Urhobo State viable, overdue for creation, says Felix Ibru
PERMIT me to begin my contribution with an expression of support and solidarity with other ethnic nationalities, civil society organisations and human right groups in the Niger Delta for their commitment and sacrifice in the pursuit of political and socio-economic justice in the region.
The Urhobo people view the Niger Delta crises from two broad angles: (Political and socio/economic). The political aspect is commonly referred to as “constitutional crises” or the “crises of federalism”. The socio/economic aspect is associated with pervasive poverty, loss of means of livelihood and lack of basic infrastructure required for meaningful development in the region. It is interesting that the current determination to “bring development” to the Niger Delta, coincides with national agitation for a constitution review. I wish to present the Urhobo position as follows:
Repeal of all obnoxious laws
We call for the repeal of all obnoxious laws which have contributed to the subjugation and exploitation of the Urhobo people and Niger Deltans. Among these are:
- The Petroleum Decree of 1969, which dispossessed the Niger Deltans of their God-given resources.
- The Territorial Waters Acts, Cap.428, (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990) which seized water resources of the Niger Delta.
- The Exclusive Economic Zone Act, Cap 116 (LFN, 1990).
- The Land Use Act Cap. 220 (LFN, 1990).
- The Revenue Allocation Act Cap. 16.
- The Oil Navigable Act Cap. 337.
- The Oil Terminal Dues Act Cap. 339.
- Petroleum Production and Distribution Anti-Sabotage Act. Cap. 3354.
- Oil Pipeline Act Cap. 338.
Associated Gas Re-Injection Act Cap. 26
- National Inland Waterways Authority Act.
- Petroleum Profit Tax Act Cap. 354.
- Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act Cap. 392.
- Minerals and Mining Act No. 34, 1999.
- Lands (Title Vesting, etc) Act.
We advocate a return to the Fiscal Federalism Principle (ownership and control of resources by states), which was the Revenue Allocation Principle in the 1960-63 Nigeria Constitution. Under that constitution, each region retained 50 per cent of revenue generated from the region.
The restoration of fiscal federalism must include the repeal of section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that: “Notwithstanding the foregoing provision of this section, the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria shall vest in the government of the Federation and shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.”
Creation of an Urhobo State:
We call for the creation of more states in Nigeria especially where such an exercise will promote the growth and development of the nation. Such states should definitely include an URHOBO STATE. The proposed Urhobo State is more populous than several existing states in Nigeria. An Urhobo State will also be demographically bigger than 74 countries in the United Nations’ list of countries by population. Examples of such sovereign states are Gabon, Cyprus, Equatorial Guinea, Luxembourg, Qatar, Sao-Tome and Principe, Iceland, Comoros, Seychelles, Caribbean countries (except Cuba and Jamaica), East Timo, Swaziland, Malta, Mauritius, Montenegro, Brunei and Belize.
An Urhobo State will be economically viable because of its resource potentials and contiguous territory which traverses land and coastal areas. Urhobo land has 15 oil and gas fields with over 400 oil wells. The Utorogu Gas Plant in Otu-Jeremi is the largest gas plant in Africa, south of the Sahara. The proposed state has two gas-fired electricity plants at Ughelli and Sapele. Apart from oil and gas, the proposed Urhobo State is endowed with other mineral resources such as Sand, Silica, Kaolin, Clay, Byrite and forest resources such as Timber, Oil palm, Raffia Palm and Rubber.
The proposed Urhobo State has eight rivers with access to the Atlantic Ocean, at least one seaport and several jetties. There is an airport at Osubi and 30 sites for river ports.
The proposed Urhobo State has a petroleum refinery and petrochemical plant, one steel plant, one salt refining plant and various industrial clusters. It has about 15 urban centres, 60 bank branches, three universities, three polytechnics and two colleges of education. It also has over 1,000 government primary and secondary schools and well over 2,000 Chu
Urhobo natural resources as bases for industrial development.
Urhobo territory hosts numerous oil wells in 15 oil fields. Thirteen of the fields are operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), while Pan Ocean Oil Corporation and Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) operate one field each. The fields are:
- Ughelli North Local Government Area (L.G.A.) – (Afiesere fields, Eriemu, Evwreni, UQCC);
- Ughelli South L.G.A. (Utorogu Fields, Osioka, Ughelli East and Ughelli West, Urhoka in Oviri-Olomu);
- Ethiope West L.G.A. (Ovadje in Oghara, Oben in Sapele);
- Ethiope East L.G.A. (Erhobaro – Orogun, Erhoike-Kokori);
- Udu L.G.A. (Abura Field 1 and 2); and
- Okpe L.G.A. (Akpobome Field).
The oil produced in the proposed Urhobo State is Sulphur-free (sweet crude oil). It is a premium crude oil recognized as the best crude oil in the international oil market.
Urhobo land is one of the leading producers of natural gas in the Western Niger Delta. The establishment of major gas-based industries in Urhoboland attests to the abundance of natural gas reserves in the area. The gas-based facilities include the following:
- Utorogu Gas Plant, Otu-Jeremi.
As stated earlier, this is the largest gas-processing plant in sub-Saharan Africa. It processes natural gas for the Utorogu-Escavos-Lagos gas pipeline, the Egbin Thermal Station in Ikorodu, the Shagamu Cement Factory, Industrial Estates in Ikeja, Ogba and Ilupeju in Lagos and Agbara in Ogun State. The gas also feeds the West African Gas Project that takes Nigerian gas to Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana. It is proposed that the gas pipeline will be extended to Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Under the National Gas Master Plan, the pipeline network to deliver gas to all major cities and industrial zones in the Federation will be fed to a large extent by natural gas from Urhobo land.
- Delta Power Station (I – IV), Ughelli.
This is the first gas-fired thermal electricity station in South-Western Nigeria. Commissioned in 1966, the station supplies electricity to Benin, Lagos and other parts of the country via the National Grid.
- Ogorode Power Station, Sapele.
The Ogorode Power Station which was commissioned in 1978 feeds major Nigerian cities and large scale electricity consumers via the National Grid. Electricity supply from the station was stepped down for consumers in Sapele and environs only in 2007.
Rivers and waterways:
Urhobo territory is home to rivers and streams which have endured from primeval times. The rivers are Ethiope River, Jamieson River, Ologbo/Osiomo River, Warri River, Forcados River, Okpare Creek, Edor/Obanegbe Creek, Esaba Creek, Oleri Creek, Eghwu/Oguname Creek, Olota Creek, Arhavwarien Creek, Okumesi Creek, Ogunu-Ekpan Creek, Elume Creek, and Hole-in-the-Wall Creek.
The rivers are a treasure-trove of fishes, shrimps, prawns, periwinkles etc, which can sustain a booming fish industry. Apart from being a means of transportation, the rivers and waterways are also a source of water supply. Their aquatic splendour constitutes potential landmarks for tourism.
Urhoboland is endowed with large deposits of clay, sharp sand, silica and drilling mud which can be found in Otor-Edo, Ughevwughe, Esaba-Otutuama, Iwhreogun, and most areas of Ughelli South. These deposits are raw materials for Wall Tiles, Roof Tiles, Floor Tiles, Ceramics, Pottery and Road Construction.
Urhobo is endowed with a vast arable land of about 4,000 sq km. This land is suitable for the cultivation of Cassava, Oil Palm, Raffia Palm, Rice, Plantain, Banana, Yam, Sweet Potato, Beans, Groundnuts, Coconut, Coco-yam, Pepper, Melon, Mango, Orange, Paw-paw, Sugar Cane, Pineapple, Alligator Pepper, Spices, Bamboo, Timber, Rubber, etc.
The Urhobo environment has also been most conducive for Poultry, Piggery, Grass-cutter rearing, Rabbitery, Snailery and other forms of animal husbandry. Fish farming is also a viable agricultural enterprise thriving in Urhoboland.
The Oil Palm industry in the proposed Urhobo State has potentials for dozens of agro-industrial products and the employment of thousands of people. The Oil Palm industry was the bedrock of Urhobo economy for over 150 years before the advent of petroleum.
Rubber thrives in the proposed Urhobo state. There are numerous rubber plantations owned by private individuals in most communities and a large rubber plantation owned by PAMOL (a division of UACN) at Oghara. The proposed Urhobo State hosts a significant proportion of rubber processing factories in Nigeria.
The proposed Urhobo State is situated in the tropical rain forest. There is an abundance of trees for lumber and wood-based industries. The African Timber and Plywood (AT&P) factory located in Sapele in Urhoboland was the largest hardwood factory in the world.
Raphia hookeri and vinifera thrive very well in Urhobo area. The industrial products from raffia palm include Gin, Beverages, Yeast, Paper, Brushes, Bags, Sieves, Medicinal Oils and Balms. The raffia palm is also used for Ethanol and Bio-fuel production.
Cassava is cultivated all over the proposed Urhobo State. Cassava-based industry encompasses the following: Garri Grains, Edible Starch, Industrial Starch for the manufacture of car Batteries, Textiles, Coating for Drugs and Pharmaceutical Products, Plaster of Paris, Paper, Cassava Chips/Pellets, Animal Feeds, Bread and Biscuits, Cassava leaves for export, etc.
With the extensive waterways and wetlands, Urhoboland is a natural habitat of fishes. Studies have identified over 100 species of fishes in this part of the Niger Delta. There are great potentials for a fishing industry including aquaculture that will create jobs and wealth for thousands of people in the proposed state.
Urhobo is the epicenter of the road transportation network in the Western Niger Delta. The Federal inter-state road network comprising four major Federal Highways converges at Effurun. They are the Benin-Warri Highway, Effurun-Ughelli-Patani-Port Harcourt East-West Highway, Effurun-Eku-Agbor-Ubiaja-Auchi Highway and the Warri Port – Delta Steel Company Highway.
The proposed Urhobo State will consist of contiguous Urhobo kingdoms which comprise homogeneous communities with common cultural and traditional values.
The proposed Urhobo State is very viable because it is well endowed with oil and gas, other mineral resources and it is propitious for agriculture and aquaculture. The economic and social sectors, including educational and healthcare delivery can sustain the proposed Urhobo State.
Over the years, the Urhobo people have contributed significantly to the progress of the country in terms of personnel resources, business, industry, politics, education etc. The Urhobo people strongly desire a state of their own in order to harness and utilize their collective energies and resources to the benefit of the nation. The creation of an Urhobo State will enhance the growth and development of Nigeria.
The Urhobo people request that an Urhobo State be created out of the present Delta State of Nigeria.