- Details Of The Popular Court Case
The selling of Port Harcourt land to the Crown Colony –the Britons in 1913 by the Chiefs and Headsmen of Diobu people Ikwerre ethnic nationality for over 100 years ago has been hunting their great grand sons and daughters, as several court cases instituted by their progenitors in order to reverse the HARGROVE AGREEMENT OF 1913 had failed, except in 1928 when the court offered the Ikwerres a reprieve of variation of rent of 500 hundred British Pounds which was Supplemental to the 1913 HARGROVE AGREEMENT.
City People Port Harcourt Bureau Chief, EMEKA AMAEFULA here brings a Flash Back to what took place in the tussle of who owns Port Harcourt between the Okrika and Ikwerre people both of Rivers State Nigeria.
HOW BRITISH CROWN COLONY PURCHASED PORT HARCOURT LAND
The coming into Southern Nigeria by the Britons began earlier than 1912 when they made proposal on how to construct a railway terminus and that of shipping wharf where they can export Enugu Coal and other Farm produce from the hinterland of Southern Nigeria to Europe. The then Deputy Governor of the Colony and Southern Nigeria Protectorate Alexander George Boyle went into action as he gathered all the peoples of Ogbum- Nu-Abali Diobu, Okrika, Omokoroshi, Omo Eme, Omo Amasi,Oguniba and later Awafa and Bakana. Consultations and bargaining were concluded as the then District Commissioner Reginald Hargrove whose name the DEED was identified and named after supervised the signing of the popular HARGROVE AGREEMENT which sealed the Ceding and selling of Port Harcourt Land to the Crown Colony of Great Britain on 18th of May, 1913.
THE HARGROVE AGREEMENT
City People magazine hereby quote the 18th May 1913 Hargrove Agreement which 5 Diobu Chiefs and Headmen signed along with other people inhabiting the area mapped out for the development of Railway and Seaport Terminals.
“Agreement made the eighteenth day of May in the year of our Lord One Thousand nine Hundred and thirteen between the chiefs and Headmen set out in the Schedule to this agreement (and all others set out therein) for and on behalf of themselves and their people, and Alexander George Boyle Companion of the Most distinguished of Saint Michael and Saint George, Deputy Governor of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria for and on behalf of His Majesty the King.
The District of Degema in the colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria is part of His Majesty’s Dominions. Certain Land is required therein for the services of the Colony and Protectorate as Follows:- All that piece or parcel of land bonded on the South by the Waterway known as this Primrose Creek or Bonny River for a distance of three and a half miles more or less, on the West for a distance of Five and a half miles more or less again by the waterway known as the Primrose Creek or Bonny River, thence in a northerly direction for a distance of One mile eight hundred yards more or less by the West bank of the Creek known as the Ilechi Creek.
Following the bends of the said Creek, to a boundary Post marked “A” at Ilechi Waterside, thence for a distance of One thousand and seventy three yards due north to a boundary post marked “B” on the north by a straight line measuring approximately five miles more or less from the Boundary Post marked “B” in a direction due East to a boundary Post marked “C” on the Creek known as the Woji Creek, on the East by the said Woji Creek for a distance approximately of one and a half miles more or less , thence by the waterway known as the Okrika Creek for a distance of six and half miles more or less to the Southern boundary referred to above ,extending in all an area of twenty five square miles more or less, and which is more or less accurately set out and described on the plan attached in this agreement and coloured pink.
And as there are many native occupiers on the land so required and as it is just expedient that all such native occupiers should be paid compensation for their right title and interest upon the land so required. We the chiefs and Headmen and others in the schedule attached to this agreement do agree that in consideration of the payment of the sum of money set out against our several names in the schedule on behalf of ourselves and our people to grant and sell unto the said Alexander George Boyle,
Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Deputy Governor of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, all the right title and interest to which we and our people are entitled by native Law and custom in the said land, and we agree further that should any person or persons dispute our sole right to the disposal of all interests in the said land any claims they may make shall be met and settled by us, who by the acceptance of the payments of the monies set out in the schedule attached hereto do hereby declare ourselves to be at the date of this Agreement-the sole possessors of all interests in the said land and agree to hold ourselves solely responsible for all claims which may hereafter be made in respect of it.”
THE 5 IKWERRE DIOBU CHIEFS AND HEADMEN WHO SOLD PORT HARCOURT AND SIGNED THE HARGROVE AGREEMENT
The five Ogbum-Nu-Abali Diobu Ikwerre natives who accepted the condition set pout by colonial masters in the Reginald Hargrove Agreement are Chief Wobo, Chief Ejebuwan, Chief Chuku, Chief Wokekoro, Chief Atako while Headman Ajoko Amadi, Headman Chinwa and Headman
WITNESSES TO THE HARGROVE AGREEMENT
The District Interpreter at Degema G. A Yellow signed as read below: “And I certify that the above Agreement was correctly read over and interpreted by me to chiefs Wobo, Ejebunwan, Chuku, Wokekoro, Atako, and Headman Ajoko Amadi, and Chinwa, all of Diobu, who appeared to clearly understand the same and made their marks thereto in my presence, and in the presence of Chiefs Marian Braid, Lulu wills Braid and Bagshaw Yellow, whose marks I hereby witness , and chief Willaim Davis Braid, Paul Ojudire Assistant Native Court Clerk, Omokoroshi, and Reginald Hargrove, District Commissioner”.
If you think that that was the end of the Hargrove Agreement you need to wait and see how smart the people of Okrika were by separately signing on 17th October 1913 another agreement after signing Hargrove Agreement on 18th May, 1913 this time around with Sir, Frederick Lugard, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of saint Michael and Saint George, Governor and Commander in Chief of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria for and on Behalf of His Majesty The King.
“Agreement made this 17th day of October in the year of our Lord 1913, between Daniel Kallio, Stephen Ogang, Joseph Igwe, Reuben Wakama and David Koko, for and on behalf of themselves and their people, and Sir Frederick Lugard, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and saint George, Governor and Commander in Chief of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria for and on behalf of His Majesty The King.
The District of Degema in the colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria is part of His Majesty Dominions. Certain land is required therein for the services of the Colony and Protectorate as Follows:- all that triangular piece and parcel of land at Igwuocha, situated on the right bank of the Primrose Creek or Bonny River, and bounded as follows.
On the North by the Primrose Creek or Bonny River, on the East by the Primrose Creek or Bonny River on the South by Primrose Creek or Bonny River and on the West by a straight line drawn from the Mouth of the Old Saka Creek on the South to the Mouth of the Elechi Creek on the North, and containing Two Hundred and Fifty Seven acres more or less, and which is more or less accurately set out and described on the Plan attached to this Agreement and Coloured Pink.
And as there are certain occupation rights over the land so required, and as it is just and expedient that native holders of such occupation rights should be paid compensation for their right title and interest, upon the land so required, we the undersigned Chiefs and Headmen do agree that in consideration of the payment of the sum of One Hundred (British) Pounds , to grant …all right title and interest to which we and our people are entitled by the native law and custom in the said land, And we agree further that should any person or persons dispute our sole right to the disposal of all native interests in the said land any claims they may make shall be met and settled by us and by the acceptance of the sum of one Hundred Pounds, do on behalf of ourselves solely responsible for all claims which may hereafter be made in respect to it.
And do hereby on behalf of ourselves and our people acknowledge the receipt of the sum of One hundred Pounds.”
Signed, sealed and delivered by Daniel Kallio, Stephen Ogang, Joseph igwe, Reuben Wakama and David Koko in the presence of Gabriel Yellow.
Signed, sealed and delivered by the above named Sir Frederick Lugard, Governor and Commander in Chief of the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria in the presence of N. Simson Priv. Sec”
Surprisingly after 15 solid years in 2nd May 1928 the people of Ogbum-nu-Abali Diobu of Ikwerre raised objection to the 1913 Hargrove Agreement saying that the 5 chiefs and Headmen who signed the documents on their behalf were not ad idem that they were illiterates as they headed to the Court but the court dismissed their case and granted them VARIATION of every 2nd May each year the sum of Five Hundred Pounds rent to be paid to then perpetually which was a Supplemental to the 1913 HARGROVE AGREEMENT. Still they went to Court of Appeal in 1932 and in 1947 lost and in 1951, 1952, and 1953 the Ikwerres lost finally at Supreme Court of Nigeria again which West African Court of Appeal sitting at Lagos which also dismissed their Appeal. By 1976 the People of Okrika went to Court requesting for inclusion for annual rent payment and in 1977 Court granted their prayer.
In 1980 the late Eze Rebisi Eze Sunday Worluchem went to Court again for Diobu Ikwerre people ownership of Port Harcourt.
WHAT THE IKWERRE PEOPLE TOLD WEST AFRICAN COURT OF APPEAL IN 1949 THEIR ALLEGATIONS AGAINST BRITISH COLONIAL GOVERNMENT
You may not believe this on the Appeal case No. 8 of 1953 it was recorded that in 1949 the representatives of the people and successors of the chiefs and Headsmen of Abali and Ogbum of Diobu , Chief Joseph Wobo, Chief Wali Wokekoro, Chief Samuel Atako, Philip Chinwa, Brown Agumagu, Victor Amadi, Appolos Amadi, Amadi Wanodi, Amadi Opara and Wobo Chara as plaintiffs sued Attorney General
For the federation of Nigeria and the Attorney-General for the Eastern Region of Nigeria who were substituted for the Attorney General of Nigeria as defendants. Their allegations are s found in their Statement of claims thus “Up to the year 1911 they and their ancestors had lived as lawful owners in the area now known as Port Harcourt, and then known as Obomotu. In 1911 their predecessors in title had granted a resting place at Obomotu to an Englishman named Harcourt, in 1913 the Deputy Governor of the colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria sought to buy Obomotu from Diobu people; the people refused to ell, but allowed a portion for settlement.
By an agreement dated the 18th May, 1913 between the Deputy Governor and representatives of Diobu and other villages, the Deputy Governor purported to buy Obomotu from the Diobu people for 2,000 (Two Thousand British Pounds) the people refused to sell or to accept the money, and continued so to refuse until October , 1927. In 1925 in an attempt to persuade the Diobu chiefs to sell Obomotu, the Government offered to put up storey buildings for them. The chiefs refused, and opposed any extension of the town boundary beyond No. 1 railway gate.
In 1927 the Government appointed one Captain Cooke to arbitrate between them and the Diobu people. The arbitrator defined the boundaries of Port Harcourt , but failed to persuade the Appellants’ ancestors to extend the town boundary beyond No.1 railway gate. In 1913 the Appellants’ ancestors had refused to take annual grant of five hundred British pounds unless an undertaking were given that the boundary would not be extended and the town would not be sold to any Europeans.
The arbitrator assured the Appellants’ ancestors that arrears of this grant up to 1927 would be paid as compensation for damage done to crops, et.c by the Government , and they would receive rent for the land of One Thousand five Hundred Pounds per annum; on this assurance they received the arrears of Seven thousand Five Hundred Pounds in October, 1927. In February 1928 the Acting Resident Acknowledged in a letter written to a third party, that the land outside No. 1 railway gate was Diobu land.
By an Agreement dated 2nd May 1928, supplementary to the agreement of 1913, six chiefs and two Headmen, all of them illiterate, purported to sell Diobu land to the Governor for Seven thousand Five Hundred Pounds down and an annual payment of Five Hundred Pounds. The purchase money of Seven Thousand Five Hundred Pounds was not paid and, if the chiefs and Headmen purported to enter into the agreement was invalid because the parties were not ”ad idem”. From 1928 to 1930 the Appellants received annually Five Hundred Pounds on account of the One thousand Five Hundred Pounds recommended by the arbitrator.
Since the balance was not paid they refused to accept any payment in 1931, until the Governor persuaded them to accept Five Hundred Pounds for the time being, saying this would not affect their claim against the Government. Thereafter the Government had trespassed on Diobu land by extending the Town boundary beyond No. 1 railway gate. Appellants, in spite of their complaints and representations had been served with notices to quit their homes”.
The Ikwerres in their Appeal asked for a declaration that they are the real owners of all the land known as Port Harcourt and Thirty thousand pounds compensation and damages for trespass that twenty three thousand Pounds being arrears from 1928 of annual rent of One thousand five Hundred Pounds and cancellation of all alleged agreement purporting to transfer the rights of the Abali and Ogbum Diobu over their lands, in that the parties were not “ad idem” and that is to say that those who signed the 1913 and 1928 agreements were illiterates.