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Ilaje people and peace in the Niger Delta – NIGERIAN TRIBUNE (press release) (blog)

Ilaje people and peace in the Niger DeltaWe welcome Your Excellency to Ondo State on the occasion of your interactive meeting with the stakeholders of the Niger Delta Area of the State. Ilaje Local Government forms a major part of the Niger Delta axis of Ondo State. It follows that all issues affecting the Niger Delta part of Ondo State are woven round Ilaje Local Government Area. It is indisputable that as at today, Ilaje Local Government is the only oil and gas producing local government in Ondo State. We are not unaware that the activities of oil companies operating in Ilaje LGA also have adverse effects on Ese-odo LGA. To this end, the development of the two LGAs must be pursued paripassu.

As a people, we are compelled to make the following demands on behalf of the Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. On the appointment Of Ondo State Representative on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). We plead with the Federal Government (Executive and Legislative arms) to ensure that in line with S.2 (1)(b) of the NDDC Act 2000, the indigene of the oil producing area of the state who has been nominated to represent the state on the Board is confirmed without further delay. The Board of the Commission is saddled with the responsibility of preparing and approving the budget of the commission, and also executing projects. Currently, there is no person on the Board of the Commission representing Ondo State in this regard. The urgent confirmation of appointment of the Representative will undoubtedly douse the tension and agitation currently brewing in the state.

There is the need to appoint an Indigene of the oil producing area of Ondo state as the Managing Director of the next NDDC Board. The principle of rotation based on quantum of oil production as enshrined in S. 12(1) of the NDDC Act 2000 favours Ondo State in the appointment of the next Managing Director. The four states that have higher oil production than Ondo state have occupied this position serially. In the same vein, they have also occupied the two other Executive positions among themselves. Ondo State being the 5th highest oil-producing state in the country is entitled as of right to produce the next Managing Director of the Commission. We urge Your Excellency to give this demand a priority when the next board is to be constituted.

On Infrastructural development, we request that appropriate attention be paid to a number of projects including the Olokola Free Trade Zone. This Project received the approval of the Federal Government since the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. All the necessary preliminaries had been carried out by the Federal, Ondo, Ogun State Governments and the Private sector partners. We plead with the Government to give the needed impetus for this project to see the light of the day. The positive effects of this project on the economy of the southwest in particular and Nigeria in general cannot be over emphasized.

The Ugbo-Oghoye Road project has been awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) since the year 2010. We plead with the Government to mandate the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to fund this project to completion. This road when completed would open up the eastern part of Ilaje LGA to Delta State with its attendant socio-economic benefits.

On the Araromi Seaside-Lekki (Lagos) Road, the Government of Ondo State and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have entered into an MoU to construct a road from Araromi in Ilaje LGA to Akodo in Lagos State. We enjoin the the Federal Government to give the needed financial support to the NDDC in funding and executing this all-important road project within the shortest possible time. The coastline of Araromi seaside provides the best tourism investment prospects for Ondo State in particular and the entire country in general. We urge the Federal Government to consider this project as an integral developmental project of the Niger Delta Region.

On Regional Water Projects, we implore the Federal Government to consider the construction of at least, two Regional Water Projects for both Ilaje and Ese-Odo Local Government Areas. These two local governments are principally on water with no portable drinking water.

We demand that the On-going Coastal Road from Calabar to Lagos via Ilaje Coast be designed to pass through the coastline of Ilaje LGA. Ultimately this road will aid the various laudable projects and the emerging maritime economy in the southwest of Nigeria.

We also urge the Government to ensure that the on-going Calabar-Lagos Railway Line passes through the coastline of Ilaje LGA enroute Lagos to take advantage of the benefits enumerated above.

The on-going Ayetoro Shore Protection Project was awarded in the year 2004 by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The project has suffered numerous setbacks which has now put the community in a precarious situation of being submerged by the sea. We urge government to mandate the NDDC to fund and complete this project expeditiously.

The Niger Delta Area of Ondo State is in the South Senatorial District. The entire district has been in total darkness for the past six years. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has awarded a 132Kv DC Transmission line and 132/33Kv substation project at Erinje in Okitipupa LGA. We are surprised that the contractor could still be on site notwithstanding the enormous financial challenges the project is facing. The situation is compounded with the continuous sliding of the Naira against major currencies. This issue of the exchange rate challenge has greatly hampered the progress of the project. We therefore plead with Government to prevail on the NDDC to review the project and fund it in line with current market realities. The completion of this project will automatically connect both Ilaje and EseOdo Local Governments to the national grid.

Concerning the sand-filling of selected areas along Ilaje coast line, we appeal to government to reclaim and recover lands along the Ilaje coast line (particularly the eastern parts) that have been lost to sea incursion. This will assist in the development of new towns for the affected people.

On the issue of embankment and shore protection of eroded communities, we urge the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency, take steps to conduct studies of the coastal environment with a view to constructing embankment and shore protection of communities that have been ravaged by coastal erosion.

We submit that there is the need for upward review of the 13% Derivation Fund. We applaud the Federal Government for the consistent payment of the 13% derivation fund to the oil-producing states since the year 2000. The current economic realities and the developmental needs of the Niger Delta Area necessitate a review upward of this sum. We therefore plead that the Federal Government should exercise the political will in reviewing this percentage upward to 25%. This will definitely enhance accelerated development and curb restiveness across the entire Niger Delta Region.

On the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the effect of this Ministry has not been adequately felt in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. It is a fact that the other states in the Niger Delta Area enjoy maximum patronage from the Ministry; Ondo State cannot boast of same. We therefore urge the Federal Government to direct the Ministry to reverse this ugly trend and ensure that Ondo State benefits optimally from the Ministry’s projects henceforth.

Again, on the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, we wish to commend the Federal Government of Nigeria for sustaining this laudable initiative. This is one initiative that has tamed militancy to a reasonable extent in the Niger Delta Region. However, it does appear the programme is facing some challenges in terms of funding. We therefore implore the Federal Government not only to improve on its funding but to also re-organize and possibly restructure it to meet the yearnings of our people. It is a sure breeding window of middle and high level technical manpower for the oil and gas industry. More importantly, we appeal to government to ensure that Ilaje people benefit from the programme. As at today, the hale people have almost been completely excluded from the Amnesty Programme. The Federal Government must ensure that this is thoroughly addressed.

The Niger Delta Area of Ondo State has remained peaceful despite the neglect and environmental degradation the people have suffered over the years as a result of oil exploration and exploitation. This peace is achieved because of the philosophy of the people that Government must be engaged in order to achieve the meaningful development in the environment. This stance of our people must however not be taken as an act of cowardice and weakness on the part of the good people of Ondo State. It is therefore incumbent on the Federal Government to attend to the needs of our people in similar manner as applicable to the restive part of the Niger Delta Region.

  • Being excerpts from the position paper presented by Prince Ogunyomi, former Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), on behalf of the Ilaje People of Ondo State, at a consultative hearing by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, in Akure, Ondo State, on September 12, 2017.

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