Okomu is not owned by the Ijaws but Edos. Benin was the capital so all dialects you see today in various states in most part of nigeria and Cameroon, Togo, Dahomey, and others migrated to Benin. When the British colonial government started after the Benin kingdom invasion, for 17 years Benin was without a King. British then started
empowering the dialects (tribes) to become autonomous by instituting hate into them (divide and conquer). When the Oba's son and heir was crowned then the amalgamation, it was so difficult for the Oba to maintain his power and government over the entire kingdom because many of them already became colonial territories. We are all one, the Ijaws are part of Edo nation, trying to claim some part of Benin land as theirs is totally senseless, the federal Supreme Court already passed the verdict on the matter. The land belongs to Benin. The Ijaws are just being forgetful or rather allowing their current waywardness overshadow their common sense.
Again, it was when the forest exploitation became lucrative during colonial period that Ijaws moved into Okomu in large numbers to ferry timber through the creeks to sapele and lagos. What business have fishermen with forests except to cut wood occasionally for canoe. The ijaws were tenants of the Oba of Benin and there are extant documents written by Ijaws to prove it as they paid rents till recent times
Benin is the only kingdom built in the heart of rainforest. Check Oyo, Asante, Dahomey and Kongo, they were built either on the fringes of the forest or in the Savanna. Benin rainforest was the richest forest in Nigeria during the colonial period and accounted for two third of Nigeria's timber export. The town of Sapele +AT & P (African Timber and Plywood) were built on the exploitation and proceeds of Benin forest to the coast (Bight of Benin). The forest was teaming with elephants and leopards in the past and special quarters still exist in Benin that were responsible for hunting, trapping and taming these animals- namely Oreẹgbeni (quarters of Elephant hunters) and Ehaẹkpẹn (quaters of Leopard tamers). The Oba never stepped out of the palace without his pet leopards preceding him. One tusk of any elephant hunted in the empire belonged to the Oba abd he had the prerogative to buy the other tusk at his price. Any leopard killed in the kingdom must be surrendered to the Oba. There is a proverb among the Yoruba of Ondo, Ekiti, Akoko, Owo and Ikale area that "a person who killed a leopard have sent himself on an errand to the Oba of Benin".
The elephant tusk were used for documenting the every Oba's achievements as they were carved on the numerous tusk placed on his ancestral altar. Chiefs also used ivories for ornaments in Benin and other places. Ivory was never imported. There are still a very few forest elephants surviving and protected in Okomu forest reserves and were sighted by researchers in the 1990s.
Constant bush burning lead to development of derived savanna and destroys the habitat for wildlife. This is in addition to unregulated logging of the forest . What saved the cross river cameroun forest was the mountainous terrain that made logging difficult during most of the colonial period and the European companies lack of interest in developing infrastructure for their exploitation until very late into the colonial period. But the chinese are busy logging the cross river basin now and the super highway is going to destroy it. Benin being on lowland with adjoining rivers to float the logs did not require heavy investment in infrastructure development and so they concentrated on destroying the Benin rainforest during the colonial period. the destruction is still ongoing
The British looted textile materials (apliqued clothing, bark materials), leather (ekpokin leather boxes & ezuzu-fans, ema-drums), gourd and shell works.
I have a relative who only specialized in hunting elephant and he does not have to travel to Kenya or Zimbabwe to hunt elephant. Like I said we have elephants in Edo land, if you have no idea of that, then your Business is ask an Edo elder where in Edoland they have elephant he will tell you. Nri live in derived savanna as their forest had been cleared long time imo river. Vegetations change and that is what has affected some areas of Igboland. But some parts of Igboland have always been guinea savanna particularly Northern Igboland near benue and kogi borders
Ijaws are making claims of Edoland and okomu because of Oil in these areas which they are trying to claim ownership of. They are tenants of the Oba of Benin.
The forest was never Ijaw ancestral homeland. The documents are not online, but you can read them from intelligence reports on Ekenwan and Siluko District at the National archives Ibadan. Today the urhobos claim Jesse as their land, but it was Benin land that transferred in the late 1930s by the British and they paid rents to the Oba till the creation of Midwest