Ogidigben EPZ: Between Ijaw and Itsekiri -By Mike Wilkie

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Ogidigben EPZ: Between Ijaw and Itsekiri  -By Mike Wilkie

 

The “Ogidigben Export Processing Zone (EPZ), better known as the Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project”, is located on a land mass of about 2,560 Hectares situated between Ogidigben and Ajudaibo communities.

It was acquired by the Delta State Government for and on behalf of the Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA). The said acquisition was re-emphasised by the Delta State Government through the notices of Revocation of the Rights of occupancy as published in the Pointer Newspaper of Thursday, November 22, 2012, at page 21 and the Vanguard Newspaper of Thursday, December 6, 2012 at page 6.

There is the need to add that the entire project’s landmass belongs to Ugborodo community, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State. It is essential to stress that the Ijaws of Gbaramatu Kingdom in the Warri South West Local Government Area also of Delta State and that of Sokebolou/ Yokiri communities in the Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State raised objections against the ground breaking ceremony of the $16 billion dollars project. Their objections were anchored on:

(1) That the land acquired for the project in Ogidigben, by the Delta State Government, also extended to their area. However, these Ijaws could not ascertain the extent of the land which they have so claimed.

(2) That the name of the project should reflect Gbaramatu and Ogidigben and

(3) That a separate EPZ project committee should be constituted for them to enable them participate in the project. In the light of the above, the Gbaramatu and Sokebolous/Yokiri Ijaws threatened President Jonathan never to attempt to embark on the ground breaking ceremony of the EPZ project, else, so much blood will flow and that will be the beginning of another round of crisis in Riverine areas of Delta State.

On two previous occasions, the ground breaking ceremony of the EPZ was postponed by Mr. President as a result of the Ijaw threats. The final resolve of the President to embark on this obligatory duty was slated for Thursday, November 14, 2014.

President Jonathan, in a proclamation, announced that he would proceed to Delta State to perform the ground breaking ceremony. In less than 36 hours to the moment of action, Mr. President back-pedalled, coupled with an announcement that the occasion will no longer hold until further notice.

Obviously, the President yielded to the serial threats of his fellow Ijaws. Reacting to the failed ground breaking ceremony, the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILT). Ugborodo community and the Itsekiri youth organs, National Association of Itsekiri Graduates, individual persons, groups and other stakeholders told the President that his deliberate refusal to perform this ceremony was an act of presidential cowardice .

The Itsekiri in various statements, advertorials and in the social media refused to accept the requests of the Ijaws on the solid ground that even the land which they claim to own belong to the Itsekiri of Ugborodo and Omadino. To buttress these facts, the Itsekiri cited past court cases which were delivered in favour of the two Itsekiri communities.

A fundamental instance was the change of name of Okerenghigho to Okerenkoko by the Ijaw, when, in fact, there was a judgement of the Supreme Court which re-affirmed Okerenghigho as the proper name and owned by Omadino people of Itsekiri. A Federal High Court in Benin City held the same view this year.

From the totality of these circumstances, the Itsekiri concluded that the Ijaw of the entire Gbaramatu are customary tenants to the Itsekiri of the Ugborodo and Omadino. All the allegations leveled against Mr. President by the Itsekiri leadership that he was executing an Ijaw agenda over the EPZ project, have been debunked by the President, through Dr. Reuben Abati, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. He said that Mr. President, as the political leader of Nigerians, is not and cannot be on the side of any party to the avoidable dispute over the EPZ project site and execution. Abati further added that the project itself was conceived for the Itsekiri, Ijaw, Urhobo and immediate catchment areas including other Nigerians.

Immediately after the press briefing by the President’s spokesman, some elements kidnapped a press crew and some Ugborodo youths who had gone to Ogidigben to cover the Itsekiri protest over the inability of President Jonathan to perform the ground breaking ceremony of the project. They impounded the crew’s cameras, phones, bags and other journalistic materials until the Army stormed the hideout to rescue all of them.

The aforementioned are the quintessential issues at stake. On the basis of these facts, I am of the impression that the President, who doubles as the Commander- In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, took a wrong decision to have cancelled the ceremony as a result of threats from the Gbaramatu and Sokebolou/Yokiri Ijaw. As Commander-In-Chief, President Jonathan ought to have called off the Ijaw bluff and do what was right. After all, he controls all the security apparatus of the Nigerian State and could not have been threatened by ex-militants of Gbaramatu.

On the part of the Ijaw, I stand to stress that all they have done so far, including the serial threats, were unnecessary and very absurd. From all intents and purposes, they were expected to have lobbied the authorities of the project.

 

 

Comments

comments

  • MorganJeoc

    Let us do what is right. To my suggesion since the land scale for the project is 2560 ecters and the area that is bringing this problem is just 3oo ec. Wount this small potion of swamp cause us Deltans this project. Let us be wise. President act like commander in chief.

  • Bernard Ani Ajagbawa

    Truth be told.To aviod democratic misappropration between the ijaws and itsekiris issues consigning the EPZ project land ownerships.The fedral government should thouroughly set up an enquiry to look into the issues not with political favority either from the state or fedral government but, with concrete democratized ways of handling sensitive issues that may resulted to anemic affectation to the Niger-delta development and wide scale economic melt down to Nigeria’s economic growth. The objectives of the fedral government towards peace and development in the Niger-delta should be an alliance to cob its restiveness and, not to escalate it restiveness by not using approprate political judicial procedures.These people have some common social-ethnicity among themselvs and are geographically interwoven.Therefore, the people themselves has a perfect and all lasting solution to the issues arosed,they have lived together for hundreds of years,intermarried,chear the same trans -ethno -cultural ideology :how can the plants say that the sun-shine and humidity do not perform its function during their leafy green,or is neptune no more the overlord of the sea.