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$16bn EPZ Project: Crisis Averted As Uduaghan Settles Ijaw Communities

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA, June 03, (THEWILL) - A major crisis that would have stalled he smooth take off of the multibillion dollar Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project in Ogidigben, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State may have been averted.

This followed Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan's accommodation into the project of representatives of some Ijaw riverine communities who had earlier alleged neglect as host to the project .

The Gbaramatu Peace Guardian (GPG) had earlier accused Governor Uduaghan of positioning his Itsekiri kinsmen of Ugborodo in Warri South-West LGA as the only hosts to the project.

In the same vein, prominent Ijaw activists and President of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), Chief Oboko Bello, had cautioned President Goodluck Jonathan who had long been expected to perform the ground breaking not to do so following several contentious issues trailing the project.

Oboko warned that the President would incur the wrath of critical stakeholders in the area like the people of Kpokpo/Okpeleama, who are his kinsmen among others who claimed their lands were revoked for the sake of the $16bn project but were never carried along in the scheme of things.

Apparently worried by this development from Ijaw communities, Governor Uduaghan, according to reliable sources, has initiated moves to accommodate Ijaw communities that have genuine claims to the land acquired for the project.

THEWILL learnt that the governor had met with Oboko Bello and other Ijaw groups who are stakeholders in the project to iron things out before the groundbreaking.

Sources said Uduaghan who had personally coordinated the May 19 meeting in Asaba also attended by representatives of Ogulagha Kingdom was quoted to have said that he would 'only deal with genuine stakeholder-communities on the EPZ project.'

Impeccable sources present at the May 19 meeting disclosed that Governor Uduaghan was said to have 'verified and acknowledged as true Delta State Government Land revocation document on Kpokpo/Okpeleama communal land for the EPZ/NPA Port Activities' which justifies Kpokpo/Okpeleama claims as stakeholders in the project.

THEWILL learnt the governor had subsequently directed the Commissioner of Lands, Surveys and Urban Development, Mr. Patrick Ferife, to continue the engagement with the Ijaw team on 'outstanding claims'.

In keeping with that directive, it was learnt that the people of Ogulagha Kingdom met with Ferife on May 26 to press forward their case on Sokeboulou and Yokri involvement in the EPZ project site.

Oboko Bello who confirmed this development in a statement said he had appealed to 'all operators to act in compliance for peace and mutual benefits to the glory of God' in the EPZ project.

He however lamented that Kpokpo/Okpeleama communities's attempt to present their case at the Uduaghan-organised seminar on Securing Oil and Gas Investments in Delta State which was held on April 15-16 at PTI, Effurun, was frustrated when handlers of the seminar barred him and others from Okpeleama community from attending the seminar.

Oboko, who had been advancing the Kpokpo/Okpeleama case for the past few months ,noted that the Ijaw claim is based on the Delta State Government Land Revocation document and the promise of God's Word in Psalm 37:3 which states: 'Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pastures.'

According to Oboko: 'Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has already issued Certificate of Occupancy for 2,700 hectares of land on the EPZ site and Kpokpo/Okpeleama EPZ Port land area is not less than 335.554 hectares as in Government land revocation document. '

He added that 'We (Kpokpo/Okpeleama) thus legitimately make not less than 12.42 percent as stakeholders; so we have all the right to be fully involved in the project.'

Oboko however hailed the peace efforts of Governor Uduaghan whom he said had expressed displeasure at the barring of Kpokpo/Okpeleama community representatives at the Oil and Gas seminar in Effurun even as he thanked President Goodluck Jonathan for his patriotism which resulted in the multibillion dollar EPZ project.

Several Ijaw communities in the Burutu and Warri South-West Local Government Areas of Delta State, claiming to be on the proposed EPZ project site, had alleged neglect with some advising President Jonathan not to perform the ground breaking ceremony without including their interest.