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OIL CITY IN PAINS

By NBF News

Omoku, in Rivers State, has the largest deposit of oil and gas in the federation, with over 100 oil wells. But the story of the community appears to be that of the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs but suffers from abject neglect. There's hardly any visible state or federal project in the town, save for the Federal Government (Technical) College established many years back. Whatever is seen, in the name of development, according to Sir (Engr.) Dickson Ordu, is from the self-efforts of the indigenes.

Indeed, with the better part of the land taken over by oil and gas pipelines, life has become a constant nightmare for the people due, largely, to bad roads and lack of drainage systems.

Only recently, a heavy rain submerged the entire community, destroying goods and property worth over N300 million. While narrating the predicament of his people to Saturday Sun, in Omoku, recently, Sir Ordu, who is the chairman of Omoku Central Community Development Committee, made a distress call to the Rivers State and federal governments to, as a matter of urgency, come to the aid of the community to save it from what he described as a 'disaster.'

'Omoku is the headquarters of ONELGA (Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area). ONELGA is the highest producer of oil & gas in the country and Omoku town has over 100 oil wells. It hosts the biggest oil filling station in Africa,' Sir Ordu said. He added: 'During the crisis in the Niger Delta, before the Federal Government's amnesty for militants, the elders of Omoku and ONELGA, as a whole, continuously called a meeting of the youths to appeal to them not to destroy the oil installations in the community. And throughout that period, oil & gas were flowing without interruption. There was no incident of destruction of oil installations in ONELGA, particularly in Omoku.

'So, one would have expected that with such peaceful atmosphere in Omoku community and ONELG as a whole, the Federal Government would reciprocate by addressing our infrastructural problems. But it appears as if we are foolish. Maybe, we should have behaved like other communities that embarked on the destruction of oil installations, that would probably have attracted the attention of both the federal and state governments.'

He said that it is not in the character of sons and daughters of the community to destroy or resort to violence to press for their rights. He said: 'On the contrary, we believe in dialogue and peaceful negotiation to get what we want. We are not asking the federal or state government to do something for us if we do not deserve it. God, in His wisdom, created us in this part of the world and deposited oil in our environment. We believe that we deserve good things of life, like other communities that have oil. Perhaps, the Governor, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi is yet to remember us.

'We lost over N300million worth of goods and property as a result of a recent rainfall that submerged the entire Omoku community. Some people lost all their trading materials and need to start live afresh. Some people lost their cement stores. A certain photographer lost his cameras and all the works he did. That kind of person would have to start life afresh.'

Particularly, Ordu lamented that the community's roads are bad. Also, he complained about drainages and infrastructural facilities, saying: 'We are not resorting to force or violence. We are only appealing to the state and federal governments and to all the parastatals, including the Ministry of Niger Delta to come to our aid. The Ministry of Niger Delta was created for the people of Niger Delta. We are part of Niger Delta and we contribute a great deal to the economy of this country. So, we have every right to demand our rights. With the extent of damage we suffered from the first heavy rain this year, one imagines what would be our fate by the time we enter the main rainy season. The truth of the matter is that Omoku is in disaster. We're calling on the state and federal governments; we're calling on the Ministry of Niger Delta; we're calling on NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission), LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas). Here is the source of the LNG gas terminal in Bonny. The Eleme Petro-chemicals are products of gas sourced from here. So, we are appealing to the various authorities concerned, even if we have done anything wrong, they should forgive us and treat us like other citizens who have oil in their domain.'

He said that his community is the second largest town in Rivers State after Port Harcourt, lamenting that there is 'no visible federal or state developmental project in the community, except those embarked upon by the people of Omoku. We cannot do any meaningful project, except the government comes in. Ironically, the money generated from the oil sourced from our community is used to develop other areas. Let them extend a little of the money to develop our community. We are not forcing them. But they should know that we are in tears.

The community is demanding the fixing of roads and drainages, as, according to Ordu, 'no road can stand without drainages. And if you do roads without drainages, the job is not complete. A large portion of our land has been taken over by oil pipelines belonging to LNG, Agip and other oil companies. The town has been grossly disfigured. What is left is the bad roads. The only alternative for us now is an island, which we call Omoku island. But we need two bridges to cross to the island to be able to develop the place. Omoku is a big town and the town is only expanding through self-help, from the effort of the indigenes of Omoku. We deserve the support of the state and federal governments because we are contributing to the economic development of the country.'

Ordu confirmed that the state governor had, at a stakeholders' forum, pronounced Omoku as an emerging city, and promised that the community would be the next place for development. He said that the community had heaved a sigh of relief at that time, but is now disappointed that one year after that promise, 'we are yet to see anything. We have gone to the Ministry of Urban Development to submit our plan for the development of the town. Unfortunately, nothing has happened.'