IGUOMON situated along the Benin- Agbor- Asaba highway is one of the communities in Uhunmwonde local government area of Edo State. The community enjoyed peaceful co-existence with its Ikhuenbo, Amufi and Ikhueniro neighbours until 1985 when Ikhuenbo community allegedly trespassed into its land following a road construction.
Iguomon was in the news recently when Ikhuenbo laid claim to the ownership of the land in dispute. The Odionwere of Iguomon, Chief David Uwagboe, refuted the claim and explained that Iguomon was founded by his ancestor, Imadegwe, around 900 A.D. who deforested the place and settled there with his followers. He said that community had its name changed to Iguomon by Oba Ozolua, the Conqueror, who reigned about 1481 A.D. when he visited the village and met only women due to the fact that the male members of the community committed suicide by jumping into the well to avoid being conscripted into his army as the Oba was said to be at war.
He disagreed with the claims by Ikhuenbo that Iguomon was a settlement made up of the Oba of Benin palace servants and slaves; that it was Oba Eresoyen who sent them to been Chief Priest Ehenegha to be engaged in farming and other chores; that Iguomon paid traditional homage to them but later stopped. He said, “Our community has been in existence even before Oba Ewuare the Great ascended the throne of his fore fathers.
Uwagboe argued that Ikhuenbo was formerly called Iguenegbon, the name of the place they migrated from. When they arrived in our land, they changed their name to Ikhuenbo and their chief priest (Ohen) who is claiming to be number two in the worship of the Okhuaihe deity was never number two. He was never given any share in the sharing of the Okhuaihe deity, but because of the role he played in the safe delivery of the Oba’s wife as a herbalist, he was elevated to number two position. The baby that was safely delivered was made the Enogie (Duke) of Ohobve”.
Explaining that contrary to the assertion by its neighbor that Iguomon disobeyed the judgment of the Oba of Benin on the issue, the Odionwere said, “We took them to court because we were dissatisfied with the position of the palace on the issue. We did not defy the order of the Oba of Benin; those who were delegated by the Oba to look into the dispute went beyond the brief, hence we went to court”. He also denied the claim that the Benin monarch, in order to ascertain the true ownership of the disputed land, ordered that a sacrifice be performed and three elders of Iguomon that took oath died, interpreted to mean a signal from the gods that the community was not the owner of the disputed land.
“There was no oath taking and no elder of Iguomon died as a result. One of the elders said to have been involved in the sacrifice lived to become the Odionwere, that is, the highest position one can attained in the community.”
He explained that at the High Court, Abudu, the judge who heard the case, Justice J. Agu, ruled in favour of the community when he said: “On the whole, the plaintiffs have presented a more impressive case of their traditional history which the court finds as credible, cogent and compelling. That case sustains a claim of declaration of title to land.
On the final analysis, I am satisfied that the plaintiffs have established their case on preponderance of evidence and their claim succeeds. In the same vein, defendants counter claim must fail and it is hereby dismissed in its entirety. Accordingly judgment is hereby entered in favour of the plaintiffs in the following terms:- In accordance with Bini customary law and tradition, the plaintiffs, the people of Iguomon village, Uhunmwode local government area of Edo State are the persons vested with all existing right to the use and occupation of all that piece or parcel of land lying, being and situate at Iguomon village in Uhunmwode local government area of Edo State verged in PINK in Survey Plan Number ISO/BD/1358/87 of 14th October, 1987 filed in this action.”
The position of the Abudu High Court was affirmed by the Court of Appeal, Benin Division and the Supreme Court.
Speaking on the claim by Ikhuenbo that they invaded his community to take possession of the land, Uwagboe said, “We went to the High Court at Abudu to file a motion for contempt of court and some of their people were sent to prison by Justice G.O Imandegbelo while others ran away. The accused persons have failed to defend their act of disobedience to court order.
“Warrant for possession of adjudged land property Pursuant to order 11 rule 5 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Law Cap.151, Laws of Bendel State of Nigeria applicable to Edo State” was also issued to the people of Iguomon to take possession of their land inconsonance with the judgment of the High Court, Appeal Court and the Supreme Court.
“We still have confidence in the governments of the federation and Edo State; that they will not allow the Supreme Court judgment to just die away. If they can help us to implement the Supreme Court judgment, we will know that the rule of law is really working in this country; that they will not allow some people to take the law into their hands and that the law must be respected. The judgment of the Supreme Court being the apex court in Nigeria must be respected.
“We are waiting for government to intervene in this matter because Iguomon people don’t want to take the law into our hands although we have the youths who would want to fight to recover what belongs to the people.”