Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan,
Executive Governor of Delta State,
RE: STATE OF THE ITSEKIRI NATION UNDER YOUR GOVERNORSHIP
After several fruitless efforts to have an audience with you on matters affecting the Itsekiri Nation, we were compelled to write you a private letter titled, “State of the Itsekiri Nation under your Governorship” on 12th December, 2013.
2. In the letter, we raised some issues which were dear to the Itsekiri nation and sought your intervention on them. Unfortunately, the issues have remained unattended to and with your tenure running to an end, we feel morally and duty-bound not only to remind you of the general dissatisfaction of Itsekiri people of your contribution to their progress and development, but more importantly to further reveal your known attitude on some matters which affect Itsekiri. History will not forgive us if we do not speak out now.
3. Some of the issues raised in the letter under reference which you did not respond to are still germane and are here listed below:
4. TRANS ODE-ITSEKIRI ROAD
This road was conceived by the James Ibori administration. The road was billed to link Warri metropolis with Ode-Itsekiri (Big Warri) and its adjourning communities. It was to take-off from Ubeji through Ifie town and across the Warri River to Ugbodede, Orugbo and terminate at Ode-Itsekiri with connecting roads to Ajigba, Inorin and Usele Communities.
5. Today what was supposed to be a laudable project and a rebirth for the Itsekiri nation is now seen as little works done from Deeper Life Road, Ubeji in Warri to Matrix Nigeria Limited at Ifie in Warri. Sadly, part of the other connecting roads earlier constructed at Ode-Itsekiri, Inorin, Ajigba and Usele are now failing, even without vehicles plying them yet, due to poor construction work. Apparently, the design and materials used and the quality of work done on the roads, were not meant to withstand the swampy, rain-belt terrain of the area. The major work which is the construction of a bridge across the Warri River to connect Warri through Ifie town to Ode-Itsekiri (Big Warri) is yet to commence. Ironically, what now looks like an abandoned bridge will constantly stand out like a sore thumb to remind the Itsekiri of the contribution of your political era to their history vis-à-vis, Chief Festus Okotie Eboh and the Rewanes.
6. UBEJI/REFINERY ROAD:
As you very well know, the Ubeji/Refinery Road is the only access road to thriving Itsekiri communities of Ubeji, Egbokodo, Ifie, Ijala, Omadino, Obodo, Ode-Itsekiri and the adjoining towns/Villages, if the proposed Ode-Itsekiri road becomes a reality. These communities are jointly home to the largest concentration of Itsekiri people anywhere on earth as well as host to major oil and gas projects. It also serves as the only link road to other communities like Jeddo, Ughoton, Egbokodo (Urhobo), etc. That it is the only road that leads to these communities is bad enough, but worst of all, owing to the activities of tankers and heavy vehicles which go to and fro, the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, the Nigerian Gas Company and the private jetties for lifting of refined oil at Ifie, the two-lane-road has become almost impassable for residents of the communities between 6:00am and 11:00pm daily. Without exaggeration, the road is the worst in Nigeria! Indeed, the Ubeji Road is a classical case of failed corporate social responsibility, failed governance as well as government’s insensitivity. There have been cases of people who needed emergency medical attention who lost their lives on the road before they could get to hospital at either Warri or Ekpan as such journeys on heavy traffic period, could take 6 – 7 hours; a journey that should ordinarily not take more than 15 minutes. Many pregnant women have also been known to deliver babies in the heavy traffic jam.
7. We are aware that a contract for the rehabilitation of part of the road was awarded to a company known as ARC (whatever that means). However, we quickly want to observe that the road as it is now is in such a sorry state that it cannot withstand the heavy vehicles that lift oil from the jetties.
8. EKUREDE ITSEKIRI ROAD:
This is a road that links the Ajamimogha/Okere expressway to the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) by-pass. We observe that a contractor is already constructing the drainage for the purpose of rehabilitating the road. However, we note, strangely, that the exercise has drastically reduced the width of the road from its former four-lanes to two- lanes road. It is now impossible for two cars, driving at opposite directions (with a car properly parked on either side) to pass the road freely. The road, being the one that links two expressways should be a free-flowing 4-lane road. Even then, the poor drainage has rendered many residents homeless due to flooding. Life there was better before the so-called road construction started.
9. KOKO/UGBENU ROAD:
The road is supposed to be a dual-carriage road from Ugbenu on Benin-Sapele-Warri Highway to Koko. Not just that, it is the only access road to the proposed Koko/Ogheye/Lekki Road that will connect many Itsekiri communities like Jakpa, Gbokoda, Tebu, Ajamita, Ogheye and others to the metropolis. Today, not a lane has been completed after nearly six years of construction. As it is common with road projects executed by your Government, some parts of the work done are now failing. The former road which was torn apart for construction work was built by Chief Okotie Eboh in 1965 and it was a delight to drive on and unarguably one of the best roads in Nigeria until you destroyed it. The quality of the work done and the duration of the construction are embarrassment. Worst of all, the contractors are no longer on site, yet the full amount of the contract work has been in every year’s budget for the past five to six years. Do we need to remind you of the Koko stadium that also appears in the state’s budget every year, yet it has long been abandoned?
10. THE UGBORODO & KOKO FORE SHORE PROTECTION:
The Ugborodo and Koko Fore Shore Protection projects were long ago awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) even before you came in as Governor in 2007. We know that the Contractors have been financially mobilized for the jobs and yet nothing has been done and now the contracts have been abandoned. Recent government audit reports recommended that the contractors should be sanctioned and that, the jobs should be re-awarded to other contractors. Your government could have intervened by calling on NDDC to direct its contractors to be mobilized to site or to re-award the contracts to other contractors and seek appropriate sanctions on the erring contractors. Today, Ugborodo and Koko are suffering from devastating sea erosion, especially, the former which has virtually disappeared beside mighty Chevron.
11. OGHEYE ULTRA MODERN CONCRETE FLOATING MARKET
The Ogheye Market in Warri North Local Government Area is one of the oldest markets in Itsekiri land and has spanned over a hundred years. It was a melting pot for traders from various Itsekiri and Ijaw communities in Warri North and Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State as well as Ilajes from Ondo State. Knowing the importance of this market to the local economy, the Ibori administration awarded a contract for it to be upgraded to an Ultra Modern Concrete Floating Market.
12. The Itsekiri lauded this as the market which would ignite commercial activities in the Benin River axis which came down during the Warri crisis. The market would also encourage some displaced persons now living in Warri and Sapele to return home and fend for themselves. Again, this project has been abandoned by your administration.
13. That is not all, we are also very sad to note that no single school building in Itsekiri communities in Warri North Local Government Area (your own Local Government Area), except perhaps only in your village, Abe-Ugborodo, has been built or renovated by your Government in spite of the major renovation work you carried out all over the State. As a result, today, in a reversal, Itsekiri as a people are lagging behind their immediate neighbours in education in terms of infrastructure, enrollment and products.
14. CULTURE OF IMPUNITY IN WARRI TOWN:
Warri Township is an old town founded before 1906 as evidenced by the Leases of 1906, 1908 and 1911 entered into between Itsekiri and British Government Representative. It is indeed, older than Port Harcourt founded in 1914 and even Tel Aviv in Israel founded in 1912. It has a special place in Nigerian history. But sadly, what we see in the town today does not reflect its rich history, tradition and civilization. It has become the city of impunity – it is dirty, with no drainage and its residents are lawless, with illegal structures and caravans, dominating some of the streets. This is due to the inability of government to enforce the applicable laws as it is done elsewhere. It was only recently that the Delta State Government embarked on demolition of illegal structures to make the state cleaner (and we know why). Beyond the demolition, nothing happened. Warri is still as dirty as it was and the illegal structures and caravans are back again.
15. Warri still remains the only major town in Nigeria where public roads are blocked for ceremonies – ranging from burials to marriage parties.
16. WARRI/UVWIE BOUNDARY ISSUE VIS-À-VIS WESTERN REGION OF NIGERIA LEGAL NOTICE (WRNLN) NO. 176 OF 1955:
We heard that the land which Texaco Nigeria Limited is now occupying in Warri is being claimed by Uvwie Local Government Area against both legal and historical facts. We counseled for your Government to take urgent steps to establish the boundary between Warri South Local Government Area and Uvwie Local Government Area vis-à-vis WRNLN No. 176 of 1955.
17. Please recall that this boundary issue was one of the remote causes of the Ekpan and Ubeji crises in 1978 which led to the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry under the Chairmanship of Hon. Justice B. A. Omosun.
18. The Government White Paper on the Commission of Inquiry into the Riots and Clashes between Ekpan and Ubeji Communities known as Official Document No. 2 of 1978 at page 5 stated thus:
“(ii) Recommendation – Physical demarcation of the boundary between Warri Local Government Area and Ethiope Local Government Area using information based on L.N. 28 of 1951 as modified by W.R.L.N. 176 of 1955. The controversial mile post 3/60 on the Warri/Sapele Road is to be re-established by the Ministry of Lands and Housing and the opening up of a road 50feet wide on each side of the centre along the tract where it crosses the Tori Creek undertaken.
Comment – Government is aware of the problem of boundary line between the Warri and Ethiope Local Government Areas. Steps will be taken to establish a permanent demarcation line between the two Local Governments.”
19. Government is yet to implement the recommendation and carry out the undertaking. The pillars of WRLN 176 of 1955 are in situ. Government has to show political will to acknowledge them.
20. TAKING ITSEKIRIS BACK HOME:
As a result of the Warri Crisis, many homes were destroyed and burnt. Many Itsekiris who were dislocated from their homes in the riverine areas moved to Warri, Sapele and other urban cities in Nigeria due to the sacking of their communities and the fear of insecurity. Today, all these villages have been deserted with no specific plans to enable them to return home. Studies show that apart from the sense of insecurity, the major influence that would attract and make the dislocated Itsekiri people return home and keep them in their villages/communities is employment opportunities for them by the establishment of local industries, empowerment or other means of self sustenance. In addition, there must be assurance of security of lives and properties.
21. Itsekiri communities are the leading oil and gas producers in Delta State, they have nothing to show for it. Contracts are awarded, not necessarily for the projects/programmes the people need, but for the financial benefit accruing to political cronies. In nearly all the cases, the projects are either poorly done or abandoned. The common projects are solar lights and boreholes which are awarded at astronomical costs and yet they rarely function. They are nearly all cramped in Warri, Ubeji and Ifie.
22. Your administration in spite of the abundant skills and competence in the state, takes a position where meritocracy has taken flight from the state. Interestingly, the problem of your administration in relation to the Itsekiri is further compounded either intentionally or by omission by the fact that most of your political appointees and imposed “elected” (or selected?) officials lack knowledge of the history, geography, sociology, interest and psychology of the Itsekiri people. You have been satisfied to work almost exclusively with the few Itsekiri you reared and the ones inherited from your cousin, James Ibori.
23. THE 2014 LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTION
It was with utter dismay and disgust we witnessed the sham, the impunity and the joke, which was passed on as local government elections in Delta State, especially in Warri North, Warri South and Warri South-West Local Government Areas of the State. The elections were not only marred by violence, ballot snatching, ballot stuffing and other irregularities. Many areas witnessed late arrival of voting materials. As a matter of fact, voting did not take place in many Itsekiri communities mostly in Warri North and Warri South-West Local Government Areas, and yet results were declared and those who purportedly won the elections were sworn in less than 48-hours after. We condemn the reprehensible exercise as it does not represent the true spirit of democracy and it is also an affront and rape of the Itsekiri sensibility. The Local Government elections are condemnable and we strongly condemn them.
24. We even find it more disheartening that you could contact Barrister Festus Keyamo on election matters that affect Itsekiri, while you ignored Itsekiri leaders and key stakeholders on such crucial issues. How did Itsekiri come to this?
25. A scenario which witnessed the substitution of Hon. Oritseweyinmi Omadeli (an Itsekiri) as PDP Chairmanship Candidate for Warri South-West Local Government Area by Hon. George Ekpemupolo, (an Ijaw) in violation of your own rotational arrangement, less than 48 hours to the election and contrary to the Electoral Law, speaks eloquently of the impunity and the disdain which the Itsekiri have been subjected to in your Administration.
26. Although the process that threw up Hon. Omadeli wasn’t transparent and he couldn’t have been the best material Itsekiri could offer, but having been nominated by the PDP and presented with the party flag, to substitute him with an Ijaw in an ethnically volatile Warri South-West Local Government Area 48 hours before the election is another indication of your contempt for the Itsekiri people. We say without equivocation that Itsekiri has been traded off by you for interest other than our collective one.
27. YOUR POLITICAL JOURNEY AND ITSEKIRI
Your Excellency, we look back with sadness and regrets when in 2007, we presented you to the Isokos where your intention to run for the governorship election was made public for the first time. It was out of love, expectations and hope – being an Itsekiri and with the conviction that your tenure would usher in progress and development in our land, ravaged by communal crisis. We thought we had another Okotie-Eboh in the making in you. Our love and support for you was not less than that of those hanging around you now. If you demand why we have to write you this letter and take this stand: this indeed, is our answer. Not that we love you less, but we love Itsekiri more.
28. Generally, the state and particularly the Itsekiri Nation has not fared well under you in spite of your nearly 16 years in Government. In almost every decision, policy, action or inaction, you have consistently compromised Itsekiri for your personal, political, family or group interests and survival. Over the years, you have overplayed the game of numbers to the detriment of the Itsekiri. Your administration has not only been detrimental to the development of Itsekiri, but has set us back by at least 40 years. What can we today point to as your greatest contribution to the Itsekiri nation after 16 years in Government? Yet you have a desire to further represent Itsekiri interest in the Senate.
29. We have read Festus Keyamo’s letter as published in the Vanguard of 30/10/2014, wherein it was revealed that you consulted him on the trade off of Itsekiri political interest in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State. Did you ever consult Itsekiri leaders on any issue, decision, policy or action before you traded off their political rights in Delta State over the period of your governorship ranging from ward delineation to House of Assembly seats or in any other matter affecting the Itsekiri people? Answer: Total abandonment and neglect of Jakpa/Bateren/Bobi/Deghele Sector, Ugborodo Sector – nowhere, Omadino-Obodo Sector forgotten and Warri metropolis neglect and impunity.
30. The irony of it all is that, in your difficult times particularly during your three election travails, the Itsekiri nation rose up, stood by you and gave you unflinching support beyond the ordinary. How have you repaid the Itsekiri? Could your payback be the era of violence of Itsekiri against Itsekiri that your administration has introduced? Could it be the lawlessness, impunity, imposition, lack of respect for constituted authorities, greed, wickedness, cheating and break-down of the age-long traditions, customs and culture of the Itsekiri which your administration and some of your disciples have introduced into Itsekiri nation? Could it be the non-existence of, dilapidated or collapsed infrastructure and amenities in Itsekiri communities? Could it be your well known agenda to impose unpopular and failed political boys on the Itsekiri people both in the State and National Assemblies? Could it be your ambition to contest the senatorial seat zoned to the Itsekiri that has made you trade off Itsekiri political rights in the face of your monumental failure in the eyes of the Itsekiri people? In the face of all these, we decline to give our support to your alleged senatorial ambition.
31. Our observation clearly shows that the Itsekiri nation has been taking for granted for so long because of the philosophy of “otene ren or omere ene ren, a jutsi” (He is our son or bother, leave him alone). For us it is now too late for you to make amends. You have missed the boat.
32. Your Excellency, our expectation was that you would create a platform where we could discuss these matters with you face-to-face to enable us hear directly from you, take the appropriate early steps you intend to take to implement the above plans/proposals, which we honestly and strongly believe would have enhanced and strengthened your legacy as the Governor of Delta State. Unfortunately, this has not been possible since we are apolitical and perhaps, think we are of no electoral benefit to you. As God would have it power is transient. As they say on the streets of Warri: “soldier go, soldier come, barrack remain”.
33. We have sent this letter to you not with the intention that anything significant can still be done or that you would make amends within the short time you have left in Government, but to inform you that we intend to publish it for posterity.
34. We are also aware that as usual, on the receipt of mm
this letter or its publication in the national dailies, you will, unwisely, unleash your “goons” and “foot soldiers” on us; we are not afraid of that. Itsekiri interest is our primary driving force.
35. We have done no more to you than Itsekiri shall do to us if and when we sacrifice the collective interest of Itsekiri for personal political gain.
Signed for and on behalf of the
Committee of Itsekiri Leaders of Thought