Ifon people their present site known then as Boosa. The site where Ifon people were invaded by Fulani is known today as Ibale and that is the place they bury any deceased Olufon till date.

“In 1917, Oba Onikepe Siyanbola Ladigbolu, the Alaafin of Oyo intervened, but the Olufon and Olobu did not agree on the boundary. In 1918, Alaafin approached colonial government to intercede .In 1925, the Senior Resident, Oyo Province, Captain William Ross demarcated the boundary, which Olobu accepted. But in 1945, Salawu Oyelade Oluyeyin, the late Olufon employed a licensed surveyor, one Mr Gilbert, and through this, he distorted the Ross boundary. Ilobu disagreed and instituted suit number 4/53 at Ikirun Native Court in 1953. The judgement was given in favour of Ilobu.

“Olufon appealed case number 4/53 in suit no. 21/55 at Osun Divisional Appeal Court. The appeal was allowed and a different boundary was fixed. Olobu then appealed in Appeal No. 9/1959. The appeal was dismissed. Olobu further appealed in Appeal No. 787 to the Governor’s Court. The governor, Sir John Rankine, in his judgement on November 18, 1960, said, amongst other things, that it was clearly impossible to fix a complete new boundary that would represent a fair compromise. Thereafter, Olufon and Ifon people instituted a case at the High Court through a Certiorari to quash the decision of the Governor’s Court. The case got to the Supreme Court in suit number S.C. 31/1967.

“After the Supreme Court judgement which quashed the proceedings of the Native Courts, the government set up the Enahoro Inquiry under Inter Boundary Settlement Ordinance. One Mr E.O Enahoro was appointed as inquiry officer.

“But Olufon protested government’s action in the suit mentioned above, which got to the Supreme Court in 1967. In 1968, Olufon Salawu Oyelade and people of Ifon referred their dispute over the land to the Boundary Settlement Commission and included Ilobu town as part of their land.

“The judgement was in favour of Ilobu and Laarosin was adjudged to be the first settler against Olufon’s claim.”

Both the people of Ifon and Ilobu have continued to claim ownership of the land with their respective historical evidences. And the history is being passed from generation to generation; hence indigenes of the two towns are determined to defend their land with the last drop of their blood.

Finding lasting peace

To bring peace to the two warring towns, the state government made them to sign a peace agreement, ordering them to sheathe their swords with immediate effect. Government’s delegation to the peace agreement was led by the deputy governor, Prince Kola Adewusi, alongside the secretary to the state government, Teslim Igbalaye and other top government officials. The Otun Olobu, Chief Jimoh Waliyu, the Esa of Ifon, Chief Babatunde Oyetunji and the representative of the third community, Olokanla, Mr Bashiru Azeez , with two other representatives from each of the communities, signed the peace agreement.

The Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Oluomo Kolapo Alimi, said anyone or group of persons found doing or saying anything contrary to the peace agreement would be prosecuted in line with the dictates of the law.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that peace seems to be returning to the towns gradually, but residents are worried that the root cause of the crisis is yet to be addressed; hence it might not be over yet. They called on the state government to get to the root of the matter and decide on the ownership of the land.

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