Etche Local Government
Area of Rivers State is regarded as the food basket of the state.
This elevated status accorded the area is mainly due to its rich agricultural potentials-large expanse of fertile land suitable for the cultivation of various crops, energetic farmers, big markets, attracting traders from all parts of the state and neighbouring states, atmosphere of peace and love from the people known to be one of the most hospitable in the oil-rice Rivers State.
In a bid to enhance these enviable potentials, various administrations in the state sited agric projects in Etche land. The School-to-Land project, Risonpalm plantations, Delta Rubber Company and not excluding the avowed interest of the present administration led by Governor Rotimi Amaechi in developing farms across many clans in the area in partnership with an Israeli agro-allied company, are few examples.
Unfortunately however, insecurity in the area is dangerously upturning these socio-economic fortunes of the people as armed youths allegedly empowered by politicians are robbing and attacking innocent farmers, traders and investors.
Only recently, armed youths struck at Eketa market located at Igbodo, the traditional headquarters of Etche land. They scared away innocent traders and disposed some of their money, valuables and injured so many.
An Aba-based trader who is a regular articles seller in the market was disposed of his N480,000.00 with his wares also stolen.
An eye witness told The Tide correspondent that a lot of people lost their money and goods when the gun-totting youths struck.
“I have been patronizing the market for more than 25 years and I have never seen a thing like that, a trader who identified himself as Egeonu Mathew narrated adding that his colleague did not only lose all his sales for the day but had a broken head while running to save his life.
“So many people were also seriously injured by the heartless armed youths who took over the market for over 45 minutes,” he stated.
At Mba Market, over eighteen (18) armed youths also besieged the market in the similar manner as that of Eketa. The Tide gathered that poor traders were scared off when the robbers struck.
“It had never happened before. They came on motorcycles and shot severally into the air and as people ran for safety, they stole most of their goods and those they caught, were disposed of all the money on them,” said a trader who was her self a victim of the dangerous drama.
The fish-seller who identified herself as Charity Nwankwoala said, “the robbers stole some motorcycles belonging to traders and many people were wounded while many lost their money to the gang of young robbers.
Apart from operating in markets, the robbers who many see as political thugs also ambush traders on their way to the local markets. Many a times the traders have been robbed of the money with which to buy their stocks.
One of the victims, Mary Akpan told The Tide that they were robbed on a Monday morning, on their way to Obite market.
“The robbers numbering about twelve (12) intercepted our vehicles at Egwi/Nihi junction and robbed all of us in the vehicle. We were confused whether to proceed to the market or get back to Port Harcourt because we had no money to buy things. It was when we phoned some of our customers who promised to sell to us on credit (deferred payment) that we decided to proceed”, Akpan narrated.
“This is not my first experience. The operations of the robbers had forced some of our colleagues to stop coming to Etche markets for the fear of either losing their lives or valuebles to the heartless robbers”, she continued alleging that there was attempt to rape some of the ladies in one of such raids.
Investigations carried out by The Tide showed that vigilante groups providing security to some communities in Etche land have devised means of checking operations of the robbers.
The vigilante groups now escort vehicles carrying the traders to their various communities to ward off the incursions of the armed robbers.
A youngman who is one of the vigilante members confirmed the development. “We arrive early at Egwi Etche and wait for the traders and accompany them to our market every market days, said the man.
On regular basis, traders travelling to Aba in Abia State from Etche are robbed either on their way going or returning.
A transporter who plies Ulakwo/Odogwa/ Owasa road narrated his ordeals to The Tide. The driver who gave his name as Chimuanya Amakalam said, “on more than three occasions, I had been robbed with my passengers who are mainly provision store dealers. Each time the robbers subjected us to serious beating and disposed us of every thing on us.”
The driver said, “the road which is one of the easiest routes to Aba has become a traveler’s nightmare. Good number of the drivers who ply the route have since changed route, he said.
Another respondent, Chief Ebere Njoku, said he has decided to close his provision store business because, “it is either you are robbed on your way to the market or the robbers come to your store mainly in the day time to remove your money and take whatever things they wish to, from your store. So, when I discovered that I was no longer in any reasonable business, I closed down and relocated to Oyigbo where I am at present”.
The Okehi/Eberi Road which had separated the people of Etche local government from Omuma local Government was celebrated when some years ago, the government constructed the road and built a link bridge joining the two local government areas. However, the road later turned to be a death trap to those plying it because robbers operate on the route daily.
The situation became so worrisome that Etche ethnic Practising Journalists Association met with the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Omuma Local Government Area, Chief Emeka Nwogu and complained of the ugly experiences of people plying the route. The council boss who confirmed the situation disclosed that he was discussing with his counterparts in Etche Local Government Area on the possibility of establishing a police post at the bridge for better security on the road. So far, the police post is yet to be established.
The fear of deadly armed youths who daily kill and maim innocent indigenes of the area has become everybody’s concern. Farmers, fishermen, traders and innocent travelers have one ugly story or the other to tell about Etche land today. Some women had been reported raped at various parts of Etche by these robbers.
The police and other security agents in the area, are working hard and doing their best to provide better security but the situation remains dangerous for socio-economic life of the people.
Investigation revealed that a good number of Etche sons and daughters avoided going home during the past Christmas and New Year celebrations because of the insecurity in the area.
Even Okada ridders in the area operate with fear because the robbers daily snatch their motorbikes from them including their money.
Certainly, the situation would affect negatively the availability of adequate food supply more as the fear in the land would also affect farming operations which has just started, unless some serious security steps are taken to check the excesses of the armed youths.
Unconfirmed report indicates that some of the robbers come in from the neighbouring local government areas and even states to operate freely in Etche land.
There is need for the chiefs and Traditional rulers in Etche to step up collaboration with security agents in the areas to contain the problem, since majority of these youths themselves are from Etche communities.
The churches, women groups and opinion leaders in Etche also have serous roles to play in any serious effort to return the area to its past state as one of the most peaceful local government areas and the food basket of Rivers State.
Nembe Oil Spill From Aiteo Facility Worst I’ve Seen – Diri
The Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, on Wednesday returned from visiting the oil spill site in Nembe Local Government Area of the state, describing it as the worst he had seen in his lifetime.
The OML 29 Well 1 platform, which is operated by Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil firm, Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited, has been spilling crude unabated into the Santa Barbara River for about one month.
An estimated two million barrels of crude has reportedly been spilled into the river, polluting the flora and fauna of the area, the governor’s spokesperson Dan Alabrah, said.
The Minister of State of Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, had said the scene of the spill was like a war zone.
Overwhelmed by the spill, Aiteo hired Halliburton’s Boots and Coots to “kill the well” by injecting cement into it. It bought the well from the Royal Dutch Shell in 2015.
As at Wednesday, the Bayelsa government said the spill that began November 5 was still ongoing.
Governor Diri said the continuous spillage has further endangered the lives of people of Nembe, Bayelsa and indeed the Niger Delta.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Alabrah, the governor, who expressed shock over the quantity of crude that has been spilled into the environment, called on the Federal Government and operators of the oil field to immediately take action to stop it.
According to him, the prolonged oil spill into the water and air had an immediate and long term effect on the health of the inhabitants.
While assuring the people that appropriate measures would be taken to seek redress, he noted that the quest by oil firms to make money would not be at the expense of the lives of the people.
Describing fishing as the source of livelihood of the people of the area, Mr Diri noted that just as there are grazing routes, Bayelsa State has fishing routes and must be protected.
His words: “Today happens to be a very dark day for me. What we have seen, I believe, is worse than what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. In all my life, I have not seen such magnitude of oil spillage.
“Our people are endangered. Our people’s source of livelihood is endangered. I empathise and sympathise with the people of Nembe on behalf of the government and people of Bayelsa State.
The Bayelsa governor also decried the exclusion of indigenes of host communities in the running of the oil industry, saying that if indigenes were part of the operations of the oil field, they would have looked for ways to address the problem.
To ameliorate the suffering of the people, the governor directed the State Emergency Management Agency and Ministry of Health to immediately provide relief materials and healthcare services to the people.
Earlier, the chairman of Nembe Local Government Area, Hon. West Alalibo, and member representing Nembe Constituency 2 in the State House of Assembly, Edward Brigidi, appreciated the governor for embarking on an on-the-spot assessment visit to the site.
‘Emerging Challenges May Frustrate Dev Of Gas Resources’
Although the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is expected to unlock gas potential in Nigeria, especially the current 206 trillion standard cubic feet proven reserves, stakeholders Wednesday said the goals might remain elusive.
Investment to unlock the series of the opportunities outlined by the country according to the stakeholders, may remain a daunting task amidst heavy levies on the sector, domestic gas pricing challenges as well as lack of necessary technology and skills set.
Coming as the price of natural gas Wednesday, tumbled further to $4.4 per MMBtu after rising close to $7, the stakeholders at the 10th Practical Nigerian Content Forum stated that without the right environment, Nigeria may miss out of the window of opportunities available through the energy transition phase.
The Senate Chairman, Local Content, Teslim Folarin at the event also insisted that the cross-sectorial local bill in the National Assembly would make existing executive orders on patronage of Nigeria goods and services a law across sectors of the economy, stressing that it won’t however scrap the NOGIC Act.
With the current high price of cooking gas, the inadequacies of gas to power plants, the experts noted that data challenges, legal framework, lack of collaboration, weak research and development, lack of technology, imposition of taxes on the gas value chain lay heavy siege to the country’s aspirations in the gas revolution.
Group Executive Director, Gas and Power at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, Abdulkadir Ahmed, insisted that declining funding for fossil fuels would create challenges for existing gas resources in the country, stressing that the sector must devise a means to fund projects and also produce more with cost.
Ahmed was also concerned about the infrastructure that transports and ensures utilisation of gas, adding that a transparent and market-driven pricing remained sacrosanct.
“We can not make progress without a market-driven and transparent gas price. No one will put in money if they have no feasibility of how they will recover their cost. There won’t be any gas to process if we do not invest in upstream activities,” he said.
Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Gas, Ed Ubong stated that there was a need to build local capacity for gas and ensure that the resources are used to spur industrial development.
According to him, there was a need to support indigenous companies to thrive, adding that the gas space remained a key avenue to grow local content.
A Governing Council Member at Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mina Oforiokuma said with progress being made by countries like Mozambique, Nigeria needs to learn and move fast to address bottlenecks.
Speaking on the expansion of local content across sectors, Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Simbi Wabote noted that the government may consider a local content department across ministries to develop.
Wabote said: “That’s the only way you can get benefit out of the implementation because what people forget is that NCDMB is like a department within the ministry of petroleum resources saddled with the responsibility of driving local content within the oil and gas industry and controlled by the Ministry in the same way.”
Senator Folarin noted that the government remained concerned about the development of indigenous companies, adding that the move would address inefficiencies, in the long run reduce cost of projects and build strong local companies that can compete globally.
He revealed that some of the key sectors that would be primarily targeted are power, ICT, manufacturing, agriculture and others.
PHCCIMA Boss Lists Core Service Areas
The 62nd President of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Mines, Industries and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), Sir Mike Elechi said his administration shall have member oriented, inclusive programmes and opportunities as its hallmark and guiding principles.
Elechi said this during his investiture as the PHCCIMA President in Port Harcourt during the week.
He also listed consolidation of growth, peace, unity, increased scope of programme dispensation and internally generated revenue as part of his core mandate to be delivered to the people.
He said that these would be achieved within the confines of PHCCIMA’s constitution and that of the Country.
The President who was a permanent secretary before his retirement, pointed out that the choice of the key areas was as a result of deep reflection and wide consultation with relevant stakeholders in the society.
He said that his administration would reintroduce the monthly PHCCIMA meeting, develope a calendar of member oriented programmes and opportunities as well as trade mission travels and access for the benefit of its members.
On the issue of increased scope of programme dispensation and internally generated revenue, he said that it would be realised by creating an atmosphere of welcome and corporate opportunity.
“Another way out among others, was engagement of various governments both state and local, with business strategies especially non oil businesses”, he said.
In his address, the Chairman of the occasion, Chief Ferdinand Anabrabra, urged those that are yet to be registered with PHCCIMA to hurry and do so in order to meet up with the current speed of the organisation.
Anabrabra, anchored his point on the passion that the new President and his team have for the body, which will definitely pay off.
Also speaking, the former President of Nigerian Bar Association ( NBA), Hon Onueze C.J . Okocha, said that Elechi’s whealt of experience would enable him do the expected.
”As a career Civil Servant and a successful businessman cum Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Vintage Farm and Products in ElelIkwerre Local Government of the state, his administration would be successful.
The Tide gathered that the Elechi-led PHCCIMA executive would elapse in the next three years.
By: King Onunwor
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