Uzere Crisis: Government, stakeholders seeing a hidden agenda – Adaka

Chief (Dr.) Fidelis Enanerome Adaka (JP) is a retired director from the Ministry of Economic Planning, Delta State. He is also an Odio in Uzere and the immediate past national vice president of Nigerian Statistical Association nationwide.

In this interview with Isoko Mirror at his country home in Uzere, Isoko South council area of the state, he shares his thoughts on the crisis and flooding in the community, as well as his belief that to have a conducive environment, there is need for all, youths especially, to embrace peace and security.

Excerpts:

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There is flood in parts of Uzere. Can you tell us about it and if it is a yearly occurrence?

Yes, there is flood in Uzere. Recently, for almost eight or nine years now, we are having it on a yearly basis. But before this time, maybe once in four years. With history and statistics, you can predict that this time we may not have flood or this time we will have flood. Now, after all the planning is failing us. It is failing us because maybe we are not proactive on what to do as a community, local, state or a federal government.

The one for this year, we tried as a community to open up the drains with our limited resources. Last year, the state government helped us a lot, His Excellency Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa sent down the Ministry of Environment to worked with us for five days. But the total work they did for that five days was about 60 percent of the job.

What exactly did they do?

They did a lot of drainage starting from the Asabase end, but they couldn’t complete that work. The implication of that is the other end which they could not complete, the water started mounting from that end into the community. To make the story worse, we are having what we call Isoko Ring Road, coming from Aviara to Uzere. That road, with what they have done, one side is higher than the other side, the water now came in from one side but there are no culverts or bridges so that the water can have some outlets.

In order words, it is not up to standard?

No, they have not completed it, really. They have only done the filling but we need culvert or bridges along the road. here are no culverts or bridges which is also part of the Uzere-Asabasi Road. If you are coming from Oleh and take a look at your left hand side, the water there is higher most especially after Uzere going to Asabase. This is because of the culverts that are not big enough, so the water is not finding it easy to follow.

In the new Isoko Ring Road, they have already done the sand filling but they have not done the tarring. We have one semi bridge which is not big enough, compared to the one on the Eru Federal Ministry of Works Road which is Oleh-Uzere-Asabase Road. But the one from Aviara to Uzere is smaller, so that one is controlling the water. Then, the culverts there are small too, which has not helped the situation. So the water is building up when coming from Aviara. We are grateful to Professor Ekoko which we heard is instrumental to opening it up. I told him that this year his house will be flooded and he said Adaka you have started and he continued till he was sacked, so he came in with bulldozer and swamp buggy and opened it up. Then opening it up again the water now came with full force and sacked everybody again, so with that people have to run to the IDP camp in Emede.

I can tell you that for the past three weeks, it has not been easy because people have been sacked with the drainage not properly done. This year nothing. Maybe, we didn’t follow it up because if we had appealed to the governor maybe he would have sent the people down or the commissioner that was there who was  friendly to us.

But it is not too late because in the coming year, some of us who are statisticians will still predict that this thing will come. If it will come, then we must all start working, some time as from November because within the next two weeks, I can assure you my Uzere people are in Emede who left us, I am lucky because in my place, we have one of the highest point in the community. We are not affected by the water but I can assure you that all the big people, call anyone and I will tell you they are sacked. We are not more than four chiefs that are in town now, all the other ones have found their way out.

What is the solution to this problem now?

I have already said if the government comes for another one or two weeks to do the drainage in Uzere, then the story will be a different one. If it is properly supervised, because another thing is to give work to people and have them do it well.

Like that of last year, the commissioner came twice and we all, including HRM Etuwede lll, took it upon ourselves to be there with them. I still appeal that as from November or January, government should send people to Uzere to come and complete that drainage because two weeks will change the story.

And the Aviara Road, the Ring Road, how is it?

Well, if I must be fair to the contractor, he his working. But from what we are hearing, the allocation is not commensurate or enough to complete the work. Some few months back, they where working there.

Is the road up to standard?

At the Aviara end yes. But at the Uzere end, you know, I also told you that it is only the sole base that has been done. The Avaria end was properly raised but the Uzere end is not high enough. We still need up to six inches to one foot height, in terms of putting laterite on it or putting sole base to re-pile it properly. These are parts of the problem. The flood is something that can be controlled if government partners with the community.

Is there an estimate as to the extent of destruction this flood has caused the community?

We’ve not done the compilation. If I may start with Professor Ekoko, a man having up to forty or fifty pigs that are relocated to another community, you can see the implication. You know such a thing happened to me in 2012. Before I came from Akwa Ibom, I discovered that my poultry had been flooded and within three weeks all the birds were sick and I lost more than half. I started selling them at a reduced price, so they can buy them from me if not the loss would have been too much. Professor Ekoko has a poultry farm. If you go to where we have plantain plantation, which also affected me, all are on the ground now, water has ravaged everything.

Is the damage up to a million?

Yes, it can not be less than millions if you go to Emiaso’s house for example, it is a big problem. If you go to Askia’s house, Barrister Urete’s house, even Iduh’s house, it is a fish pond now. He can not come back to his house until the middle of November so the damages caused by the flood can be put at about ten million.

But we also heard that it is crisis that drove people  away?

Well, I am in the rural area, you know I have limited information but in terms of crisis, it cannot be crisis. What am I running out for? I do not have any problem, I was not there when the youths were sharing the millions or when they were been remoted by some people. Even when we tell them please what you are doing is wrong.

What do you think is the cause of the crisis?

The crisis is almost a month old. In fact, we ought to have our conference on 31 August and on 30 and 31, who got a news from council that the conference had been postponed. What was the reason? They said the youths said the president did not release to them the N20 million set aside by those who are coming to re-enter the community, that is NPDC, for skill acquisition. And the youths are claiming that the N20 million is for them. I am aware in 2014, such money was given to us. N29.4 million in N2 million was set aside within that money for skill acquisition. The money is for everybody. They train you if you want to learn. What’s wrong in you giving me modern system of doing my plantation?

So the youths said the money is for them. But the president said it’s for everybody and it should be in his account for the disbursement. There also side information that says somebody fought for the money and should be given to him as a contract, that is Chief Columbus Oguname. Oguname said he was the one who approached NPDC and that the contract should be given to him and so he is a major stakeholder. So for youths saying that the money be paid to them, cannot hold. And that he had already bought some materials and recruited people for the training. The youths were fast enough, led the chairman of council and some other powerful people who gave them backing and they pressurised us that we cannot hold our conference, against the community’s constitution.

As law-abiding people we agreed and thought of ways to get out of it. It was on that basis we, as delegates from branches, said let’s put our house in order. At that period, council in its wisdom shared the money. We heard, as a Chief that 12.2 million was given to the youths, 3 million to the women, 3 million to the men, 1 million to the person who facilitated the work.

But if you are going to have justice, your hands must be clean. If people are going to be accountable for money, during the buying of these equipments, we heard too that they were not ready to give account to their fellow youths and that prompted disagreements between them. It is part of the crisis that has lingered on and snowballed into what the council added more fire. The council added more fire because it called people outside the system to adjudicate on internal matters. If he had been able to bring major stakeholders from Uzere to take decisions… He brought instead the executive and security agents and took another decision which maybe did not go well with people. That one again caused the added crisis we are witnessing. But when God has anointed a people, for example Uzere having oil, fishes, groundnut, yam, palm seedlings enough good for a system, people will always say ‘oh, let me befriend or eat from this people.’ So people who wants to eat by force now put fire into this system and that is what we are witnessing. The people who are not major stakeholders want to eat, most especially the OML 28. How can they eat? They create problem. I have been a  PRO of the community in the 80s and 90s, when we go to Shell, anytime we want to arrive at final decision, Shell will transfer the officer we have been talking with then we will start again. That is what council is now doing. A situation were council will pronounce a president and council sent someone to witness the election of Felix Enwenede in the present of our women, chiefs, delegates. To say I suspend you without these three major stakeholders, how would it look like?

In order words, the suspension is wrong?

Very wrong. It is against our constitution. One man cannot suspend a group and we do not suspend people from outside. You suspend people in our town hall, that is what is in the constitution. He cannot suspend Uzere’s president. It’s just like somebody suspending him from nowhere. People in National Assembly suspending Edo House members without hearing from them, that is what he has done. You are suspending Uzere’s president from being a president, not in Uzere town hall, you did not even come and listen to us.

In fact, let me ask, the people captured 15 persons from Uzere about four months ago, who managed it? Is it not Felix Enwenede that said, Uzere, please take it easy, I will discuss with my colleague president general and IDU president to see how we solve it’. Did the chairman of council say that is failed leadership? That is failed leadership from you leaving your community to another. That would have been big war on the head of the council chairman. But Enwenede averted that with Uzere leadership. For singling out Enwenede that he has erred is wrong. He did not talk about Enwenede executive. If he really wanted to act, he would have acted and said, all you executive you are suspended. Some few Uzere citizens, come and act within that time. But we do not have provision for that. But if he as council chairman is giving such advice, he should come that advice in Uzere town. That is my argument. He cannot rule Uzere form the council. We can partner together.

What is the stakeholders of Uzere saying about this decision?

No, it has no effect on us. When Uzere wakes up, you know, an average Uzere man, lives, dines and gives judgement like a king. If you want to rubbish people and not attach wisdom to what you have done, we will remain silent and forget about it.

Are you saying that Uzere does not recognize the suspension issued by the council chairman?

We are not aware of any suspension. It is you who is making me aware. How did he communicate that to people. And nobody has cried to us. The Council Chairman will soon start suspending kings in Isoko south LGA.

The President has not told you he is suspended?

His own house has been submerged I the flood, so he has reason to be in Oleh. He cannot come in, apart from our town hall which is also high. He won’t want to stress people,no need for calling meeting. Like this one you are telling me, some of us, because of our position, we aware that such statements was issued. It is not documented anywhere. He has not done anything which warrants that. He has solved some problems. Every human being is bound to err and deserves training. If you think he has not done well, let’s train him together, let’s advise him on what to do. He has saved lives. If Uzere had gone to attack Igbide when they capture 15 people, it is not a matter of this internal crisis, that was between to communities and that is as a result of leadership failure by Igbide people. We stomached it.

What did the community do to try to solve the issue before it got to the council and escalated?

The intervention was so swift. We have the three Eletus who take care of issues like this. We heard the youths, women, held a meeting. When the youths were insisting that the money should be paid into their account, the women were saying we had our own account before you the youths, so if any money should be paid into anybody’s account, it is our own. And it would have been better, which is apart of the agenda I the August meeting, but it was aborted. It is that August meeting that a committee, my thinking though, will be set up to see how we can manage the N20 million. In stead of allowing these people to come out and hold their meeting, the meeting was aborted without consultation. If he had come and asked, where is the leadership of this community, where is the Ovie?

People will now come and tell me, which of the Ovies am I talking about? If we go back to history, the problem we are also facing is government to a point. Government is the one who advised us in 2012 to go and swear to an affidavit that based on new laws and customs this person is no longer qualified. Government advised that we should go and swear that our Ovie at that time can no longer be Ovie.

Did you do that?

That is what we did. The women groups, the Chiefs, the kingmakers all of them swore to an affidavit. When they now gave this letter to his Excellency Uduaghan, he said, yes that’s a good one, but you will also carry it to the High Court to give you a ruling on it. A ruling is like a settlement saying that is our decision. When they got there, the judge said no that is not how he will give this ruling, we will invite the other person to defend himself and that is where we are today. It is that one that both parties are still defending till today. The issue is that the advice of the then governor, which he has come to apologise that he erred when he wanted to contest for Senate. the issue now is that when you are when you are in government you can do and undo and when you are no longer in government you can come and apologize which is wrong. Any leader should try as much as possible to be fair to his subjects.

What is the way forward for the crisis because we also heard that the PG has been in police custody?

I told you I’m not aware, the present general, Iduh and co, Askia, Sir Irogbo, they are not in town because their houses have been flooded. Myself, you can see the water is in only a part of it, it is not flooded, so I can be in town. At my own end here, I do not have problem with anybody. I love my people and my people love me I did not hear of any gunshot, we are enjoying ourselves.

In other words, it was fake news?

That is my own belief. Do you threaten people with gun? If there are gunshots, why are you shooting the guns.

What about the claims that there were soldiers mounted across community?

Yes, police came I think last week Saturday or Friday with about 20 trucks. It was not only police but different military forces. That is not news to us. Even the military has told us that we should not be afraid that they will be going round on their Crocodile something and they are also trying part of their fitness so we do not have problem. It is you who commit a crime that will be running.

But they mentioned names that Gen Ogumadia is sponsoring some youths, Prince Sam Ogrih, even Chief Askia and the King, HRM Etuwede lll is also sponsoring them. What is your take on this?

Anybody who wants to destroy his leader is also destroying himself. If you ask who is the person, you will not even get the person. We normally preach to our children, please don’t cause problems, it will not pay you. Gen. Ogomudia who will come to Uzere with not more than two police assistants, is the one coming to say shoot? And if Ogomudia is shooting, is he not a marksman? Will he shoot air. So it’s not true. Ogrih is another peace loving man. In 2012/2013 we were in a peace Committee. He will not think of that. Ogrih is the last person I will say is fuelling such a thing. Etuwede is the king at home here. How would you make your place ungovernable for yourself? The answer is no.

But I am aware the youths of nowadays, not only in Uzere, everywhere, they are greedy. And because of greed, selfishness, they will create problem for people, talk anyhow. There is no iota of truth to say this or that. Iduh which you talked about, was he not levied on 2011 that he was kidnappilng and all that. He was taken to Abuja and he came back after investigation. People will come out to want to destroy you but try as much as possible to have your hands clean. I still appeal to everyone that those who want to make cheap popularity can start targeting any person. But I am aware they using some individuals because of OML 28.

Is it the youths of the community?

Yes. You maybe aware of N120million they (NPDC) used in knocking door. So many people who are not form Uzere are interested in being major stakeholders. OML 28 is singularly owned by Uzere. It’s just like OML 25 owned by a community in Rivers State. They just entered and gave them water, light and employment to the tune of 100 youths at once. This peoplehave started working casually, angular drilling so that they can say they want to settle some people without properly doing things. Even if you look at OML 30, people who you are working for will not pay contractors, or staff as at when due. They signed a GMoU or MoU, they will not attest to it, these oil companies.

Sometimes when we say government is abetting, who is this government? It’s me but somebody is sitting at the steering. Our children have said production has increased, now give us our N10… That is the question Uduaghan asked us in 2012, what do we want an MoU for? We said so that it is time between us. So NPDC being trained by Shell, will like to make trouble while they do the drilling and the community will be trying to settle. They have not come in properly, but they have set people trying to cause problems. Signing agreements is one, adhering to it is another thing. Uzere has been protecting that oil field, OML 28 in Uzere West for the past nine years without problem. Can they pay the compensation? But if we bring that now, they will say oh you are over demanding. When they went to OML 25, all these things were paid and theirs was only two years. So anybody who is drilling our oil, give us our five percent and we will know what to do with it.

What is the electricity situation in the community?

Electricity is like blood. Without power no business can thrive, the economy can’t grow. We have the gas but it is being wasted. The modular refineries are achievable, the raw materials are there, free of charge. Cost effects are low. The site earmarked by Chief Udogor for a modular refinery is still there during the time of Obasanjo. It was the office of the vice president that did the approval.

What is wrong in having one in Uzere, even in Isoko land? There is one that IDU wanted to bring down, propoding that it should be in Ogini area of Ozoro. The cog in that very one now is biserk. The problem is that without Light, light is like blood, if there is no blood in human being we will die. We are silently dying in Nigeria because no business thrives. I spend minimum of N500 daily in this house. And the light will go off around 12. Couple with the money we pay to BEDC. Whether they read your meter or not, we still pay about N6,000 to N8,000. Through the modular refineries, the industries will grow, the artisans will work. When they are working the GDP will increase.

My appeal to government is a modular refinery, Uzere needs one or give us our turbine. With the turbine the problem will be drastically reduced. Sometimes when some of us say government is interested and is not doing the right thing, it is because of some of these things that are not there. If the turbine is working, these youths will be busy.

You will think Uzere gods are not fighting, Uzere gods will pay anybody who for one reason or the other try to cause problem and pain to Uzere people when we are peace loving. Our motto for example is ‘peace and love’. Let them give us light.

Your last word?

There is always a payback period. The hidden agenda in Uzere crisis, we are seeing it but nobody is saying this is it. Government is seeing it but it is not ready. There was to be a judgement in Warri last July, the judge told us that people are already celebrating for a judgement that he has not given. Because of that he is no longer giving us judgement. He is sending the case, that is the case of Uduaghan, and we are now in Udu. We have not even started because the case was allocated beginning of the year and they are on recess now. I think they will start on 24 October before we will go there again. w

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