IRDC: The dangerous politics of self-destruction in Iwere land, a plea for truce

For those who do not know much about the IRDC, it is the Itsekiri Regional Development Council, a body saddled with the


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IRDC: The dangerous politics of self-destruction in Iwere land, a plea for truce

For those who do not know much about the IRDC,  it is the Itsekiri Regional Development Council, a body saddled with the responsibility of managing the affairs and financial resources accruable to the Itsekiri oil bearing communities on their behalf and for their collective good.

The IRDC for short, is the product of a global concept known as The Global Memorandum of Understanding, GMoU which replaced the old order known as the Memorandum of Understanding, MOU. This old system was grossly abused by a select few privileged community leaders and opportunists.

For sure, the GMoU is a new community engagement concept initiated by Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, the essence is to allow the various oil- bearing communities take charge of their development programes, while building a better and healthier relationship among the oil communities, Chevron and other major stakeholders.

The Itsekiri RDC is made up of 23 host communities and ten satellites blocks from six Chevron operational fields namely: Olera, Dibi, Ugborodo, Uton-Nana, Makaraba and Abiteye.

Upon the coming of the GMoU, the generality of the oil-bearing communities have seen tremendous positive changes in their lives in the form of concrete development. These include projects such as jetties, walkways, housing projects, town halls, soft loans to indigenes, scholarships to aspiring but indigent students of these communities.

It is pertinent to note that since the take-off of the GMoU over a decade ago, Chevron has not failed to remit the money due IRDC on a yearly basis. The accumulated sum, we were informed, recently at an on-boarding training for newly constituted Council of the IRDC, has risen to over two billion naira. This huge sum is currently frozen due to litigation between factions in the Itsekiri oil politics.

We are also made to know that, while the Itsekeri RDC is in limbo, that of the Ijaws and Ilajes are functioning maximally and enjoying the full benefits of the GMoU. The Ijaws and the Ilajes get end of year packages, aside from periodic gains they get from agitations on issues affecting their interests. The same cannot be said of Itsekiri RDC. In about three years running, the Itsekiri Regional Development Council has gone comatose. The reason is not because there are no funds to run the body but it is because there is clash of interest between or among the players in the oil politics in Iwere land.

In this war of interest, the casualties are different. Unlike in a conventional warfare, the victims here are not the actors in the theatre of battle, rather, the victims are the contractors and their families, the scholarship beneficiaries among others.

Of great worry to all well-meaning Itsekiri sons and daughters are the plight of the innocent contractors. They are suffering and dying silently. The loans they took have yielded huge interests and these have run into millions of naira. The banks are chasing them, their property confiscated, while in some others, their landlords have evicted them while their children have been driven out of school. Rather than gain in a contract bided for, it is enormous loss one gets, what an irony of fate.

To worsen matters, when our team visited Eghoro recently, the Town Hall project being executed by an IRDC contractor, JOTHAN NIG. LTD, the project is at 80% level of completion. From observation, most of the materials meant for the project have either been stolen or vandalized. This means that by the time work on the project begins again, these same materials will have to be procured again at a higher cost. In all, the IRDC and by implication, Itsekiri at large will be the greater losers. These are unbearable pains and burdens on our brothers and sisters.

The Managing Director of JOTHAN NIGERIA LIMITED, Mr. Duris Orugboh disclosed that the sum of the project was initially thirty seven million naira (N37m) and some fraction and that he had written to IRDC for variation of the project sum, shortly before the present crisis began. When asked the source of his funds, he told us, “I took loan from Unity Bank”. As he took to weeping, we closed the chapter on asking him further questions. His plight was clear to see. Another contractor, Mr. Bernard whose project is sited in Kolokolo told even worse tale. He had run out of his home for fear of being arrested by his Bank over the loan he took to finance IRDC project. The list is endless.

Above all, it is reasonable to note at this junction that the Itsekiri nation must rise up to do everything within its capacity to initiate a crises management mechanism to bringing the warring parties in the IRDC feud to a round-table to resolve.

The issue of who is at fault should not take centre stage. We are all one Itsekiri, no different tongue. Let us help save lives of our brothers and sisters from huge loans.

Finally, we want to specially appeal to our one and only king, His Majesty, the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli to use his eminent position as a father to all parties in the crises and call all together for an amicable settlement with all forms of litigation stopped unconditionally.

Also, we want to appeal to our esteemed mother of substance, the Igban of Warri kingdom, Chief Mrs. Rita Lori Ogbebor, the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILOT and all other men and women of goodwill in Iwere-land to rise up for all Iwere people at this time of crises to save both the IRDC and the Itsekiri nation.

May God bless Iwere Land

Written by Clemason Toju, a journalist from Koko, Delta State

 


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