The imbroglio arising from the siting of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Ogidigben-Ugborodo in Warri South West Local Area of Delta State appears still far from being laid to rest. EBENEZER ADUROKIYA writes on the angst and drum of war emanating from the Ijaw Gbaramatu, who are claiming ownership of the site, alleging a deliberate exclusion from the scheme of things as well as the need for the government to act fast before it degenerates into an ethnic war.
WHEN the Federal Government conceded the siting of the Gas City Project to Delta State, nay Warri South West LGA, the joy of the people knew no bounds. They understood well the enormous benefits accruable from such huge project said to amount to about $16 billion.
Many had thought and still think it would become one of the veritable means of curtailing the excesses of an army of jobless youths, many of whom have found solace in eking a living through unwholesome and illegal means.
But since the announcement, instead of the yet-to-be started project to be an agent of unity and hope, it has rather become a harbinger of bickering, animosity and death among the Itsekiris on the one hand and between the Itsekiri and the Ijaws on the other over who owns the land hosting the EPZ project.
The war drum, no doubt, is sounding louder by the day. Many are of the opinion that the claims of ownership by the Itsekiri, Ijaw Gbaramatu and possibly Ijaws of Ogulagha may not be far from why the groundbreaking ceremony expected, to have taken place in May by President Goodluck Jonathan, is still being delayed.
nsideNigerDelta had initially brought to the public glare the uneasy calm still hibernating among the Itsekiris of Ugborodo over who should be among the committee to interface between the ethnic nationality and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
A section of the youths of Ugborodo had specifically accused some of their leaders of mortgaging the progress of the community in the last 15 years, while they feathered their personal nests. As a result, they had demanded a change and radical departure from the past, begging, at the same time, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, to play a fatherly role in the course of mediating in the dispute.
The bickering among the Itsekiris, it will be recalled, climaxed when a 21-man interface committee by the FG overseen by the Chief of Naval Staff was set up. Ten persons were nominated to represent each of the twin warring factions battling for the soul of the community while the state government nominated the 21st person, which eventually emerged chairman of the committee.
Today, it is assumed that arms and ammunition used in the wake of the crisis had been mopped up in the creeks of Ugborodo by the Joint Task Force as one of the blueprints in the memorandum of understanding after the interfacing committee was inaugurated.
Similar insinuation is still rife as of last weekend that hoodlums loyal to a faction that made up the committee are preventing exiled Itsekiri from returning to their abode as advised by the Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta, Warri, Captain Musa Gemu, who promised to provide security for their return during the arms mop up exercise carried out some weeks ago.
But one area seemingly being glossed over by the authorities that may end up being an albatross that could scuttle the laudable project is the stance being projected by the Ijaws of Gbaramatu at various press conferences in recent times.
Their grouse is that 70 per cent of the land being squared for the EPZ project belongs to them. Some even said the graves of their ancestors were located in greater part of the land. In their thinking, sidelining them from the interface committee and involvement in the project is unjust and criminal.
According to them, the bulk of the land being the site of the EPZ project belongs to the Ijaws said to be occupying over 10 Ijaw communities namely: Ikpokpo, Atanba, Opuedu, Opuede Bubor, Tebijor/Okpelama, Okerenkokogbene, Gan-ama, Oporoza, New Jerusalem and Joula among others.
InsideNigerDelta gathered that the people of Ikpokpo community, which is the site for the proposed seaport and the entry