Thursday, 7 August 2014

Why Urhoboland attracts investors (Part 1)

                                 HRM, The Orodje of Okpe
                                 Photo credit: George Ogodi
To say Urhoboland is the most peaceful land in the entire country where investors can invest their money and go to sleep with their two eyes close without molestation from any quarters is to state the obvious. Urhobo is the most accommodative, peaceful and receptive nation among the various nations that constitute the country. As the fifth largest tribe in the country, it is the only tribe that has not taken up arms against the Federal Government despite the glaring marginalisation, oppression and provocation she has been suffering over the years.
The Urhobo nation hosts about 30 percent of oil and gas deposit in the country yet she is not a major player in the oil and gas industry in the country in terms of employment opportunities and ownership of oil blocs. In the midst of these vivid oppression of the Urhobos, they have however remain peaceful not for weakness, cowardice or lack of the will for self-determination but because they love the unity of the country.
Thus, the peaceful nature of the Urhobo people has been attracting people and investors from all over the world into the land. In the early 1980s industries such as Superbru Limited, Agbarah-Otor, Sparkling Brewery, Ughelli, Edewor Brewery, Eku, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Limited, Ekpan, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Delta Glass Limited, Ugehlli, African Timber and Plywood (ATP), Sapele, Delta Power Four, Ughelli, Delta Steel Company Limited, Ovwian-Aladja, Otorogu Gas Plant, Udu and many oil wells and flow stations were established in Urhoboland. Unfortunately, some of these industries had folded up due to erratic power supply and harsh economic policies introduced by the Federal Government.
Considering the amiable nature of the Urhobo people, one is most disturbed by an article written by one Mr. Peter Akpokere Ikolo titled “Urhobo’s Greed Scares Away Investors” and published on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 on Urhobo Today, an online publication. Regrettably, that article portrayed the Urhobo people as the most unfriendly people in the country. So, this article sets to correct the erroneous and damning position taken by Mr. Ikolo, the writer of the said article.
According to Ikolo, MTN that had a workforce of 500 personnel left Ugborikoko Community (Uvwie) because the aboriginals were making incessant demands such as refuse levy, community development levy, homage money for chiefs, requests for ghost workers etc.   Furthermore, Ikolo said that local government area sticker boys were harassing MTN vehicles demanding stickers for motor boy/conductor badge and permit for radio antenna. As a reasonable and thinkable Nigerian, I doubt if these were the reasons why MTN left Uvwie because what is the total value of the levies mentioned above? It must be that MTN was not having enough patronage from the Uvwie community in terms of profitability that was why the network provider left. If MTN could not operate in Uvwie as alleged by Ikolo because of the above mentioned levies, how has it been able to operate in harsh cities in Lagos? In Lagos State, revenue and tax collectors go about in bizarre manners to collect Radio Levy, Packing Levy, Mobile Advertisement Levy, Refuse Levy, Mast Levy etc. The Mobile Advertisement Levy collectors stand on the roads with spike iron which they place on the roads to stop and collect levies from vehicles that bear company names, logos and advertisements.
In addition, Omo-liles which is the equivalent of Emo-tors (sons of the soil) will not allow a truck to offload its loads if they are not paid certain fees. They also stand on the roads with spike iron with which they stop and collect various levies from vehicle with loads. Omo-liles in Lagos are also known as “agberos”. They collect different levies from commercial bus drivers including “money for environmental sanitation” every Thursdays and last Saturdays of the month! They collect money for park chairman’s food three times daily. I do not think this is practised in Uvwie. It cannot be contested that MTN is paying some of the above mentioned levies in some cities in Lagos for which Ikolo has branded the Urhobos as unfriendly. With these multiple levies MTN maybe paying in various cities in Lagos why has it not left such cities? Again, why should Ikolo brand the entire Urhobo people as unfriendly just because of what transpired in Uvwie which is just one local government council of the eight local government areas which constitute a major part of the Urhobo nation. Ikolo should not forget that we also have Urhobos in Patani and Warri-South Local Government Areas of Delta State and some parts of Bayelsa State! Have all these Urhobos in other parts of Delta and Balyesa States become unfriendly simply because of the event that occurred in Uvwie Local Government Council which is even in doubt?
Ikolo also accused the Urhobos of having “a myopic nature which is second to none in Nigeria”, saying that “in the 1960s, the Urhobo people of Ughelli (by omission or commission) drove away Royal Dutch Shell (SPDC) that wanted to site its head office there. In the 1970s, the same Urhobo people of Ughelli drove away NNPC (IDSL) that wanted to site its regional office in the town”. To Ikolo I ask, what have all the oil wells, flow stations, gas flaring plant sited at Ereke village in Kokori Town, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company in Ekpan, Otorugun Gas Plant in Udu, benefited the Urhobos? How many Urhobo people are working in those oil and gas companies that are hosted by the Urhobos? Is it not people from other parts of the country that are enjoying the sweat of the Urhobos? Yes, the Urhobo people of Ugehlli refused to give their lands to Shell and NNPC because they knew it would not benefit them as they were farmers and were using their lands for farming. Today, have the Urhobos of Ughelli not be vindicated for their refusal to give out their lands? Will the Urhobos of Uvwie who gave their land at Ekpan to the Federal Government to establish the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company repeat the same mistake today? Are they being paid royalties by the Federal Government for giving their lands for the refinery?
 Or, will the Urhobos of Ereke, Uvwie, and Ovwia-Aladja who gave their lands to Shell, Nigerian Army and the Federal Government to establish Ereke Gas flaring Plant, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company and Delta Steel Company Limited respectively, repeat the same costly mistake? Today, the Urhobos in Ereke are living with grave health problems such as asthma, cough, chronic bronchitis, glaucoma, premature death etc. occasioned by flaring gas that began many years back.


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