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Ilajes Appeal To Okowa, Itsekiri Leaders To Call Ogidigben Leaders To Order Over Tax Burden

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Gov. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa

Ilaje settlers in Ogidigben, Warri South West Local Government Area, have appealed to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State to call Itsekiris to order over obnoxious levies and tax regime allegedly  imposed on them.

The three Baales (traditional chiefs) of Egbe-Okura 1, Egbe-Okuta 2 and Ogidigben Sea Shore districts occupied by the Ilajes, Chief Oluwole Ojamami, Chief Asego Oretan and Chief Solomon Agidogun made the plea on Thursday in Warri, Delta State.

Speaking collectively on behalf of all the Ilaje communities in Ugborodo with journalists in Warri, the chiefs said the Ilajes had been living peacefully and obediently as tenants with their landlords, the Itsekiri, until recently when some obnoxious levies and taxes were imposed on their economic activities.

They said in spite of their harmonious disposition and regular payments of their tenancy, their landlords at Ogidigben came up with directives, levies and tax regime on all goods transported through local boats from Ondo State and Warri to the community for their consumption. 

The chiefs further disclosed that the new  directives and tax regime forbade goods being ferried from Ondo State to berth at Ogidigben jetty which is easily accessible to the Ilajes.

“The reason we are here is because of the issues concerning the Itsekiris and the Ilajes at Warri South West.

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“We are tenants to the Itsekiris in the community and we have been living for years happily without issues.

“But for some time now, we have been having some issues concerning some taxes that they are imposing on us that are affecting us, our businesses and way of living,” they noted.

The Ilaje leaders, also accused the Itsekiri of Ogidigben of restricting them from buying and ferrying their luggage with their own boats except through boats belonging to Itsekiris.

“They normally impose taxes on us. We are the Ilaje people and we normally get our foodstuff from Ondo State.

“We have a particular boat called Aboyewa boat that normally brings food to us. And whenever the boat is coming, there’s a particular place this boat will berth; it will berth at Ogidigbe station where we the Ilajes have access to.

“The Itsekiris even send luggage through this boat too. This boat has been on the rout for over 30 years now. Now, they are saying that this boat has to go back to the creek which is the Odumeje seas in order to extort money from us (the Ilajes).

“They also said that none of us should use our private boat to get what we want. That is if I should travel to Warri now, I don’t have the right to buy foodstuffs with my boat to bring to the community.

“They are insisting that all the foodstuffs and luggage must pass through Pessu Waterside i.e the Ogidigbe community local boat which loads every Tuesday at Pessu waterside.

“And this local boat comes once in every week plus it’s a small boat it does not contain much. As a people, we eat everyday.

“If we should use our private boat to get food or water, they will seize the boat of which they’ve done once,” they lamented.

Having made fruitless efforts to seek a reversal of the directives and tax burden, the Ilaje leaders, therefore, appealed to Gov Okowa to intervene as “we don’t want these issues to bring crisis between the two parties.”

Meanwhile, in a letter attached with the price list for goods on local boats between Warri and Ogidigben, signed by chairman and secretary of the community, Louis Pirah and Harriman Madamedon, made available to Nigerian Tribune, the Ogidigben community directed all Baales of the Ilajes to eject “all community tenants and strangers” who are uncomfortable with the law.

The statement dated February 10, 2021 with emphasis on Ogidigben Community Market Restructurin, banned speed and wooden boats from conveying about 55 items (goods) from anywhere to Ilaje communities, halt all forms of trading activities on Wednesdays except in the market with stiff penalties attached if violated.

Reacting to the complaints on phone, an elder and former secretary of Ogidigben community, Mr Ojogbo, was incoherent on phone on the matters raised by our Correspondent, while promising to respond appropriately at a later date.

Chairman of Warri South West Local Government Area, Mr Duke Tate Tuoyo, whose local government should staturorilly superintend over collection of taxes and levies in markets, did not respond to calls from our correspondent.

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