Delta Ijaw -Itsekiri EPZ Crisis: Uduaghan And Stupidity Of Clannish Men By: Ifeanyi Izeze


The powerful truth both the Itsekiris and Ijaws in Delta state had refused to accept is that both are uncompromisingly subject to their own biases and failings which most often stems from naivety. What does the Ijaws and Itsekiris want? This is the question the rest of us in Delta state should be asking them.

Each group has continued to insist on what they called “fairness and justice” in their long –running land disputes but the interesting thing is that the Ijaws and Itsekirir have a completely opposite definition of what is 'fair and just' even in their relationship with other ethnic nationalities in Delta state. Abi na lie be this?

Agreed there has been age-long contentions over who actually owns what portion of land in the area, but why should these two ethnic groups allow issues of mere nomenclature rob Delta state of this golden opportunity to host Nigeria's first –ever gas city and an Economic Processing Zone?

For the first time, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been seen to be creatively proactive in doing a good thing as the nation's apex oil concern has suggested a split naming option as part of the crisis management initiative. The NNPC has proposed that the Free Trade Zone be named after Ogidgiben (Itsekiri) and the Deep Sea Port after Gbaramatu (Ijaw) because the projects even though they are tied together are two different infrastructure developments.

So why is it so difficult for the Ijaws to accept that one of the projects be named for them- Gbaramatu Deep Sea Port? And why is the Itsekiris not contended with having the EPZ ascribed to them with the suggested name of “Ogidigben EPZ”?

It is very unfortunate that these two groups are blind to the “red light” flashed by The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, last week, when she gave the Delta state Ijaw and Itsekiri leaders up till Wednesday November 26 2014, to sort out their grievances or the project may be relocated to another place. Most likely, they are not going to agree on a consensus and even if they do, it would be merely to buy time for future hostility. We cannot continue like this as a people!

The most unfortunate aspect of this whole clannish disagreement was that President Jonathan has been dragged into it with a slant of his ijawship. Different community leaders and parties to the dispute over the location and ground breaking event for the gas Industrial Park resorted to threats and accusations of partisanship against the president in press conferences and paid adverts in newspapers.

Truth be told, the bad blood between the Delta Ijaws and their Itsekiri neighbours predated even my great grandfather. Part of why the former governor of Delta state, James Ibori, is in prison today is tied to this same Itsekiri-Ijaw supremacy tussle. I am from Delta state so quote what I have just said anywhere and will defend this assertion.

The attitude of these two ethnic groups in Delta is becoming intolerable to all of us. Ibori as a governor literally worked from Warri instead of Asaba because he had to spend almost all his tenure settling clannish waterside neighbours that were senselessly killing themselves and even expanding it to upland Urhobo areas. Haba! Una no dey tier to kill?

What do they expected the President to have done? Come there to perform the groundbreaking ceremony despite the obvious consequences of such act? Since it has become very clear that there are so many contentious and unresolved issues is it not better to hold-on to allow all concerned parties more time to achieve the communal peace, understanding and harmony that will greatly facilitate the project's speedy actualisation?

The Delta state governor must be blamed for orchestrating this EPZ crisis. He took the aggrieved parties for granted and instead of reaching out to bring the two neighbours together, he merely played lip service to the seriousness of the issue. Knowing how sensitive such pronouncement would be especially as he is an Itsekiri man how could he have said in the public: “70percernt of the land is not in Ijaw area and nobody can stop the president from coming to Delta state for the groundbreaking”? was this not    in partisan defiance of the Ijaw claim? Whether the Ijaws were making false claims or not, effective crisis management requires the governor, who should be acting as the father of both groups, to rather do more to pacify both sides.

Now, was the governor not aware of the question of land ownership and the dispute arising there from? So he deliberately wanted the President to come and do what the Gbaramatu Ijaws would call injustice? More tact would have been employed on this matter even before now but because each group has always called the other bluff that's why we are where we are today and if the state doesn't take time, this lucrative project would be moved to a more peaceful and accommodating location and Delta people will not do anything. Mark my words!

Information available to me shows that both sides have fed the Nigerian public with what could best be described as “half-truths”. The Itsekiris' claim that all the affected land belongs to them was a lie. Also, the Ijaws' claim that they own more lands in the acquired area was a lie.

  The truth is that there were different sets of land acquisitions by the Delta state government for these coupled projects that may not be generally known.

Governor Uduaghan has said the land size he acquired for the project is 2700hectares.

A notice of revocation of Rights of Occupancy was duly signed by His Excellency, the executive governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, on November 11, 2013, to acquire land covering about 335.554hectares hitherto belonging to Kpokpo/Okpeleama for the purposes of the EPZ project.

Did Delta state government acquire this said land from the Ijaws for this EPZ project? If it is not for the project, what was the land acquired for?

The governor should explain whether the land he acquired from part of Gbaramatu    (Kpokpo/Okpeleama) is included in this 2, 700 hectares or it was meant for a different project.

If this lingering crisis between the Ijaws and Itsekiris over the naming of the proposed Delta Gas City, the EPZ project is not immediately resolved to pave way for the groundbreaking of the $6 billion mega-project and it is taking away to another state, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, no mega or tangible development project would ever come to these two areas in this generation so that they can fight themselves very well as they are happy to do that, Amen!

(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja:[email protected]; 238-8033043009)

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