20 March 2015, Lagos – President Goodluck Jonathan has approved March 26, two days to the March 28 presidential election, for the groundbreaking of the $16 billion Export Processing Zone, EPZ, in Ogidigben, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan announced this at a meeting with Ijaw and Itsekiri stakeholders, yesterday, in Asaba, the state capital.
Meanwhile, there was panic in Warri, in the early hours of Wednesday, as armed Itsekiri and Ijaw youths shot sporadically into the air for hours, according to sources, to test their fighting capability.
It was learned that youths at Ugbuwangue, an Itsekiri-dominated area of Warri, angry that Ogulagha-Ijaw boys dared, last week, to threaten the Itsekiri people of Ogidigben, started the power show with gunshots that shook the Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, area, mainly populated by Ijaw.
They threatened to deal with the Ijaw for the shooting at Ogidigben last week. Thinking that the Itsekiri people, who were firing indiscriminately into the air from their base were about to carry out a reprisal attack, residents of the NPA area fled their homes.
However, a report was lodged with the soldiers at a nearby company, Panalpina, who barricaded the NPA section of the road leading to Ugbuwangue, but Ijaw vigilante in the area also mobilized when the shooting became more intensive.
A source said: “The Ijaw boys also started shooting into the air to signify that they were battle ready and after exhausting over 200 rounds of ammunition, the firing from both sides subsided.”
Ijaw leader, Chief Boro Opudu, when contacted, said: “I was away in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when I received a call that Ijaw boys were shooting. When I probed the incident, I found out that Itsekiri boys were the ones shooting.”
Itsekiri leader, Chief Ayiri Emami, said: “I am not around, but I heard about the shooting. My take is that there is no need for Ijaw and Itsekiri people to be attacking each other. We are all brothers and our differences should be settled amicably.”
On the EPZ ground- breaking, a source that attended the meeting told Vanguard,: “The governor called us on Wednesday to come to Asaba for a meeting today (Thursday) at 7a.m. It is a select group, seven from each side. The Ogulagha people were there too. It was later that we got to know that he had earlier met with Ogulagha people, who are making trouble in Ogidigben.
“The agenda for the meeting was to convey the date approved by Mr. President for the groundbreaking and consequently, he appealed to the leaders invited to the meeting to maintain peace in their respective areas and ensure a trouble-free groundbreaking,” he added.
Vanguard learned that President Jonathan will lead some investors for the project to the groundbreaking. The police, army and navy are expected to provide security at Ogidigben and environs.
Contacted, a member of the Ugborodo Export Processing Zone, EPZ, Interface Committee, Mr. Alex Eyengho, who attended the meeting confirmed that the governor told them the President was coming on March 26.
He said, “That is Thursday, next week, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, has also contacted us. The governor asked us to maintain peace, Itsekiri people will maintain peace, and we have always maintained peace even when the groundbreaking has been postponed for a record three times, from June to November, last year, March 16 and now March 26.
“We hope that the March 26 date will be a realistic date this time. No doubt, there is need for peace, not just peace for the groundbreaking, but peace for the project, which is already ongoing to continue and be completed for the benefit of all Nigerians,” Eyengho added.