By Evans Ufeli
Your Excellency, for over 40, the people of Ndokwa/Ukwani in Delta State have lived peacefully with the Nigerian Agip Oil Company and a host of other oil companies, who own massive oil production operations in the area.
Despite the fortune these companies have been making from their various operations, the people have had to live with continuous gas flaring, water pollution and toxic emissions as well as land degradation, with no social and physical infrastructure to support the communities.
We conducted a fact-finding tour of the community, wherein we traced a four decades of travail of the Ndokwa/Ukwani nation. The Federal Government’s attempt to develop the nine states of the entire Niger Delta region through the Niger Delta Development Commission has become counter-productive on account of corruption and malfeasance in the helm of affairs of the leadership, managing the commission’s finances and its affairs in general.
Meanwhile, a huge chunk of oil and gas mining operations undergone in the Niger Delta region, are conducted in Ndokwa/Ukwani land.
There is no gainsaying that Ndokwa land is very strategic in the economic prosperity and development of Nigeria. Ndokwa ethnic group is the second largest ethnic fold in terms of landmass and population after the Urhobos in Delta State.
The three local government areas making up Ndokwa/Ukwani Federal Constituency are all oil producing and host communities to seven oil companies and a major gas recycling plant owned by the Italian giant Agip, presently located in Okpai Community in Ndokwa East.
Your Excellency, I wish to state in clear terms for the avoidance of doubt, that the oil and gas exploration and production companies operating in Ndokwa land include:
Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC)
Midwestern Oil and Gas Limited
Sterling Energy Exploration and Production Company (SEEPCO)
Pillar Oil and Gas
Energia Oil J.V
Opac Refinery (under construction)
These facts are verifiable from the Department of Petroleum Resources.
As a people, we feel pained by the fact that Ndokwa/Ukwani people appear to be the only ethnic group in Delta State if not Nigeria that though rich in oil, have been neglected. More so, her communities remain impoverished, lacking in basic amenities at the same time. It is double jeopardy and we find it rather repulsive to say the least.
Today, the only Federal Government presence in Ndokwa land is the Federal Prison (Medium Security), Kwale which was established before independence in 1960. All the other development projects such as universities and polytechnics are sited either in Urhobo land, Itsekiri communities, Isoko communities, Ijaw Land or Anioma/Oshimili in Delta North.
The Kwali Polytechnic that was at the verge of inception in Ndokwa land was muscled away at the National Assembly not too long ago, leaving the Ndokwa Nation with socio-economic injustice.
Mr President, despite the state of affairs, the people remained resiliently peaceful, law abiding and continued to seek dialogue and constitutional means to address these wrongs. We shall continue to explore non-violent channels of communication such as this protest letter presents to express our grievances to the ruling government in Nigeria.
I would therefore advocate that the federal government through her relevant Ministries should extend a hand of duty to Ndokwa land, give the people a sense of belonging and develop the area for the utmost benefit of all and sundry.
I shall go to Rabbi again.
Evans Ufeli is a Lagos-based legal practitioner and Executive Director,.Cadrell Advocacy Centre