Reactions are trailing the death of over 30 persons at an illegal oil bunkering site in Ibaa Community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The Tide learnt that the incident occurred as a result of attempt to setup an illegal refinery at a bunkering site earlier closed down in Ibaa.
Paramount Ruler of Ibaa Community, Eze Wobodo Jonah, expressed surprise over the incident despite intense sensitisation against illegal oil bunkering in the area.
Chairman of Emohua Local Government Council, Dr. Chidi Lloyd, who spoke to newsmen at the site of the incident, said he was shocked over the incident.
He urged traditional rulers in the area to expose criminals in their neighbourhood and alleged that illegal oil bunkering is going on at Obele, Rumuji, Ndele, and Ibaa Communities.
He advised the youths against short cut to wealth, saying, “it does not pay”.
Recall that two pregnant women and others were said to have been burnt to death at an illegal oil bunkering site in Ibaa Community.
A community source also informed newsmen that 26 Support Engineer Regiment (SER – Nigerian Army Engineers) in collaboration with PINL, which is a joint security architecture in charge of pipeline surveillance in the area, along the RoW and its corridor , had embarked on massive clampdown and destruction of illegal refineries in the area.
It was gathered from an indigene who pleaded anonymity that the fire incident occurred as a result of attempt to set up illegal refinery at the said location after the GSA and PINL had previously destroyed the illegal refinery at the same location about two weeks ago.
He further stated that the accident could be linked to fear of a clamp down or arrest as PINL and GSA maintain presence all round the clock especially at night.
Representative of PINL, who spoke to journalists at the scene of the incident said the feedback from some community members revealed that the victims were burnt due to the illegal refining at the location as the illicit business was hurriedly been carried out for fear of the Private Security Contractor (PINL) and GSA.
PINL and GSA from 26 Support Engineer Regiment (SER-Nigerian Army Engineers) has intensified destruction of illegal refinery over the last six months.
PINL representatives who led his team along with some stakeholders to the scene expressed worry despite engaging hundreds of youths in Ibaa community in public enlightenment and on the dangers of illegal refining, they still engaged themselves in the illicit business of crude oil theft and illegal refining.
He further said PINL will not relent in its synergy with stakeholders in the community and relevant security agencies towards sensitising the youths to shun all forms of illegal crude oil refining in the area and also keep the TNP safe.
Speaking, Chief Security Officer of Ibaa Community, Rufus Welekwe, while expressing sadness over the incident, appealed to the youths of the community to stay away from illegal crude oil refining and ensure they engage themselves in legitimate businesses.
Meanwhile, some family members of the affected victims that were burnt to death have expressed sadness over the loss of their loved ones.
Speaking with newsmen, an elder brother to one of the victims, Pastor Henry Iyenatebo, from Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, said his relation is a victim of the incident.
“My relation is lying there as well. I don’t know what happened, because these are not the things I accommodate as a pastor.
“I schooled every person to keep themselves away from such situations but coming to hear that this happened to my own person, I was surprised”, he said.
He said he was in church when calls came that his relative was involved in the incident.
“I was in the church before I got a call that I should come to this community that something was going on.
“I asked what was going on and they said my younger one was lying there helplessly. I asked what happened, they said he went for Kpo fire business.
“He should be between 30-32 years old. Eric Isaac-Okoro is his name. I didn’t have a clue that he was into this kind of business because if I knew, I would have stopped him on time. I’m surprised to see this because that is not how he was brought up. We were trying to train him on welding.
“I have been able to identify him, and the family will do what they can to bury him within available resources”, he said.
A relative of another victim, Mfata Prince, said, “I don’t even know how she came to be part of this. I was just called this morning from Port Harcourt.
“It’s a very sad news. I never knew she was involved in this kind of business. She left our community and moved down to Ibaa to live with her boyfriend from Ibaa. We have been begging her to come back home but she refused.
“This is my first time of coming here. We are yet to identify the body, but according to the boyfriend, she left in the night to come here. That’s how we knew she is one of the victims”.
Speaking further, the CSO of Ibaa Community, Chief Welekwe, lamented that the leadership of the community has been preaching against illegal oil bunkering activities in the community.
“The community chief has been shouting for everybody to stop this because the Federal Government does not want it and we don’t want it in our community.
“Now, it has happened, they have seen the result of what that man is saying. They said some are from Ogbodo Community, some from Rumuji Community, some from Odogha and I can’t exactly know”.
Meanwhile, there are plans to hand over the corpses to their relatives to avoid epidemic in the community.
By: John Bibor
HYPREP Interfaces With Ogoni Youths
Ogoni youths, on Wednesday turned out in their hundreds at the expansive auditorium of Golden Tulip Hotel in Port Harcourt and had fruitful engagements with the management of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) with the Project Coordinator, Prof Denibarini Zabbey effectively in charge of proceedings.
The HYPREP’s interactive session with youths came on the heels of recent protests by some Ogoni youths at its office in Port Harcourt.
HYPREP’s Head of Communications, Dr Enuolare Mba-Nwigor, who functioned as the compere and anchor of the occasion, actually set the tone of what was to come as he described the agency’s projects as human-centric and youth-centric as well as community centred to put smiles on the faces of the Ogoni people, noting that the agency in turn needs all the support from the people.
But before then, effervescent comedian and Ogoni-born Mr Teenager had put the youths in the right mood for the day’s event with rib-cracking jokes.
Underscoring the importance of the interactive session, Prof Zabbey in his opening remarks, hinted that the frequency of such interfaces with the youths would be scaled up and announced that it would now come up quarterly to enable HYPREP to feel the pulse of the people and in the process regularly get feed-backs on its numerous projects and programmes in Ogoniland.
While thanking the youths for their support and for the massive turnout, the Project Coordinator noted that projects being executed in Ogoniland by the agency are human-centric and youth-centric, stressing that it was against this backdrop that he had appointed a Technical Assistant on Youth and Women Development to the Project Coordinator for the first time.
He emphasised the need for the Project Office and the youths to always come together and work collectively to drive all the projects and programmes being carried out.
The keynote speaker and senior lecturer at the Department of Management of the Rivers State University, Dr. Sorberikor Lebura advised Ogoni people to tread with caution and not allow the ugly chapters of the Ogoni struggle to repeat themselves, “ We cannot pull down the house because we are angry,” he said, stressing that, doing so would not serve anybody’s interest.
He listed the strategies for effective management of conflicts, to include competition, avoidance, accommodation and collaboration, and stressed the need for Ogoni people to judiciously manage what HYPREP is currently offering them in their communities because as he put it, “it will take a long time for this thing to come back to us if we destroy it”.
Lebura underscored the importance of effective information management in driving the ongoing projects in Ogoniland, contending that disinformation, misinformation and insufficient information constitute the greatest drawbacks in any organisation and the management and execution of projects.
He, therefore, advised the current HYPREP management team and the Ogoni people to properly distill and investigate every information that comes their way, and decried a situation where some persons appointed to midwife the project in the past ran HYPREP as their private empire.
According to him, “the present Project Coordinator is doing his best. What he is doing may not be sufficient. This is because you cannot satisfy everybody”.
The founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ogoni Television, Mr Ndume Green, who equally anchored the programme advised Ogoni people not to continue to fight themselves but to always support their own to succeed, describing Prof Zabbey as a competent Project Coordinator.
“Let us protect what we have so that history will not repeat itself,” he said.
Also speaking, the head of the Livelihood Unit of HYPREP, Mrs. Josephine Nzidee said HYPREP has this year trained 29 Ogonis in the aviation industry to work as cabin crew members in airlines, adding that Dana Airlines had already offered 10 slots to the agency while it is currently engaging other airlines for more slots, lamenting that before now, nobody from Ogoniland was in the aviation industry.
She said 5, 0000 Ogoni youths are currently being trained to position them in the oil and gas sector, among other sectors of the economy, and urged all those being trained to take the exercise seriously.
The Head of the Centre of Excellence, Mr. Lekue Ebenezer and other heads of the various units also briefed the audience on the activities of their units.
The Director of Technical Services, Prof Philip Shekwolo while describing the Project Coordinator as a core professional, enjoined Ogoi people to be supportive and always wear the solution caps to ensure that the projects and programmes being carried out succeed.
The leadership of the National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP) apparently passed a vote of confidence on the Project Coordinator at the event and declared its unflinching support to HYPREP.
The President of NYCOP, Mr. Barinaazor Emmanuel who read a communiqué containing the positon of the entire Ogoni youths at the event, said the youths are totally in support of the projects and programmes being carried out by HYPREP in Ogoniland.
The NYCOP President had earlier in his presentation called for more women participation and inclusion in the projects and for more youths to be included in the current 5,0000 youth training programme and described the protest against HYPREP by some youths recently as a show of shame. He equally said the transport allowance for trainees was too poor.
The leader of Ogoni Peoples Assembly, Rev Probel Williams urged the Ogoni people to give the Project Coordinator time to work and prove his mettle, saying there is no need to fidget and fret, going by his pedigree in the ecosystem.
He, however, urged the Project Coordinator to review the employment and livelihood programme module to make it more realistic.
The Acting President of the Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), Mr Emmanuel Bie apologised to the Project Coordinator over the recent protest that paralysed HYPREP’s activities in Port Harcourt, saying the protest was intended to draw the agency’s attention to some anomalies in its project sites and not to serve some selfish and vested interests, and called for more local and community content in projects executed by HYPREP.
He disclosed to The Tide that the President General of OYF, Mr Legbosi Yaamabaana who led the protest had been suspended.
Some of the youths who spoke stressed the need for them to be carried along in the scheme of affairs and not for only those who protest against HYPREP to be considered for contracts.
At the end of the day, Prof Zabbey assured the youths that all grey areas concerning transport allowances being paid to Ogonis working at the Centre of Excellence site as well as the N40,000 transport allowance for trainees were being handled, and appealed for patience.
By: Donatus Ebi
ACOMIN Urges Govt To Commit To HIV, Others
In order for Nigeria to ensure progress in the control of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria (ATM) in the country there is the need for government at all levels, and other stakeholders to adopt combined measures.
The Rivers State Chairman, of the Association of Civil Societies in Malaria Control, Immunisation, and Nutrition (ACOMIN), Pastor John Ihua-Maduenyi, made this disclosure, midweek, at a media meeting in ACOMIN’s office in Port Harcourt.
Ihua-Maduenyi said the combination of measures should include “prevention and treatment, health education and promotion, and community partnership”.
Towards this end, the State ACOMIN boss urged governments, the private sector, and other stakeholders to commit to ensuring that funding and financing for primary health delivery should be carefully mapped out and sanctioned against any misappropriation or mismanagement, to enable a robust public health programme at all award levels in the Local Government Areas.
He listed other measures, saying, “ the National Health Insurance programme enjoyed by the formal sector should be extended to other citizens of Nigeria, particularly the poor and most vulnerable.
“The poor often are less educated and unemployed, and consequently lack ability to pay out-of-pocket for high costs associated with frequent illnesses.
“Communication and education programmes can raise knowledge and awareness, and, in turn, improve testing and care-seeking. There’s a great need to educate, engage, and empower the communities to embrace any behaviour change relevant to achieving success in Malaria, HIV, and TB control in Nigeria.
“Every Ward should commit to health promotion and education programmes to increase awareness of prevention measures, and promote community participation and adherence to evidence-based strategies.
“Commit adequate resources through advocacy and partnerships, for the full and effective implementation of all planned interventions, including through involving of the private sector, and community participatory approaches.
“Community members should actively support and advocate for their local Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs). Community involvement is crucial in ensuring the sustainability and effectiveness of these centres.
“Additionally, community support can manifest through volunteering, donating resources, or participating in advocacy efforts to secure increased funding and resources for PHCs”.
To further enhance instilling the importance of effectively instituting the listed measures, Ihua-Maduenyi emphasized the urgent need for “strengthening health systems, providing needed financial resources, renewing political leadership, and fostering collaborations”.
According to him, “evidence-based cost-effective interventions such as community-led monitoring need to be scaled up and include community-based differentiated service delivery models, less frequent visits to a health facility with less frequent and an improved focus on people-centred care.
“Finally, innovations in service delivery and technology adaptations remain critical as countries aim to limit disruptions to routine services”.
On factors debilitating effective service delivery in some Local Government Areas, raised by some stakeholders at the meeting, the HIV Desk Officer, Rivers State Health Care Management Board (RSPHCMB), Dr. Mekele Igwe, assured that the issues will be excallated with a view to resolving them.
By: Soibi Max-Alalibo
Death Of Woji Youth: Royal Family Calls For Justice
The Eke Royal Family of Woji Town in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State has called for thorough investigation into the circumstances sorrounding the death of Kenneth Nyebuchi Eke by the police at the Woji Police Division.
It would be recalled that the late Nyebuchi Eke was allegedly beaten to death by the OC Surveillance attached to the Woji Police Division .
According to the family, the deceased body was later discovered at an uncompleted building at Chokocho Etche in Etche Local Government Area.
Addressing newsmen at Woji, elder brother to the deceased and former Chairman of Obio/Akpor, Local Government Council, Hon Solomon Abel Eke, said the family is calling for thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of his brother, and the discovery of his body at Chokocho Etche.
According to him, his brother was arrested by the surveillance team of Woji Police Division as a result of a minor issue between him and his tenant.
“Nyebuchi Kenneth Eke was arrested illegally by the Surveillance team of Woji Police Division and then the only offence was that he had issues with his tenant who had refused to pay him his rent over the years which he had tolerated”, he stated.
He alleged that police men, led by the Woji Police Division surveillance team, arrested him.
In his words, “Not only arresting him, but started beating him and just beat him to the level that the man passed out”.
He said after the death of his brother, the OC Surveillance refused to report the matter to the Divisional Police Officer of the Woji Police Division.
Eke also wondered how and why his brother’s remains had to be carried to Chokocho Etche from Woji, where the incident occurred, adding that from Woji to Chokocho Etche was about 25 kilometres.
“For him to drive this long to Chokocho to drop the body there at a particular place, how did he come about knowing the area?”
He said the Surveillance team at Woji should be properly interrogated with a view to unravelling the mystery behind the discovery of the uncompleted building where the body of Kenneth Nyebuchi Eke was dumped.
The former Obio/Akpor boss said the family will get to the root of the matter with a view to ensuring that justice is done on the matter.
He said the family and the Ikwerre Ethnic nationality has no problem with the Ogonis despite the fact that the tenant involved in the matter was from Ogoni.
Also speaking, the Ojiowhor Oro Eke Royal Family of Woji Town, Dr Las Eke, said the family is embarrassed by the incident, adding that the family will not rest until justice is done on the matter.
Dr Eke wondered why a police officer meant to protect the citizens would turn out to kill the very people that he is meant to protect.
He said the police officer concerned must be properly investigated and disciplined to serve as deterrent to others.
On his part, Chief Clement Eke expressed regrets over the incident, saying the death of the deceased “has dealt a big blow to the entire family”.
He urged the police not to sweep the incident under the carpet and vowed that the family will pursue the matter to its logical conclusion.
Another Elder of the family, Chike Eke urged the youths not to take the laws into their hands as the family is on top of the matter.
By: John Bibor & Mercy Olu Igbanibo
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