22/05/2022

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Gelegele Seaport Project: Crisis imminent as Ijaws send warning signal

8 min read

Full Press Statement

THE IJAWS OF EDO STATE EMANCIPATION MOVEMENT (IESEM)

GELEGELE (GELEGELE-GBENE) SEAPORT: ISSUES ARISING WITH REGARDS TO THE RIGHTS OF HOST COMMUNITIES OF GELEGELE SEAPORT PROJECT

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA)

It is given that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) legislations and the required procedural guidelines are outlined in International and National statutes and as such the Edo State Government is expected to acquaint itself and make available to all stakeholders especially with regards to monumental projects which impacts on the physical location, livelihood of millions, Flora and Fauna and as the complete environment of the Niger Delta is in question. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) declares: “Environmental Impact Assessment as a national instrument shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and subject to a decision of a competent authority”. The Nigerian EIA Act No. 86 of 1992 makes the EIA mandatory for development projects likely to have negative impacts on the environment. It further states in Section 14(1) (a) & (b)). Section 14(1) (d) States that the Federal, State, Local Council or any of its agencies, prior to the environmental assessment of the project in accordance with the EIA Act, shall not “under the provision of any law or enactment, issues a permit or license, grants an approval or takes any other action for the purpose of enabling the project to be carried out in whole or in part.”

The environmental impact assessment is the process of assessing the likely environmental impacts of a development proposal and identifying alternatives to minimize any potential environmental damage. It states chiefly amongst other guidelines the following;

  • It provides valuable information to the relevant decision makers (Stakeholders) regarding the key environmental issues in the determination process.

  • The outcome of the EIA is the development of a formal document known as the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which defines and set out factual information relating to the development and all the information gathered relating to the screening, scoping, baseline study, impact prediction and assessment mitigation and monitoring measures.

  • There must be public participation in planning and the decision making.

The delicate nature of the location site of the Gelegelegbene Sea Port makes it imperative for the Edo State Government to release the EIA report to the general public. The physical existence and livelihood of millions within the situate and proximate communities will surely be affected, the delicate ecosystem of the Niger Delta is also in the balance, steps must be taken to avert tipping this balance. The Rights Issues of the host communities must adequately be addressed also.

The Edo State Government past and present has never deemed it fit to consult the Ijaw Kingdoms in Edo State with regards to appropriating its land and resources for the benefits of the Oba of Benin and the Edoid speaking people of the State with total exclusion of the Ijaws, a modern day apartheid system within the Federal Government of Nigeria. The economic viability of Edo State is premised on the resources derived from the Five (5) Ijaw Kingdoms; Olodiama, Okomu, Furupagha, Gbarain and Egbema. The Ijaw Kingdoms have always been distinct and existed long before the formation of the Benin Kingdom, never were we part of the Benin Kingdom and we will never be.

POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC MARGINALIZATION

His Excellency, we write with pains in our hearts due to the injustices, dehumanization, and socio/political oppressions successive Edo State governments have subjected the Ijaw kingdoms of Olodiama, Egbema, Gbaraun, Ikimu (Okomu) and Forupagha, the Ijaws have been Balkanized into three Local Governments Councils in Edo State. It is a confirmation of our fears that after your successful campaign, promises and election, you have resorted to the old ways of your predecessors. You have made a mockery and denigrated the exulted office of the Governor of Edo State by being an ethnic champion of the Edoid instead of upholding to the constitution you swore on; to affirm and protect the rights of all within the geopolitical space called Edo State.

As you and all sane people should know except tribal demagogues, Edo State was not created for Edoid speaking people only but for all people whose rights fall within indigenous, geographical and social location within the State. The varied ethnic, religious and social compositions of other states within the Federal Republic of Nigeria make a valid example. That your failure as the Executive Governor of Edo State to recognize these simple and cardinal truths within the Nigerian constitution and to uphold the inherent human rights of all expected in a functional and decent society is not excusable in comparison to the deluded, misguided and provocative ethnic annexation adventures of the Oba of Benin.

Your administration has brought pains, hunger and sufferings to the Ijaws in Edo state.  His Excellency the Ijaws in Edo State had expected at least the minimum from you based on your manifesto and vast experience in governance. But all our hopes are now dashed because of the continuation of the injustices you inherited from your predecessors. We were in high spirit believing that you could redress some of the ethno sentimental policies exclusively in favour of the ethnic Edoid speaking put in place by previous governments.

His Excellency, these are some of the following repugnant and oppressive policies unleashed on the Ijaws of Edo state by successive Edo State governments.

(1)        That Ikimu (Okomu) and Olodiama kingdoms of the Ijaw Nation are the economic live wire that sustains the administration of the Government of Edo State yet we live in squalor and abject penury. You are aware that Okomu kingdom with the largest forest reserves in Nigeria if not Africa has no social amenities; there is no primary and secondary schools, no roads nor pipe borne water facilities. From the year 1929 till date successive administrations have made billions of dollars from Okomu kingdom without a corresponding social responsibility. Okomu Oil Palm Company, Okomu National Park Services and Osse Rubber Estate Limited and other forestry resources have been ruthlessly exploited to the benefits of Edo State Government and the Edoid speaking people with the total exclusion of the Ijaws.

(2)        The Gelegele (Gelegele-Gbene) Seaport project is exclusively situated in the Ijaw communities of Olodiama Kingdom in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo state. Both International and local statutes concerning any development and infrastructural projects avers that a Letter of Intent, MoU and An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report be compiled and published for the stakeholders (including host communities) to be abreast with the benefits and adverse effects of such particular projects. The general public should note that up to this time the Edo State Government has refused to make known to the critical stakeholders the existence of any of the above documents.

(3). That the Pere (King) in council HRM Godwin Ogunoyibo (Alagbabinafa, Aprabomini Itighiri) The Agadagba of Olodiama Kingdom has not been informed formally through any medium about the Gelegele-Gbene Seaport except on the pages of newspapers.

(4). The Governor Godwin Obaseki led government of Edo State has once again  demonstrated bad and discriminatory judgment highlighted by the composition of a seven man Gelegele-Gbene Seaport Committee, a project that is exclusively in Ijaw Land has one Ijaw man and six Edoid. This paradox underscores the contempt with which the Edo State Government holds the Ijaws.

In light of the forgoing’s we give the Edo State Government a 21 days ultimatum to implement the following demands.

(a). To provide a Letter of Intent with regards to the Gelegele-Gbene Seaport Project.

(b). To produce and make available an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report if any to the Agadagba of Olodiama Kingdom and the Gelegele Community.

(c). To produce and make available the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered by the Government of Edo state and China Habour Engineering Company (CHEC) to the Olodiama Kingdom.

(d). That the composition and recommendation work of the Gelegele (Gelegele-Gbene) Seaport Committee would not be recognized by us.

(e). To accord the Gelegele Community and Olodiama kingdom all the rights, privileges, benefits and royalties accruable from the project operations as owners of the land.

(f). The Edo State Government should immediately shelve its plan to rename Gelegele Seaport to Benin River Seaport. This plan is borne out from the bottom belly of evil and we shall resist it with our God given rights and by all means necessary. Gelegele is in Olodiama Kingdom (Ijaw Land); the naming of the port should reflect land ownership and recognize the rights of the indigenous communities.  The public should take note, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State will be held responsible in this matter if there is any breakdown of law and order.

And that failure to do so, we the owners of the land shall have no option other than to treat the presence of the Edo State Government and its Chinese Partners, China Habour Engineering Company (CHEC) as enemy invaders in our land.

As the Governor of Edo State you have unfettered powers to initiate and swing the development pendulum in balance for the common benefit of all ethnic nationalities in the State. Failure to do so with a sense of bias against the Ijaws in particular or any other ethnic nationality will amount to injustice and marginalization. The exercise of your executive powers should be based on the principles of equity, fairness and justice to all.

His Excellency, your secret visits and that of China Habour Engineering Company officials to Gelegele Community on the 5th and 19th of May 2018 respectively without a courtesy call on the Pere (King) in council, Pere Godwin Ogunoyibo; Alagbabinafa, Aprabomini! Itighiri! The Agadagba of Olodiama Kingdom is a sacrilege against the revered Ijaw Traditional Institution and a demonstration of raw power that tramples on the rights of the indigenous people and communities.

Note that the Government House is not an extension of the Oba Palace that is funded with monies derived from the Ijaw territories. We are tempted to believe that perhaps you are deliberately not abreast with the stark realities on ground, probably because you are prevented by the Bini Monarch that extends his authority to the Government House, no wonder the Government house now stands as an extension of the Oba’s palace. We are aware of the fact that when the Oba of Benin sneezes in his palace your blood pressure hits the peak with an unforeseen affliction that incapacitates you and shall soon incapacitate the whole State if this allergy is not well managed. We shall not fold our hands to watch this brazen oppression of the Ijaws of Gelegele community in Olodiama Kingdom and other Kingdoms. There is a ticking time bomb that is about to explode in Edo State and it seems you the Governor and the Oba of Bini as the constructors are too eager and ever ready to detonate it.

Signed for: IJAWS OF EDO STATE EMANCIPATION MOVEMENT (IESEM)

 

Joel KENIWENIMOWEI (Coordinator)

David EBIPAMOJO      (Spokesman)

 

CC: The Presidency Federal Republic of Nigeria

CC: The National Assembly of Nigeria

CC: The United Nations

CC: The United States Government (US Embassy)

CC: The Chinese Embassy

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