NDDC Project Diversion: Furupagha Ijaw Kick, Want Akeredolu To Stop Rep’s Move

‘We Have No Water, Electricity, Other Social Amenities’-Furupagha Ijaw

Demand State Of Emergency In Development For The Area

By Joseph Kanjo

The Ijaw speaking people of Furupagha Kingdom in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State have begged governor of the state, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, to urgently prevail on member representing Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo/Odigbo federal constituency at the House of Representatives, Hon. Mayor Akinfolarin, to relocate the only access road awarded to Ebijaw ward by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to its initial site and immediately commence work.

They said the NDDC, after much consultation and lobby, awarded a 2km access road from Obajare to Ebijaw town in 2017 and was published for bidding but unfortunately when the construction was to commence this year it was diverted to a far Asejire community with an order from Hon. Mayor.

Furupagha Ijaw disclosed this recently in a meeting with Odigbo Local Government Chairman, Deaconess (Mrs). Margaret Akinsiroju, at the Council’s secretariat, Ore, wherein they poured out their minds on the neglect of the people of the clan by the government.

Speaking on behalf of the Ibe-Okosuwei of the clan, Mr. Karinate Odushu, said all efforts to convince Mayor to relocate the project to the original site NDDC awarded it have been proved abortive as he (Mayor) has egocentrically boasted that if the Ijaw people disallowed the project commencing from the wrong site it will amount to losing it (access road).

Mr. Karinate noted before the Council Chairman that they (Ijaws), after several meeting with Hon. Mayor received an advice from him (Mayor) to call the then Chairman, House Committee on NDDC and talk to him since he is an Ijaw man.

He said they did as Mayor instructed and the then House Committee cchairman on NDDC, Hon. Mutu listened to their demands and promised to do something, which according to him he eventually did.

His words, “We met severally with Hon. Mayor to use his position to enlist our road for construction by the NDDC, but he told us that he has been making effort but all seem to be abortive. He then advised us to call House Committee Chairman on NDDC, Hon. Nicholas Mutu and speak with him, that he will listen. And I personally called Hon. Mutu and spoke the language with him and he was surprised but promised to do something, which he did.

“When the road was eventually approved and was published for bidding, Hon. Mayor asked us to write a thank letter to Hon. Mutu which we did, but we were surprised when contractors were mobilised to site this year, we saw signboard carrying our community name, that is, ‘construction of Obajare-Ebijaw access road’ at wrong location-Asejire. This is wrong and shouldn’t continue, so we stopped it.”

“We then went to meet Hon. Mayor to draw his attention to this anomalies but to our surprise, Hon. Mayor was aware of it. He was behind the whole show. He told us to allow the project to continue at the wrong site and that we should wait for phase2. When would phase2 that will never come, come? We know the effort we made before this road was approved. And as far as the NDDC is concerned, they have approved road for the only ward that qualifies Odigbo Local Government to be enlisted into the Commission”, he added.

He continues, “Hon. Mayor called we the Ijaws all sorts of unprintable names just because we insisted on what belongs to us. He egocentrically threatened to put a final stop to the project so that we finally lose it if we disallowed the project from the wrong site. Why must a project that we made personal effort on be denied us and diverted? Is it because we are Ijaw in the local government?”, Karinate questioned.

He said Hon. Mayor’s effort in enlisting the road could not yield much result not until they personally intervened and explained to the House Committee on NDDC on how the road falls under the Commission and this made the Committee to approved it because the initial belief was that Odigbo LG do not fall under the NDDC.

Still recounting the injustices and marginalisation done to Ebijaw ward, Karinate revealed how a rural electrification project awarded by the NDDC to the area was stopped abruptly in 2014

“In 2014, some contractors came to mount poles on the road that they are bringing electricity to our area. They did that caricature work for a while and that was all. We didn’t see them again. They came to cajole our people and that was all”, he added.

No Standard healthcare In Furupagha

Speaking on other sundry challenges at the meeting, Mr. Karinate described the Ijaw speaking people of Furupagha clan as the most neglected, impoverished and inflicted people living on earth in this present generation.

He lamented that the entire Furupagha clan in Ebijaw ward has no electricity, pipe-borne water, secondary school, access road, one epileptic maternity centre, etc.

Stressing further, the emotional Karinate noted that lack of pipe-borne water in the area has resulted in prevailent of diseases and untimely death as the people relies on water from the Owena river for drinking. He said this same river the people defecate and do all sorts of waste dumping.

Enumerating some of the sicknesses and diseases Furupagha Ijaw are faced with, he further lamented that as a result of unavailability of healthcare services, diseases such as, lymphadenopathy, onchocerciasis, onchodermatitis, gross haematorea also known as blood urine, etc, are prevailent in the area up till date.

He disclosed that the only maternity in the entire clan is epileptic with just two nurses deployed to manage it.

“He said, “Mr. Chairman, the Furupagha clan under this local government has no standard healthcare, no hospital. The only maternity in the ward is epileptic and non-functional. It is located in Ebijaw while other communities have none. Only two nurses were deployed to work there, and these two medical personnels are my people. I mean they are our Ijaw brothers from Arogbo.

“As I speak to you Mr. Chairman, there is prevailent of infant mortality at my area. Our people die from preventable death due to lack of healthcare facilities. We still live in the stone age; our women still put to bed under the Banana tree. How one of our women bled to death in Gbenewei community during childbirth in 2016 is still fresh in our memories. This is just few of the numerous deaths, time will not permit us to mention further.

“As I talk to you lymphadenopathy, onchocerciasis, onchodermatitis, gross haematorea-blood urine is still prevailent in our clan. You can send your health personnels to carry out some tests. In years past, even when we too were very younger, we used to think if you don’t urinate blood you are not normal. We used to think urinating blood is normal while the opposite is abnormal. And up till date, some persons still hold to that erroneous belief in that area. Urinating of blood is as a result of the dirty water intake from Owena river.”

Furupagha clan has no school

Mr. Karinate decried negligence of the Ebijaw ward by successive governments in the state, adding that all cries to them fell on deaf hears as efforts to meet them in order to present plights of the people before them were aborted.

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He claimed that Ondo State government has consciously under-educate and denied the ward qualitative education by not deeming it fit to at least plant a secondary school in the entire ward.

According to him, the only primary school which is Local Authority (LA) Primary School, Ebijaw, built in 1955 is at the verge of collapse, adding that no teachers to teach the pupils schooling there.

He disclosed that Ondo State government deployed only two teachers to the school to teach classes 1-6. He wondered and asked how such two teachers could teach and manage the 6 classes effectively and efficiently.

He said unavailability of standard schools either primary or secondary forced parents in the village to send their wards to Ore and Benin City to receive such education.

“Go out and move around in the town of Ore, any young kids you see playing around, beckon on them and ask them where they are from, they will definitely mention one of the communities in our clan. Now, because of unavailability of school, parents leave the village to look for house to rent for their wards either in Benin or Ore. Then after that, they pack 6 to 9 or more that could be from different parents in a room and they school. In this process, many of them are exposed to all sorts of vices at little age. The female are exposed to sex and this has resulted in infant pregnancy in our area. Go there, you will see teenagers with babies.

“This is because we do not have any standard school in the entire ward. We do not have secondary school and so, those who finish from the dilapidated primary school have to move out to Ore, Benin or any other town at their reach to further. Those who cannot afford it end their education at this point.

“The government-owned primary schools are at the verge of collapse. For instance, LA primary school, Ebijaw, was built by the then old Western Government in 1955. Now, the buildings there are collapsing. Besides, as our wards are managing the school with this pitiable condition, the government of Ondo State has refused to supply us teachers to teach our children. The government deployed only two teachers to teach the entire school comprising classes 1 to 6. How can two teachers teach effectively and efficiently classes 1 to 6?”, He further asked.

No Access Road In Ebijaw Ward

He noted that Furupagha Ijaw and the entire Ebijaw ward has no access road, stressing that the only access road approved by the NDDC has been diverted by power that be.

He said the road in question was opened by Hon. Emmanuel Odushu during his days as councillor of the ward during the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republicans Convention (NRC) and that since he left office the road has been abandoned.

According to him, the other road that leads to the area was opened through communal efforts and that because of the raining season it is inaccessible.

He noted that the road which runs through Ìrele, Ajagba, Atoranse, etc to Ebijaw is a wrong route and takes much time while plighing it, adding that if the normal road was taken care of, there would not be need to to open such wrong route at the first instance.

He pleaded to Ondo State government, as a matter of urgency, declare state of emergency of development in Ebijaw ward so as to tackle the numerous challenges facing them.

He further requested the creation of Furupagha Ijaw Local Council Development Authority (LCDA) so as to properly and continually address the challenges and develop the area.

He noted that the clan has submitted memo to that effect and has consequently defended it before the state government when they were called to defend it.

Also speaking, one of the natives of the area who was in attendance at the meeting but does not want his name mentioned, pointed to marginalisation in the area of appointment and employment.

He said Furupagha clan and the entire Ebijaw ward has qualified graduates from different fields but are not employed either by the council or the state government.

Accroding to him, looking at the state civil service, it is either the ward has one or two persons at the state civil service or none, saying it is an injustice to the ward.

He said on political appointment, successive governments in the state never deem it fit to appoint any Ijaw man from the ward though Ore2 (ward) which was carved out from Ebijaw ward has been enjoying political appointments and employment opportunities from the state and local governments.

He said the Ijaw in Ebijaw ward are aborigines of the state hence should be accorded all benefits others in the state enjoyed.

Responding, Chairman of the Council, Mrs. Margaret Akinsiroju who listened to all demands and discussions with keen interest and by taking notes, pleaded for calm, saying demands will be addressed one after the other.

She thanked the people for toeing the path of peace and the patience in presenting their grievances, stressing that confrontation most times does not bear the required fruits.

She noted that had it been the meeting was not held, she wouldn’t have known the people in Ebijaw ward are faced with such challenges let alone the governor who is far away from them.

Deaconess Akinsiroju promised to do something on the the challenges and would handover to the state government the ones above her power.

She noted that for long, she has been in love with Ebijaw ward hence anything Ebijaw and Ijaw in partucular rings Bell in her hear hence she can’t take such with levity.

She said though the Council nor the state government was recruiting, demand on job placement into the Council and the state would be look into as she stressed, “Though we are not recruiting neither the state government, but I am going to open a special file to that effect in order to accommodate demand like this.”

The Ibe-Okosuwei of Furupagha clan, Pa, Hon. Emmanuel Odushu and other notable natives were in attendance at the meeting.

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