$16 Bn Gas City Project: Delta Govt Convenes Ogborodo Community Crisis C’ttee
Delta State SSG Comrade Ovuozourie Macaulay – working to resolve Ugborodo Crisis
Delta State SSG Comrade Ovuozourie Macaulay – working to resolve Ogborodo Crisis

Blank NEWS Online can report that the intra-communal crisis in Ugborodo, host Community to the on-going $16 billion (N2.56 trillion) Africa’s largest gas project has received some concerns and measure of positive outlook, as the Secretary to Delta State Government (SSG), Comrade Ovuozourie Macaulay, convened a committee to look into the matter with possible reconciliation.

The value of the $16 billion (2,56 trillion Naira) gas city project in Ugborodo which is said to be the largest gas project in Africa, is worth more than half the federal government proposed 2014 budget, hence various interest groups and stakeholders in the gas project have lauded the efforts of the state government, saying “there appears to be finally light at the end of the tunnel.”

At its inaugural committee meeting held on Sunday, January 19, 2014 in Asaba, the SSG who stated that crisis is an intra-ethnic matter and not inter-ethnic, warned that if the matter is not resolved, a neutral third party would be set up as interface between the company handling the project and the community.

Comrade Macaulay, a former labour leader and Commissioner for inter-ethnic Relations and Conflict Resolution under the administration of Governor James Ibori, enjoined the parties to stop the human carnage and destruction of properties in the community.

While warning that “nobody should henceforth claim leadership position and lay claims to the gas project until the issues are resolved”, revealed that the new committee was set up on January 10, 2014 when the Ogborodo leadership factions met recently in Abuja, adding that the committee earlier announced on November 19, 2013 and headed by Chief Thomas Ereyitomi stands dissolved.

The SSG, who appealed to members of the two factions that are now members of the new committee to come with an open mind and not have any fixed positions, urged them to desist from further engaging in verbal or physical hostilities, propaganda, issuance of media statements regarding the project.

There are two factions to the dispute attended the inaugural meeting with seven persons. Members of the first faction were: Chief Thomas Ereyitomi (leader), Pa Sandys Omadeli Uvwoh, Prince Perry Atete, Sir Austin Oloroegbayi, Alex Eyengho, Jolomi Netseagharun, and Chief Puller Esimmaajemite.

The second faction was represented by Dr Alex Ideh (leader), Hon. David Tonwe, Dr. Ayo Ayomike, St Elijah Witkie, Hon. Adun Emmanuel, and Femi Uwawah.

SSG Macaulay at the head of the table with representatives of the two factions in the Ugborodo Community crisis
SSG Macaulay at the head of the table with representatives of the two factions in the Ugborodo Community crisis

Part of the security team that makes up the committee includes: Representative of the Chief of Naval Staff (represented by the FOC who had been nominated by the Chief of Naval Commodore Mohammed Sani Garuba); Commissioner of Police for the State, Okechukwu Aduba representing IGP MD Abubakar; and Adebayo for the SSS.

The legal team includes Felix Okobi, Permanent Secretary Political & Security Services, Delta State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice Charles Ajuya, Esq. Delta State; Director in Ministry of Justice; Dept. of Peoples Right and the only female member in the team, also from Dept. of Peoples Right.

The parties who deliberated at a closed-door meeting which commenced at about 06:00pm and lasted for over two hours, left with agreement to continue deliberating at a future date and with a strong hope of reaching a resolution.

The SSG had previously informed the media that he “was in Abuja with the then Chief of Naval Staff and that Julius Berger has been asked to go back to work and the parties have agreed. This is the largest gas project in Africa and it will benefit everyone. It is not an Itsekiri or Ijaw matter. We should all endeavor to minimize the effect of community crisis on govt projects.”

With the new effort of the federal and state governments to secure peace in the community as well as resolving the key communal issue of who becomes Chairman of Ugborodo Community Trust, the expected take-off date of the project has not been affected.

According to previous media reports, the Alex Ideh group believes that “the crisis in the community is traceable to a face-off generated over the appointment of David Tonwe, former council chairman, as chairman of the governing council of the community in 2011 by the board of trustees and elders of the community. His appointment was opposed by Thomas Ereyitomi, his predecessor, whose three-year tenure ended in 2011. Ereyitomi wanted a second tenure in office, but his desire did not get the approval of the board and elders whose responsibility it is to appoint the governing council.”

The crisis came to a peak two weeks back and the parties were invited to Abuja by the then Chief of Naval Staff and at the end that meeting the present committee was set-up on January 10. The groups were fully directed to come back to the state under the headship of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG).

It should also be recalled that the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan had declared that the $16 billion Gas City Project was on course and could not be stalled, adding that his interest was to provide a peaceful environment for the project to succeed.

“My interest is to ensure that there is peace in the community and that the project succeeds because this project is beneficial not only to Ugborodo Community, Itsekiri Land, Delta State but Nigeria as a whole. I have no personal interest in this matter, all the factions are known and close to me and they have worked with me even before I became governor.”

Also a group of Itsekiri Women led by Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor had commended the quick intervention of the governor in dousing tension in the area and pleaded with him to always keep the channel of communication open with the women group.

Ugborodo is located in Warri South West Local Govt area, about 45 minutes by boat from Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s home village of Abigborodo in Warri North Local Government Area. The community has a population of just over 5,000 and was allegedly founded by five brothers namely Olajori, Abome, Koromini, Oyen, Eloko.

“Ugborodo is a riverine community, situated between the Escravos River and the Atlantic Ocean, in front of a Chevron facility. Ugborodo is headquarters of Ugborodo Clan of the Itsekiri ethnic group, governed by a Traditional Council and Community Trust with representatives from different communities in the Kingdom. Fishing is a primary occupation with the rain forest providing oil palm and raffia palm, a variety of timber species, herbs and wild life. Manual trades include carpentry, welding and electrical.”

News Reporter
Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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