Ocean surge endangers 21 oil Itsekiri communities

Emma Amaize

10 March 2012, Sweetcrude, WARRI - OVER 21 Itsekiri oil-producing communities in Warri North and Warri South-West Local Government Areas of Delta State have been submerged or are currently facing the threat of being wiped away due to sea encroachment, presumably caused by oil exploration and exploitation activities in the past few decades.

A Niger-Delta activist and president of the Itsekiri Development Association, IDA, Comrade Newuwumi Omolubi , who is from Oghere, one of the affected communities in Warri North local government disclosed in an interview that the estimated distance of the oil wells in the affected communities from their ancient settlements was 100 nautical miles and above.

The affected communities are Molume, Ugbege, Ewolesa,Ebokiti, Ekekporo, Eke-Igharo, Ototo, Eke-titon, Ogheye-uton Ogbeye –Dimigun. Ogheye- Eghorokpe, Ogheye, Zion, Ajadogo, Ugogo-egin, Oboghoro, Atankpoki, Utonlila, Jakpatie, Aja-eye, Orere-yanagho, Atsuran, Oriebu, Orubu, Bobi, Olobe, Bateren-tie and Bateren.

Others are Deghele, Aja-oluna, Egheyo, Agokutu, Agogboro, Sumuge, Costain, Utonlila-oko, Canal, Ugborodo, Arunton, Madangho, Aja-udayibo, Akpakpa-Aja-udiyibo, Ogidigben, Ugbegugun, Kolokolo, Arunton-kolokolo, Ugbeghetsi, Tisun, Usor Eghoro, Ureju, Saratie, Ureju-sisin and Beresibe.

He said he was, therefore, bewildered at the contention of the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Dr. Aliyu Babaginda, that oil wells located 200 kilometers offshore should be treated as a ‘common patrimony’, not knowing that people own and inhabited those places before they were sacked by ocean surge.

“For somebody who comes from the coast line in Oghere, Warri North local government area of Delta state, I cannot attempt to go by canoe or even speedboat to where my grandfather’s house used to be again because the ancient community had since been swept away by the surging Atlantic Ocean, which claims one community after the other yearly.”

“The oil wells in these communities are what is now being claimed to belong to the Federal Government because they are 200 nautical miles from the present community,” he asserted.

“Apart from dislocating the communities, what about the economic and traditional effects – because in the North, someone can trace the house of his father and great grandfather, but in the coastline , in the Niger Delta, the people have to build new houses every five years because of ocean surge.”

“This is the deprivation we suffer and 13 per cent derivation fund is not even enough for this desecration,” Omolubi stated.

“A lot of communities in both Warri North, Warri South-West and other parts of the Niger-Delta region have been lost to ocean surge and yet, the federal government continues to deny such states their dues because of the Supreme Court ruling on the 200 nautical miles judgment, which did not take into cognizance that people lived in those places before the oil wells were established there.”

The activist noted that, “In terms of local governments and land space, the north has been cheating other sections of the Nigerian nation, as the numbers of local governments and land space are among the criteria for sharing revenue and they have been collecting royalties on barren lands, spread across the north.”

“Against this backdrop, the recent agitation by the Northern governors to review the Revenue Allocation Formula and the 13 per cent derivation funds to oil producing states is to say the least unfair, provocative and uncalled for”.

Omolubi opined that the demand was in bad faith and capable of worsening the current security situation in the country, arguing that the notion by the governors that the northern states were being short-changed was irrational and irresponsible.

He faulted the argument put forward by the forum that the old oil wells that are 200 nautical miles away are for the federal government, saying that these oil wells were inhabited by communities and people before they were driven out by ocean surge, sea encroachment and its devastating effect on the soil.