•Sagay, Lori-Ogbebor, Itsekiri leaders ask for probe
•Presidential C’tte on anti-graft pledges action
By Charles Kumolu,
Deputy Features Editor
The fate of $6 million and N1 billion provided for the construction of Ugborodo New Town in Warri Kingdom, Delta State, is being questioned by Itsekiri leaders.
The funds which were paid by Chevron and Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, into the account of Itsekiri Regional Development Council, IRDC, at different times are feared missing.
As a result of the situation, Ugborodo community, Saturday Vanguard gathered, is on the verge of being washed away by the sea, while there is nothing on the ground to suggest that a new town has been constructed for the oil-rich community.
Worried about the issue, Warri Women Consultative Assembly, Itsekiri youths and elders took the matter to the Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay, urging him to look into the issue in his capacity as head of the anti-graft committee.
A petition detailing the history of the funds from the donation of $6 million by Chevron to the provision of N1 billion by DESOPADEC, was handed over to him.
Attached to the protest letter signed by Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor and Sir A.S Mene, was a document authored by Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, ILOT, Verification Committee on DESOPADEC, which revealed that only 15 units of bungalows at foundation level were the structures at the site of the proposed new town.
At the forum in Lagos, Sagay, who is also of the Itsekiri ethnic extraction, did not only condemn the mismanagement of community development funds but promised to take appropriate action.
Sagay, a chief of the Warri kingdom, lamented that the misappropriation of such funds was common in Itsekiri nation unlike in Urhobo, Ijaw and other oil producing ethnic groups.
To this end, he urged the youths and women of Itsekiri land to rise against such practices, adding that they possessed the right to do so.
I’ve been trying to take action—Sagay
His words: “I have been trying to take action on this issue in the last two years. I think Warri has a structural problem. I mean that there is no defined transparent authority to be given dues. There is no authority that can be monitored to ensure that money is actually used for what it is meant for. A few people just collect the community development money and that is the end of the story. Other ethnic groups would not tolerate it but the Itsekiri are tolerating it. “Whenever some Itsekiri groups like student groups come to me for financial assistance, I often ask why they come to me when we are one of the richest ethnic groups with funds being donated by DESOPADEC and oil companies. I usually ask why they often come to a modest earning person like me. Does it mean that there is no provision for youths? In a way, our young ones are also responsible for this problem. In other places young people demonstrate and nobody can ignore them but everybody is keeping quiet.
N40 billion in their accounts.
“They know those who are looting and nobody is saying anything. I offer assistance to them but unhappily because I felt they have not displayed vigour and to challenge the looters. I am definitely going to take this matter up but we need to have a structure that would properly handle and monitor the use of funds for what they are meant for. If the funds are mismanaged it would be possible to identify whoever is responsible and prosecute the person. It is very sad that this is happening in Itsekiri land. The Ijaw will not accept it and the Urhobo will not accept it. I don’t know why we are accepting it. I hear of 12 disciples who are collecting money and they are not doing anything. Some of them have about N40 billion in their accounts. Yet, Itsekiri nation is poor, wretched and deteriorating and nobody is doing anything about it.
Writing letters to EFCC
“Apart from me taking this action, I think there is a need for the youths to get together and issue a strong statement that they would no longer tolerate the looting. Prevention is better than cure. What we are trying to do is to find a cure but it could have been prevented. The youths should confront this problem frontally. No Igbo person or Hausa person can do that to his people, it is only the Itsekiri that can do it. This is something that is relatively new in Itsekiri land because in 1979 during the Shagari era, there were some structures and things were being done in an organised fashion because men of integrity were in charge. I will take up this issue but I am appealing that the youths should be organised since the women are already organised. When women and youths work together, the people doing so would be exposed and prosecuted. They have even called me severally to say that I am the one writing letters to EFCC and I asked them if writing letters was an offence. The grassroots should rise up in rebellion against these people.”
Being washed away
However, the petition presented to Sagay entitled: Construction and Development of Ugborodo New Town, reads: “We are itsekiri mothers from the Warri kingdom in Delta State. We have come to you as our illustrious son, who has been very vocal on all matters in this country where illegality, evil, marginalization and above all corruption are practiced.
“You have spoken without fear. It is for this reason that we are sure you were made the chairman of the anti-corruption committee, whose responsibilities you are carrying out diligently.
“Sir, you may be aware of all the controversies going on in Ugborodo. Today, Ugborodo has been taken over by the sea. All efforts to save Ugborodo from being washed away are being thwarted by our own people, who have been entrusted at different times with money for the development of the area. For an example, the issue for which we have come to you today is the construction of Ugborodo New Town.
“Sir, sometime in 1999, funds were earmarked and disbursed for the Ugborodo New Town and the project was envisaged to provide a modern township for Ugborodo, an oil and gas rich community in Delta State, host to Chevron Nigeria Limited tank farm, Escravos Gas to Liquid plant and many oil installations owned by several multinational companies including Shell,
Panocean, NPDC, NNPC and NGC. To bring the project to life, Chevron paid the sum of $6millioninto the itsekiri regional development council ,IRDC, account in former Oceanic Bank now Ecobank in 1999 with account no. 0033056452.
“The Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission ,DESOPADEC, paid the sum of N1 billion in 2011 to the office of the honourable chairman for the development of the Ugborodo New Town. This project has been described in DESOPADEC official contract document as completed and 100 percent paid. But apart from 15 units of bungalows at foundation level in the community there is nothing on ground to show for this humongous amount earmarked and disbursed for the building of Ugborodo New Town.
“ Since then, all that the Ugborodo Community in particular and the Itsekiri ethnic nationality in general have heard, is a rather deafening silence from all the parties like IRDC and Chevron who are all signatories to the account. The rumour making round in the Itsekiri nation is that persons alleged to have misappropriated the funds are boasting that they have “closed the case.’
“May we use this petition to humbly request that you use your good office to investigate and bring perpetrators of this crime to justice, while the people of Ugborodo Community and the Itsekiri ethnic nationality look forward to the construction and development of Ugborodo New Town. For the sake of the continuous existence of Ugborodo and indeed the whole of Itsekiri nation, we request that the federal government who will suffer for the breakdown of law and order in Ugborodo land, takes over the investigation of the money and development of Ugborodo New Town. If this is not handled properly, it could bring chaos, murder, kidnap and destabilization of the activities of the oil companies.”