23 October 2015, Ajaoki — OIL and gas producing communities of Itsekiri extraction at Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, Edo State, are embroiled in an all-consuming face-off with a cabal they accused of arm-twisting the communities and collecting mobilization fees from the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission, EDSOGPADEC, without executing the projects.
The communities (Ajaoki, Ajamimogha, Kolokolo, Ajatiton and Ikara), under the aegis of Forum of Itsekiri Oil and Gas Producing Communities, Ikpoba Okha Local Government, first raised the alarm over perceived neglect of the area by the state government in June.
They particularly pointed fingers at EDSOGPADEC, lamenting that the commission had forsaken projects awarded in the communities.
The deserted projects
Some of the projects listed by the communities included construction of a six-classroom block with VIP toilets in Ajaoki, construction of a six-classroom block with VIP toilets in Kolokolo and construction of six-classroom block with VIP toilets in Ajaminmogha.
Others are a solar-powered borehole project in Ajatiton, a borehole water project in Ajatiton, borehole water project in Ikara, among others, all of which the syndicate abandoned.
Syndicate fights back
Around the time the communities raised dust in June, they never knew that a syndicate was behind their ordeal until about a month later when a faceless group started witch-hunting and attacking their leaders for going public with the development. The outburst of the communities angered the syndicate, which tried to incite their leaders against the state government.
It described them as aggrieved community leaders and stalwarts of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, out to undermine the All Progressives Congress, APC, government in the state, led by Mr. Adams Oshiomhole. Niger Delta Voice learned that in the past few months, both sides have been at daggers drawn and many expect Governor Oshiomhole to wade into the matter and direct that the oil commission take appropriate steps for peace to reign.
The battle continued, last month, when the aggrieved villagers carried out a protest, alleging that the cabal, mainly EDSOGPADEC contractors and their sponsored agents, wanted to divert the governor’s and public attention from abandonment of projects in the area, which was the real reason for their fury.
President of the forum, Mr. Samuel Ireokane, who addressed reporters, said: “We thank the Edo state government for creating EDSOGPADEC and creating a position for Itsekiri in the management for the first time since inception, but there is a cabal of dubious contractors, which specializes in collection of huge mobilization fees for projects in our communities and then abandons them.”
He said the cabal spearheaded the abandonment of the projects, yet claim that Itsekiri people have benefited tremendously from Edo State and its agencies. The communities, which consider themselves as “the goose that lays the golden egg in Edo State” contended that it was morally wrong for them to suffer deprivation by government in the exploitation of natural resources in their area and at the same time face saboteur contractors, who do not mean well for them.
A peeved Ireokane said: “The notorious cabal, working against our interest and our leadership in the Itsekiri oil and gas producing communities of Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo State, has consistently frustrated the execution and completion of infrastructural projects in our areas.”
“That appointment has been hijacked by the cabal through installing their stooge to the position for their selfish end, against our desire and our true leaders. “They have since kept us in the dark about the activities of EDSOPADEC and about other government projects, all of which they have abandoned in the Itsekiri communities.
“The antics of the cabal were not known to the state Governor Oshimohole, who for the first time since the existence of EDSOGPADEC, created a position for us (Itsekiri) on the management of EDSOGPADEC.
“We would not allow projects intended to make life meaningful for us to get abandoned and uncompleted by conscienceless contractors, whose only desire is the acquisition of filthy lucre from any source, without a thought as to whether the people for whom these projects are allotted by government suffer deprivation and untold hardship.”
An Ajoki villager, who spoke to Niger Delta Voice, said: “We were angered that virtually all the agency’s projects awarded to EDSOGPADEC contractors in the area were abandoned against media claims by the nameless group that they have benefited tremendously from government.”
He urged Governor Oshiomhole to compel the affected contractors to complete all abandoned projects awarded by the interventionist agency in their locality.