Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, has dismissed rumour claims that the governor was not in good terms with the former governor James Ibori, described as the undisputed godfather of Delta State politics.
Aniagwu told Daily Sun on phone in Asaba that Okowa went to Abuja on Sunday for “a very important state matter,” assuring that “we are with Ibori.”
The governor’s chief press secretary said those wishing for a cold war between Okowa and Ibori would be disappointed, saying the relationship between the two politicians was solid and would remain so. The absence of at the thanksgiving ceremony held in honour of s Ibori in Oghara on Sunday is fuelling speculations of a cold war between the duo.
The former governor who ruled the state between 1999 and 2007 recently returned from the United Kingdom where he served a jail term for money laundering.
At the thanksgiving ceremony which was attended by the creme-de-creme of the political class in the state, including Ibori’s successor and cousin, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Governor Okowa was conspicuously absent.
Also present was the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Monday Igbuya; the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Ovie Agas; almost all the cabinet members of the Okowa administration and several members of the House of Assembly were present.
But Okowa’s absence heightened fears among his aides, giving credence to the speculations of a possible friction with the man he served as commissioner for eight years. Besides, Okowa’s emergence as governor was linked with the intervention of Ibori who was said to have ordered delegates to vote for Okowa at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary election on December 8, 2014. This was after Okowa who was a senator at the time fell out of favour with the then sitting Governor Uduaghan who was said to have preferred another candidate in the build-up to the primaries.
Meanwhile, an attempt by the Delta Government to demolish about 8,000 houses in a disputed Ogbeowelle New Layout in Okpanam area of Asaba has been halted by the state High Court at Akwukwu-Igbo, Oshimili North Local Government Area. The government, through its task force on land regularisation and reclamationm had commenced demolition last week following the expiration of the deadline given to the affected landlords to regularise their land titles.
But the court presided over by Justice Marcel Okoh restrained the government and its agents from further demolition until the determination of the substantive suit, and adjourned the matter to February 21, for further hearing. The Diokpa of Ogbeowele Quarters in Okpanam, Ogbueshi Fred Ogbogu and three others had dragged the state government to court. The suit, filed on January 16, and marked Aku/1/2017, coupled with the Motion on Notice, dated February 13, sought an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants, by any form, from tampering with any house in the area.
Joined in the suit are the Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Dan Okenyi, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Peter Mrakpor and the task force headed by a former commissioner for Environment, Frank Omare.
Appearing in court yesterday, counsel to the complainants, C. C. Uwakina objected to an attempt by the counsel to the state government, Mrs. Onwochei, who sought the leave of court to be properly briefed on the matter.
The land, adjacent the Asaba Airport, and code-named Core Area IIA and B respectively, became a subject of controversy after former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan left office.
The state government had imposed a payment of N1.5 million, N2 million and N3 million respectively on land owners in the area, depending on the size of the land of individuals, before it was reduced by 50 per cent respectively by Governor Okowa.
Landlords in the area include lawyers, civil servants, retirees, artisans, journalists, unions, including the Guesthouse of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT). They were marked by the Task Force on Land Regularisation and Reclamation inaugurated by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa four months ago for demolition.