By Mono Edon
Ifiekporo community shares landmass with Ijala, Itsekiri’s ancestral heartbeat location of Warri Royal Cemetery, and where Itsekiri’s first king, Ginuwa, settled around 1480 before crossing over to Ode-Itsekiri which is not far from Ifie. Both of them are located in Warri South Local Government Area. Before 2007, Ifiekporo was accessible off the Refinery Jetty road. It was referred to as “that community behind Warri Refinery” or a reference for pottery and fishing, the two predominant trades of Ifiekporo indigenes before 2007.
The decision by the Chief James Ibori administration to allow the N27 billion Trans Ode-Itsekiri Bridge and Access Roads Projects take off from Ifiekporo changed the fortune of this relatively unknown community forever. Interestingly, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was coordinator in his capacity as the Secretary to the State Government.
May 29, 2007 will forever be treasured by the Itsekiris. It was the day Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Chief Ibori’s erstwhile coordinator of the state’s economy was sworn into office as his successor. Finally, a kinsman from Itsekiri, Delta’s largest contributor to the state’s coffers would be addressed as the Executive Governor of Delta State. True Deltans hailed his emergence as governor because Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was a well-grounded professional and stakeholder of the “Project Delta” from the inception of Nigeria’s democracy in 1999.
Delta being a multi-ethnic state, it goes without saying that whoever wishes to lead as governor, must be detribalised, all-embracing, visionary, have peaceful disposition in quelling ethnic tensions and an uncanny sense of equity in carrying along all the tribes. Dr. Uduaghan had all the above qualities. He made sure that his government was taken to all Deltans, even to the remotest of places. People felt his government without him being directly involved in influencing or hijacking projects to his kinsmen. Every tribe benefited from his government through his three-point agenda viz; Human Capital Development, Infrastructural Development, Peace and Security.
Although the N27 billion Trans Ode-Itsekiri Bridge and Access Roads project was awarded to Setraco Nigeria Ltd in August 2006 during the Ibori administration, serious work began in 2007 when Dr. Uduaghan mounted the saddle of leadership of the state. Funds were committed to the project simultaneously with other mega projects embarked upon in other areas of the state by his administration. Suffice it to say that he spent his first tenure completing the projects left behind by his predecessor. As government is a continuum, he completed them while conceiving new ones which suffered as a result of the countless politically motivated litigation from every corner of the state.
Some of his traducers are wont to mock him that he could not turn his hometown to London like his predecessor did at Oghara but these are the same people who would have called for his head if he had played the ethnic card which has continually plunged this state into ethnic strife and divisiveness.
For lovers of truth, Ifiekporo, an Itsekiri town is one of the numerous unknown towns that blossomed under Dr. Uduaghan’s administration based on the evidences of equitable dividends of his people-policy style of governance.
The Trans Ode-Itsekiri Bridge and Access Roads project designed to link Warri mainland starting from Ubeji to riverine communities of Ifie-Gbodede-Usele-Inorin-Ajigba-Orugbo-Ode Itsekiri may not have been completed but already the gains of work done have seen nine of the total 26 sub-bridges completed and put to use In Ifiekporo. These nine bridges connect Ifiekporo to Ubeji and Ijala. Unfortunately, prior to the commencement of this project, the old Warri Refinery bridge linking Ifie to the Warri Refinery Jetty road had collapsed and cut off Ifiekporo from Warri mainland. This old bridge was not meant for heavy vehicles. It was the Warri Refinery’s private property.
Those who thought the Itsekiri-born immediate past governor did not show enough commitment to the mega Trans Ode-Itsekiri Bridge and Access Roads project may have forgotten that he personally ensured that Setraco was swiftly mobilized so that the Ifie end of the project would be reconnected to Warri mainland through Ubeji.
Interestingly, the remote Ifiekporo became open to the world. A long access road was constructed running from Ubeji through the bridges to the NPA river. A community which was famed only for the Warri Royal Cemetery was now open to massive economic activities. Heavy machinery, vehicles can now access Ifie. Soon, Matrix Energy Oil & Gas, Pinnacle Oil & Gas, AYM Shafa, Lanaka, A&E Petrol made Ifie their destination. Thousands migrated from Warri main town (including indigenes who had never been home) to this new town. The relatively quiet community bustled with economic activities in such indescribable rapidity much to the amazement of indigenes who have suddenly been overwhelmed by foreigners.
The change of fortunes of Ifiekporo under Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan was surreal. Ifiekporo has suddenly become the darling of the Warri South Local Government Council because of the plethora of companies Ifiekporo is hosting. The community fits the ideals of its drive for internally generated revenue.
In this 2018, two of the above companies are already building gas plants and new companies are arriving because of the strategic location of Ifiekporo. It has become somewhat of a port. Heavy ships can berth at Ifiekporo, adjacent the Warri Refinery Jetty.
The short-term gains of the project, notwithstanding, which has resulted in the industrialization of Ifiekporo, this mega project is yet to be completed because the main bridge that would link Ifie to another riverine community, Ugbodede, and the other communities has not taken off. A cable bridge was proposed at conception but that is looking unlikely because of the stiff resistance by the Nigerian Ports Authority that any bridge below 100 fit would impede sail of cargo vessels on the international waters. The implication of such warning meant that the bridge would have to peak from Ubeji or the other alternative would be an bascule bridge which the Dr. Uduaghan administration could not address before the end of his administration. Although the Okowa-led government has said about N7.6 billion would be required to complete the project, we are yet to see the contractor back on site.
As we look forward to the completion of the project, the massive role Dr. Uduaghan played in setting this project on course will never be forgotten by the Ifiekporo people. Because of his commitment, the community is on the economic map of Nigeria.
May God bless Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan for opening up Ifiekporo town and may God grant his heart’s desires as he vies to represent the good people of Delta South Senatorial District at the Senate.
- Monoyo Edon, a journalist, writes from Ifiekporo town, Warri, Delta State.*