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$16bn Delta Epz Project: Crisis Looms In Ugborodo Over Moves By Okowa’s Men To Hijack Committee


SAN FRANCISCO, March 31, (THEWILL) – Fresh controversy is brewing in Ugborodo Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta state as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s men, said to be behind the renewed crisis in the oil producing community, have seemingly begun moves to hijack the structure of the newly constituted Ugborodo Interim Management Committee.

THEWILL learnt that the development, which is already generating serious heat in Itsekiri land, became public after the government officials allegedly moved to influence the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli I into disbanding the newly constituted Ugborodo Interim Management Committee in a bid to incorporate the interest of the government in the committee.

Although, stakeholders in Ugborodo had insisted that the responsibility of constituting the committee rested on the shoulders of Olaja Ori (Spiritual Head) of Ugborodo, and not the government or Olu of Warri, the two alleged arrow heads in the renewed crisis are bent on dismantling the committee because they were reportedly schemed out of it.

Sources say the member representing Itsekiri nation in the board of Delta state Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Chief Thomas Eriyitome, and Director-General on Security Matters to Governor Okowa, Hon David Tonwe, who have been jostling to seize control of EPZ project, are attempting to use their “connection” in government to disband the committee with the bid to subvert activities of the committee.

It was learnt that Chief Thomas Eriyitome and David Tonwe had reportedly teamed up after Chief Ayiri Emami, also one of the key players in the Ugborodo Export Processing Zone, EPZ matter had backed out following his new political alliance.

THEWILL recalls that the Interim Management Committee was constituted to manage the affairs of Ugborodo community following alleged moves by two government officials to hijacked transactions in respect to the $16billion Export Processing Zone Project.

The interim management committee, which is headed by Mr. Emmanuel Meke with 38 other members drawn from the five founding villages of Ugborodo community, was inaugurated on March 17 and duly endorsed by the Olaja-Ori (Spiritual Head) of Ugborodo, Olare-Aja of Madangho, Ajudaibo, Ijaghala as well as Ogidigben towns.

The committee was expected to liaise with a 14-man think tank/advisory committee headed by Hon Joseph Okonedo pending the appointment/approval of Registered Trustees of Ugborodo Community Trust, the umbrella body of the oil producing community.

The committee members are also expected to draw up a code of conduct/rules and regulations for the Ugborodo community as well handle all matters relating to Ugborodo, including transactions with relevant government agencies and multinational oil companies operating in the area.

Local sources told our correspondent that Eriyitome and Tonwe who were once in parallel camps did undermine the authority of Olaja-Ori of Ugborodo, on whose powers the Interim committee was constituted, by dragging the matter before the Olu of Warri.

An indigene of Ugborodo who gave his name as Jolomi Metsagharun, an Auditor of the newly constituted committee, told our correspondent that moves by the government officials to use their influence to seize control of affairs of Ugborodo as regards the EPZ project would be counterproductive as the locals will vehemently resist them.

Metsagharun, in an open letter to Olu of Warri which was made available to THEWILL, traced the root of Ugborodo's problems to usurpation of powers, quest by some few to grab collective resources of the people as well as lack of respect for constituted authority saying that Olaja-Ori, from ages have been the spiritual head of Ugborodo people and any attempt by some individuals to undermine him and write off what he has endorse would further devalue the royalty attached to the Itsekiri traditional titles and the Olu’s stool as custodian of the people’s norm and value.

It would be recalled that an earlier EPZ committee set up by former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan during the Ugborodo crisis to bring all feuding factions together was disbanded after their two-year tenure expired, but the faction of leaders of the community are alleged to have frustrated the work of the committee because they wanted to transit the EPZ committee to an Interim Management Committee (IMC) for their personal interest. They were however resisted.

Meanwhile, tension is building up in Warri as all stakeholders involved in the renewed crisis are expected to converge on the Olu of Warri palace on Thursday afternoon for what sources said would be a heated deliberations over the moves to either disband the Interim Management Committee set up by the Olaja-Ori or to allow the wishes of the government officials prevail.

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