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Marginalization: Give us a commissioner – Ijaw leader, Atigbi appeals to Obaseki



•Obaseki should know Ijaws made Edo to be counted as oil state

• Obaseki should remember we lost a gallant mother to secure his reelectoral victory -IYC

A foremost Edo Ijaw leader, Freedom Atigbi, former chairman Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, western zone has cried aloud that Ijaws were tired of modern day slavery orchestrated against them by successive Edo state governments, adding that a commissioner should be appointed from Ijaw into the state cabinet.

This was made available to Congress correspondent by himself in a press statement in Benin on Monday.

The Ijaw leader said his people would be pleased with an appointment of someone from the Ijaws as Commissioner in the state for a start, having done much to secure his (Obaseki’s) reelection victory.

The statement read in part: “It is not news that the Ijaws in Edo State are located in three Local Government Areas in Edo South Senatorial District, such as Ovia south West, Ovia North East and Ikpoba- Okha Local Government Areas.

“We have two indigenous electoral wards namely; Ofunama and Inikorogha but with majority of the population in Siluko and Oduna Wards including few units in Ikpoba Okha Local government Area.

“Pursuant to our quest to support the present government, the Ijaw nation employed every of its arsenal to actualize its aims with the support of the Governors of Bayelsa and Delta states. Critical stakeholder like Tompolo in the security circle was also employed to enable us achieve the desired victory.

The Ijaw leader who in a statement titled: “We Are tired of the Modern Day Slavery said: “It is only unfortunate that we lost a sister Mrs YADO ODOGBO who was hit by stray bullet in Tolofa community, Jamagie unit, Inikorogha Ward of Ovia South West Local government Area during Obaseki’s governorship reelection.

The IYC scribe Atigbi narrated: “That was the only fatal case except for the shoot-out between some militants and the security agencies at Ofunama waterside when the electoral materials were delivered, a situation that would have led to mass deaths and injuries if not properly curtailed by the youths and the security agencies.

He said: “Ijaws in Edo State voted in their numbers for His Excellency Mr. Godwin N. Obaseki not because of his successes in our areas but for the solidarity requested by our brothers outside the state including His Excellency Governor Douye Diri. We can therefore boldly say we gave him 90% of our votes.

The activist explained: “It is important to note that no sitting governor had visited Ofunama since 1962 when the ward was created until January 21, 2009 when Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomole visited the ancient community, during his visit, the former governor declared that Egbema people are amongst those who made Edo state to be counted among the Oil Producing States.

He further noted: “He made this fundamental position because Ofunama, Jamagie, Ajakurama, Abere and Gbeoba communities are major hosts to various Oil Fields and locations.

“It is also a truism that Ovia South West Local Government Area has the largest deposit of gas in Edo State.

“Oshiomole had admitted this during his visit. The first attempt he made as at December, 2008 to access the community was futile because the road was so bad that some of the Government vehicles broke down and he had to abandon the trip having gone five hours on the road without getting to his destination; the same journey he made by air for just 12 minutes and 30 seconds during his second visit.

“The government of Oshiomole promised to construct the road as compensation for the several years of setback but all that turned out to be a political statement, the IYC chief asserted.

“In April, 2012, the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan graciously awarded the 46.5 km UDO-OFUNAMA Road through the NDDC but the contractor stopped work at just 5 kilometers around Arakhuan a Benin settlement.

“Several protests were made to NDDC via letters, mainstream and social media but all of them met a brick wall until 2016 when Governor Nogheghase Obaseki came into power.

Atigbi maintained: “The Ijaw nation through its organs (INC, IYC and other relevant structures) cried to him, drawing his attention to the road and several promises were made again. The governor declared that the road shall be taken over by the State government and will be made a priority project. During his campaigns, it became a key topic and he promised to start works on the road as soon as the elections were over with the understanding that the Ijaw people will vote massively for him.

“It is abundantly clear that 90% of the Ijaw votes were given to the PDP. The Ijaw Youth Council also met with our Governor(Obaseki) during a courtesy visit and the road became the key topic and the Governor promised again that works on the road will start in September, 2021.The governor has just constituted his cabinet and we expected to be given a slot to assuage the erstwhile deficit but like other regimes, he did not find us worthy of his cabinet, the Ijaw leader said.

“May be Ijaws will be considered during appointment of Special Assistants, Special Advisers etc, such is a clear mockery, and a way to create ill-feelings amongst us because all we deserve are crumbs from government, he lamented.

“As youths and elites from Edo State, we are very cautious on the use of words but what better adjectives will suit the actions of the government of Edo State than MODERN DAY SLAVERY? But we think we are pushed beyond limit considering the sufferings we have gone through compared to other Ijaw people in other States in the Niger Delta.

“The challenges of the Ijaw people in Edo State are enormous as we see ourselves as the most deprived, oppressed, balkanized and marginalized ethnic group in the State and for emphasis we shall state few of those challenges and our noble demands to the Governor.

“We have records of the Intelligence report of H.F Marshall that resulted in the creation of District Courts for Ijaw territories namely; Ekewan, Ofunama and Siluko native Court Areas respectively. Ekenwan native court area as a result of a petition dated 12th July, 1937, this court was created for Olodiama Clan. The headquarters was in Ekenwan, a riverine Ijaw community.

“Ijaw communities under this court area were Ikoro, Iboro, Ekenwan as headquarter, Gelegele, Inikorogha (Nikrowa), Gboloi-Uba, Igudu (eghudu) etc.Ofunama Native court area which began to function about 1928. The headquarter was Ofunama town. This court district was in charge of the following towns in Egbema kingdom: Ofunama, Ajakurama, Jamagie, Ggbolukanga, Gbeuba, Abere, and their satellite communities etc.

“While Siluko native court area, headquarter in Zide: This Native court took care of Okomu, Furupagha and Gbaran kingdoms with all their satellite communities including Zide itself, ofonitoru, etc.All these Courts have been abandoned by successive l Edo state governments.

“The Ijaws in Edo State once also had a member of the Bendel state House of Assembly who later became the traditional ruler of Egbema Kingdom. His Royal Majesty Pere Gold Oro E. Tiemo, Agadagba of Egbema kingdom, Bini pere lll.

“It is unfortunate that successive governments have deliberately denied the Ijaw kingdoms of Edo State of their rights to development. The road from Udo to Ofunama awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2012 has been abandoned and the State government is yet to do anything about it.

“Today the road connecting over 200 communities along the water ways has become seasonal with the attendant spike in transportation owing to the nature of the road. Farmers cannot convey their produce to markets in the cities and the local markets have been shut completely because of the bad road.

“The road from Udo to Okomu, Gbelebu, Safarogbo, Zide and others is also suffering similar fate like those in our brother communities.The road from Benin to Ekewan/Gelegelegbene is also an eyesore. There is no cottage clinic or a hospital to take care of the health needs of the people and instances abound of avoidable deaths in the various kingdoms.

“For example, Mrs. Yado Odogbo was rushed to Gelegelegbene where she died because there was no proper health facility to take care of her. This is just an instance otherwise the area is mostly ravaged with water borne diseases and little or nothing could be done except resorting to herbal remedies.

“Education is the bedrock and the very foundation for any community to thrive but in our case, we are limited to few Primary and Secondary Schools without teachers to attend to pupils and students. We have seen the development of electricity in our State especially as it relates to the Ossiomo power plant but all our communities are in complete darkness and it becomes very painful when you compare ours to neighboring communities in Delta and Ondo States.

“We have been placed on a very backward political situation considering the balkanization of our communities into three local government areas thereby making us minorities in each of these local government areas. A people without political representation are deemed not to be part of the State or society.

“The 1988-89 constituent Assembly Report had approved a Local government for the Ijaw people on account of their challenges with those in the hinterland and the terrain but that report did not see the light of the day. We are denied employment opportunities in the state civil service or other economic development programmes and activities of the government more so with the use of technology in application for jobs; there is no network facility in these areas and that deprives them from having access to jobs.

“The Gelegele Sea Port which hitherto was a Federal government project has been taken over by the Edo State Government. We see it as a laudable project for the benefit of all indigene in the state but creating a sense of belonging for the people in the area especially those that would be adversely affected has been the problem and that has forestalled the project.

“The UN Charter on Human and Peoples rights and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for a right to self determination and that right culminates into having a traditional ruler of one’s choice but the Government of Edo State has willfully failed and refused to recognize the traditional rulers of the five Ijaw Clans/Kingdoms.

“This to us is an aberration and an affront on the Ijaw Nation generally; more painful is the fact that we are treated with disdain and called provocative and derogatory names while living on our own God given lands.These and many more are the problems facing the Ijaw people in Edo State wherefore we demand as follows;The creation of three Community Development Areas (CDAs) namely; Egbema, Olodiama and Kufutoru development Areas respectively as it is in Lagos and Bayelsa States.

“That the Three Development Areas once created should be made a house of Assembly Constituency in Edo State.The creation of a separate Local Government Council Area and the amalgamation of all the five Ijaw kingdoms to be administered by the Local Government Area instead of the present three Local government Areas into which they have been balkanized because the kingdoms are contiguous to one another geographically and otherwise when the opportunity so arises; in line with the Federal Government Constituent Assembly Report of 1988-1989, Vol. 2 page 492.

“This will enable them develop at their own pace. Reconstitution of the Customary Courts in the Ijaw Areas and creation of Magistrate Courts. Construction of the Roads from Udo- Ofunama, Udo- Safarogbo, Udo- Okomu to open up the areas for development. Construction of Cottage hospitals across the Five Ijaw Kingdoms in Edo State.

“Construction of school Buildings in all communities and at least a Higher Institution of learning in any central area within the Five Ijaw Kingdoms of Edo State. Use of qualified indigenous contractors to carry out projects to enable proper supervision. Provision of Boats and clearing of water Hyacinths from the water ways. Dredging of creeks to open up the areas for ease of transportation and business. Provision of electricity within the Riverine communities.

“Provision of Industrial Boreholes to provide water for the Riverine communities. Political appointments especially as Commissioners and directors in the Edo State Oil and Gas Development Commission (EDSOGPADEC). Appointments into the Civil and Public service as Directors and Permanent Secretaries especially in the Health and Education sectors.

“Compensation to the family of late Mrs. Yado Odogbo who was killed during the election.The government and the world should be aware that the Ijaw people never made themselves part of Edo State but it was a forced creation of the Federal Government through the National Boundary Commission and have since cried to the federal government to release them from this modern day slavery by readjusting the boundary to make them part of Delta State where they can develop their communities like others.

“We are tired of this forced marriage, if the government fails to fulfill its promises to the people, we will be force to take our destinies in our own hands irrespective of the security implication.

“It is not politically driven or masterminded by any political group or inclination but a consensus decision born out of the long suffering of the Ijaw people in Edo State.

“For those who failed to make peaceful inclusion impossible will make forcefully inclusion inevitable. This is not a threat but a promise that will be matched with action! A stitch in time saves nine!”