Itsekiri: Yearning for Development, Yet Freeze own Fund

The Itsekiri ethnic Nationality, arguably the largest producer of crude oil in Delta State and blessed with huge gas reserves, is host to oil and gas


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Itsekiri: Yearning for Development, Yet Freeze own Fund
A water project being constructed by Itsekiri RDC

The Itsekiri ethnic Nationality, arguably the largest producer of crude oil in Delta State and blessed with huge gas reserves, is host to oil and gas majors such as Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC and other divested partners.

The geographical location of Itsekiri in the three Warri Local Government Areas of Warri South, Warri South-West and Warri North Local Government as well as parts of Delta Central and Edo State, is endowed with so much uniqueness and natural resources that will make anyone proud of being an Iwere indigene.This is not forgetting the historical wealth of huge human resources Itsekiris are known for.

The introduction of Global Memorandum of Understanding (Governance Model) GMoU by Chevron Nigeria Limited over 10 years ago to ensure accountability and even development in Chevron's areas of operations in the Niger Delta, especially for the 23 Itsekiri Oil and Gas producing /impacted communities, was largely greeted with excitement. The introduction of the governance model structured in the following administrative tree: Community Engagement Management Board, CEMB, Project Review Committee, PRC, Peace Building Committee, Communication Committee and others, make the new community -driven development approach very transparent, professional, accountable as well as provides the needed checks and balances. This is because membership of these committees cut across community representatives, Chevron, state and local governments, DESOPADEC (in the case of Delta) civil society organizations and other non-governmental organizations.

Doubters of the GMoU Model should visit the 23 Itsekiri Oil and Gas producing /impacted communities under Chevron's areas of operation and look out for the merits of the governance structure. Despite its obvious challenges, the only visible projects in the Itsekiri coastal communities (post Warri crisis) are those executed by the IRDC. The projects include: Housing units, concrete jetties, walkways, town halls as well as capacity building initiatives of both the locals and indigenous contractors.

One of the Housing Units constructed by Itsekiri RDC at Bateren Community in Warri South-West LGA

Jakpa Community Town Hall in Warri North Local Government Area, one of Itsekiri RDC legacy projects

 

The projects were primarily targeted at ensuring resettlement of Itsekiri people in their communities after the Warri pogrom. Surprisingly though, Chief Rita Lori Ogbebor, who's from Ajigba in Warri South Local Government Area (a non-IRDC community) and a true advocate of Itsekiri resettling in their God-given communities, was used as an instrument by some elements (who did not brief the respected Itsekiri women leader) to freeze the Chevron /Itsekiri Regional Development Committee, IRDC Joint account at Keystone Bank. The account is believed to be in the region of 3 billion naira, an amount capable of addressing the obvious government neglect of Itsekiri riverine /rural communities and breathe life into the socio-economic fabric of the cluster communities.     

There is no doubt that between 2015 and late 2017,the IRDC was embroiled in leadership imbroglio, but thank God all that has been resolved and injection of fresh ideas alongside some experience in the new IRDC executive is poised to take the NNPC /Chevron joint venture sponsored development agency to greater heights.

Investigative team from Police headquarters, Abuja which met with over 60 IRDC Contractors in Warri and subsequently had interactive engagement with select-Itsekiri leaders /stakeholders, can attest to the transparency of IRDC administration. Sadly, the over 60 indigenous contractors that met with the police investigative team, spoke convincingly that 95% of projects awarded to them were executed and have not been paid for due to the unnecessary freezing of IRDC account. Most of the contractors are heavily indebted to banks, landlords as well as schools where their children attend and are presently selling their remaining available assets /properties; this is not forgetting avoidable marital issues the financial drought is causing them.

With the new thinking by the current IRDC executive to create wealth in the 23 IRDC communities via investments geared towards waking up the socio-economic life of the Chevron host communities, those behind the needless litigation should allow reason to prevail by withdrawing the suit and ultimately work towards the immediate unfreezing of IRDC account. This will help Iwere children on scholarship who have not been paid for three years return to school, IRDC contractors meet up with their financial obligations, staffers of IRDC that have not been paid their salaries for over two years to get their entitlement and fresh investments begin in Warri Kingdom.

God bless Iwere Nation.             

Jeroma Ajueyitsi wrote from Warri, Delta State.

 


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