Fully armed soldiers, yesterday afternoon, visited Okuta in Baruten Local Council of Kwara State to confirm alleged annexation of 16 villages in the area by the neighbouring Benin Republic.
This came on a day that the Kwara State government denied that any of the villages was annexed as the Defence Headquarters raised a panel to investigate the matter and said it would explore diplomatic means to resolve the issue.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the soldiers, who arrived Okuta at about 3pm had a brief meeting with the Emir of Okuta and his traditional chiefs and went to visit the affected areas.
Area remains calm
Residents of Okuta and the villages went about their normal businesses as there was no violence or threat to peace from any quarters.
Efforts to speak with the Emir of Okuta, Alhaji Idris Serio Abubakar, yesterday, were not successful as he was said to have been ordered from the above to keep sealed lips on the matter.
Before the latest development, the monarch was said have written letters to the State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, over the encroachment of their lands by the neighbouring Benin Republic but no action was taken.
According to a recent letter to the governor titled:”Encroachment of Nigerian Territory by Benin Republic at Okuta District of Baruten Local Government area of Kwara state, “the traditional ruler alerted that,”recently some pillars were reconstructed and mounted at the back of the doors of Boriya village (at river Moshi) and Benin Republic.
“The colonial pillars of Imamue to Boriya Moshi rivers is about 25km.The present land in question has the following Nigeria villages Ogamue, Munta, Bwin, Gandogbeba, Saka Yeruman Kparu, Ajuba, Simen. Kparu, Sosi Kparu, Dotin. Nkparu and Tende with not less than 22,.000 people as inhabitants, wishing to be claimed by Benin Republic. It is a terrible trespass and not acceptable to our communities.?
“Unless the Beninoise are restricted and made to vacate the area being encroached by them, they will continue with their said encroachment thereby illegally extending their territory beyond what legally belong to them. We are not ready and will never be ready to concede this land to Benin Republic. We don’t have any place where these villages could be resettled, it is the only viable economic and farm land of the whole district.”
No Kwara community was invaded – State govt
However, the Kwara State Government has denied reports that 16 villages in the state have been invaded and occupied by Republic Republic.
The state government, in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Alhaji Mahmud Ajeigbe, yesterday, said the affected villages of Okuta District of Baruten Local Government Area of the state are calm and still under the control of the Federal Government.
The statement further stressed that although no foreign government has erected any structure nor hoisted their national flag in any of the villages as erroneously reported in the media, the state government has alerted the security agencies on the reports.
Alhaji Ajeigbe said the Emir of Okuta, Alhaji Idris Abubakar, Chairman of Baruten Local Government Council and security agencies in the area have all confirmed that residents of the 16 villages are going about their normal activities without fear and that there is no sign of foreign security agencies or their structures in the area.
The government therefore urged everyone to remain calm and go about their normal businesses as the Nigerian security agencies are up to the task of securing Nigeria’s borders and her people.
Lending support to the claim of the state government.
Affected villages belong to Benin Republic – Council boss
Interestingly, the Vice Chairman of Baruten Local Council, Abdulrasheed Lafia, who is also the chairman of the Local Government Boundary Commission also said yesterday that the so called 16 villages actually belonged to Benin Republic based on an earlier agreement.
He said that the issue surrounding the disputed Ogomue land had been resolved since 2005.
Lafia claimed that the National Boundary Commission after it visited the site in 2004 along with officials of the state and local government boundary committees had resolved that the land actually belonged to Benin Republic.
According to him, the news report is a sponsored one as no such invasion or attack exists anywhere in the local council adding that the sponsors of the report are individuals,who are dissatisfied with the position of the commission.
No Nigerian territory will be lost – Defence hdqrs
Commenting on the development, the Defence headquarters,yesterday, said that no single Nigerian territory will be allowed into the hands of intruders or any foreign nation.
Consequently, the Defence headquarters disclosed that a high powered investigative panel has been initiated to probe the Benin Republic the invasion of Nigeria’s territory.
Acting Director of Defence Information, Colonel Rabe Abubakar in a telephone conversation with Saturday Vanguard, noted that “though the military was aware of the allegation, Nigeria being a member of various international organs of the United Nations and African Union as well as ECOWAS, will explore diplomatic means if the investigation into the alleged invasion is completed.
Emphasizing that the outcome of the investigation into the allegation will be made public when completed, the Acting DDI reiterated that the military’s resolve towards ensuring that ‘no Nigerian territory will be lost to either terrorists or any foreign nation saying it is a cardinal policy of the federal government that will be implemented to the letter.
“But firstly, the government wants to know why, how and what happened, if the allegation is true in the first place,” he said.