Militancy is no reason to underdevelop Niger Delta, Says Emiko

On February 23, 2018, the Olu Of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli Emiko, led a high-powered delegation of Itsekiri sons to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock Villa. The delegation comprised high-ranking Itsekiri chiefs, the immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and professor Itse Sagay, chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption.

After the visit, Palace Watch put a call through to Prince Yemi Emiko, Personal Assistant to Olu of Warri and one of the delegates at the meeting to find out what was discussed at the meeting.

What were the demands of His Majesty’s delegation during the meeting with the president?
His Royal Majesty made a couple of request. One of them is the issue of security for our community and our people. He reminded President Buhari of the strategic location some of our communities occupy in the Escravos area and the Benin River axis. He, therefore, requested that the president consider setting up a naval base, especially at the place between the mouth of the Benin River and the Escravos River to give some sense of security to people in that area, as well as protect Federal Government installations in terms of oil and gas facilities.

His Majesty also talked about the Escravos Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP/EPZ project), which foundation was laid by former President Jonathan, saying since that foundation-laying ceremony, nothing has been done with regard to the project. He pleaded with President Buhari to kindly ensure that work resumes immediately on the project, because once the project is kick-started, it will help provide jobs and a ripple economic effects in terms of mass employment for youths in his domain and its environs. This, he said, will benefit Delta State in particular and Nigeria in general.

The Olu also talked about economic empowerment of our people, because when we talk of Nigerian content and local content, how far-reaching is it? To him, Nigerian content should be differentiated from local content. He said contents can be localised in terms of people in the catchment areas getting a piece of the action in terms of patronage from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and International Oil Companies (IOC) operating within Warri kingdom.

The Olu equally talked about some Federal Government projects, which have been abandoned within his domain. He listed these projects to include electricity projects for communities in the Benin River and Escravos areas, as well as a bridge and road to Ode-Shekiri, the ancestral home of the Itsekiri people. He mentioned the Koko-Owerri Road project, as well as the Omadino Okerewiwo highway that has been awarded by NDDC since 2009. There was also mention of Warri and Koko ports, which he said are very dear to our people. The Olu pleaded with President Buhari that the Escravos bar should be dredged to allow big ships come through the Warri River upland into the Warri Port, and that the same thing should be done for Koko port.

What was the president’s response?
Expectedly, the president’s response was nice. He praised Professor Itse Sagay, and said he has been looking for an opportunity to personally thank Professor Sagay for the great job he has been doing. He expressed his delight at the inclusion of professor Sagay in the Olu’s entourage to Aso Rock Villa. He then told the Olu that he is very happy that the Itsekiri people have never been mentioned with regard to vandalisation of oil facilities in his domain. He urged the Itsekiri people to keep up the good behaviour, promising that government would eventually address all the issues raised by the Olu of Warri and be able to identify projects that could be undertaken in the short and medium terms, while those for the long-term will also be considered.

With Warri being regarded the unofficial headquarters of militants in the Niger Delta Region, was there any discussion on militants?
No, it wasn’t discussed. When you say Warri is the unofficial headquarters of militants in the Niger Delta, you have to clarify. Warri kingdom is spread among three local government areas. In the Warri municipality, we don’t have any issue with militants. The problem seems to be concentrated in the Warri Southwest area. The Olu has made a lot of efforts preaching and appealing to all the youths involved in such activities to stop. He told them that when they vandalise pipelines, they spill oil all over the creeks. So, they are hurting the local people’s economy and themselves.

On his ascension, the Olu paid all manner of courtesy visits to neighbouring communities and kingdoms. He went to see the Ijaw king in Bomadi, the Pere of Akugbenen and Ovia Uhie, the Ovie of Ugheli. Everywhere he went, he was preaching the message of peace and cooperation, asking the youths in these areas not to vandalise oil pipelines. The Olu has also visited many Itsekiri communities. He is telling the people not to take laws into their hands.

There was a plan to industrialise the whole of Warri up to Ode-Ishekiri. What happened to it?
You better direct that question to the federal and state governments. We can only speculate. Even the Delta State government came up sometime ago with a plan called Warri Industrial Park. They acquired a site for the project, and tried to do some work, but sadly it was abandoned after a short while. Unfortunately, government officials tend to hide under this militancy thing to deny Delta State of infrastructural development, saying the crisis in the region is too much. But up till today, all the international oil companies are still operating in full capacity.

As a matter of fact, Chevron has its operational headquarters in Escravos. Their operations are not disturbed. And they are building new projects by the day, including the Escravos Gas Liquid project. They are doing all kinds of gas utilisation projects there. Government should not use imaginary crisis in the Niger Delta Region as an excuse not to do the needful in this region.

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