OGHARA – Since the discovery of crude oil at Ovade–Oghara Community in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State in 1972 by a Dutch Company, operators of the Pan–Ocean Oil Company, what appears to bring development to the agrarian community has been under-developing it through periodic deaths, injuries, destruction of properties, burning of houses, among other retrogressive activities.
Like a ritual of periodic abasement, the community has never known peace from the very beginning when the company berthed for operation; a situation that makes people share the belief that the community may have ironically been jinxed as a result of God’s blessing.
The question is, is it a curse for oil to have been discovered on their soil? For many communities worldwide, a situation like this comes with rapid development to such communities but the that of Ovade has instead of joy has been earning them deaths upon deaths, destructions and what have you. As at the time of conducting investigation ahead of this piece, many of the indigenes have fled their homeland to strange places for fear of death.
Despite government interventions in each of the crises, what would happen in the next moment has remained unknown and unpredictable as when all thought the crisis has abated, what usually happens is nothing except deaths and mayhem many have been killed while others are cooling off in the police cells or prisons as a result of such unending crisis.
The media has been awash with sad development from Ovade Community. It is either the youths, the women, or the elders are protesting at Pan Ocean gate at Ovade or at their corporate headquarter in Benin or there is crisis in the community. The people on their own through what they placed on the news in all instances, was that the company has reneged on their part on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was agreed on at its inception in1972. They are wont to allege that their farm lands, fishing ponds, have been devastated by oil exploration, while they (youths) have been removed from work and many other allegations.
In his narrative, Mr. Edewor Amuvworo an indigene of the community explained that since 2007 when a top politician from the community stepped into the matter, by stopping youth activities in the area and which did not go down well with some of the youths, consequently resulting in further crises that had led to the deaths of many indigenes in the community.
He told the press that their youth leader Mr. Ejiro Efetobo appealed to the said politician to allow him stay on in power for just one term more to complete his second term of office yet he would not bulge, but when Ejiro Efetobo did not step down, the power that be in the community, it was alleged instigated crisis in the community which took a life while the house of the youth leader was burnt to ashes.
The vice chairman, late Mr. Ighoyovwi Agbokoko and his grandmother’s house including his families’ property in Ovade were burnt down. Many others indigenes of Ovade not mentioned in this context have had their properties burnt down in the same saga.
Soon after this, it was alleged further that Ejiro Efetobor and his executives were arrested, detained and charged to court on the allegation of murder. It was while the case was on in the court that the same politician sworn in another executives to replace that of Mr. Ejiro in the year, 2007 till October, 2011 when Ejiro and his Excos were discharged and acquitted by High Court of Justice, Orerokpe, in 2012, the said politician then called Ejiro Efetobor and his Excos for settlement for him to continue his chairmanship position previously cut short by unwarranted arrest, court action meted on him in 2007, and no sooner they were sworn-in in the year 2012, then His Excellency Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, the then Governor of Delta State proscribed youth activism in Oghara, including Ovade which took a long period of time before the same Governor lifted the ban. At this stage, instead of Ejiro Efetobo to be allowed to continue, Mr. Wilson Elisha was sworn in as the new youth leader of Ovade Community. This, Mr. Edewor said resulted to another crisis that lasted for some time but no life was lost.
In 2015, the said political leader invited Ejiro Efetobor, where he was sworn in to complete his tenure which he was deprived of in 2007. This was to commence in March, 2015 and terminate in March 2019. He added that their big brother and politician, whom they alleged as the master mind of the crisis, claimed that Ejiro Efetobo and his executive have ruled Ovade for 16 years, which is not true, as his leadership of the community youth was cut short by his long period of incarceration and unlawful detention, within the period under review.
Mr. Edewor, while seeking justice to this community crisis, he wanted the world to know that Ejiro’s tenure was short lived with one crisis or the other and was never allowed any moment of peace by the powers that be.
Mr. Edewor continued that the blow which sparked off the latest crisis was the murder of the vice chairman of Ovade youths, Mr. Ighoyovwi Agbokoko by unknown assailants. As a result of this, all able bodied youths have fled the place for fear of been killed by the warring faction of the youths. Those who fled in their hideouts have vowed never to return home for fear of been killed by the rampaging youths who seek little opportunity to strike, kill, maim and destroy the properties of their own people.
Some of the people who volunteered comments from journalists within the community also alleged that their big brother and politician oftentimes hire cultists from Sapele and Benin in Edo State to instigate crisis in Ovade with the aim of carrying out destructions. In that vein, properties, including about 36 houses have been reportedly destroyed while several persons have been killed and others maimed for life. Many have fled the community for fear of death, and their whereabouts remain unknown.
As at the time of writing this script, the effect of the crisis on the community is such that it is only women, the aged ones, and few young persons that stay around with their watchful eyes against any reprisal attack. All business activities have been grounded.
A visit to Ovade-Oghara explains this better. When other villages and the main Ogharefe town is booming with life and activities, at Ovade, the story is no longer the same. Oil wells came to the community through Pan Ocean, instead of wealth, development and hope, it has brought throes of woes, anguish, sorrow, to the owners of the land.
Children born out of the community with their parent are no longer proud of visiting home during weekends and on holidays as their ancestral home have seemingly been devastated; the people are leaving the community to settle elsewhere in droves. No elite affiliated to the community has a home of his own in Ovade for fear of been burnt by irate youths.
The divide and rule policy of Pan Ocean, a major oil production company operating in the community of Delta State since 1972 has no doubt brought untold hardship to the original owners of the land. Several MOU reached between the company and its host community has always met brick walls, leading to clashes and protests, accusations and counter – accusations.
Some of the indigenes are of the opinion that the ever listening government of Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa should wade into the crisis in the community as a way of nipping it in the bud.
Observers on happenings in the oil borne community were of the opinion that the people should be allowed to enjoy the God-given blessings, and that the younger ones should be trained either in vocational education, and better still should be awarded scholarships to attend conventional institutions so that they can stand on their own thereby eschewing criminal activities and other related youth restiveness and activities. They opined that “Once they are gainfully employed or engaged in other are of business, they won’t have any time for community matter. The death of the vice chairman should be seriously investigated and killers brought to book.”
Efetobor, the chairman of the Ovade Youth leaders who is also currently in hiding from been killed by those who killed his vice, said in a phone conversation while corroborating the statement of Mr. Edewor, that his vice was killed at Ogharefe allegedly vigilante group, who on the other hand alleged that he was an armed robber, thereafter took his corpse to the Ogharefe police division where the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge who knew the vice refused to accept his body instead referred them to the Area Command in Sapele where he was finally accepted for further investigation.
Efetobor in his hide out cried out that his vice was neither a thief nor a robber and that the powers that be willfully killed him since they could not trail him being the main target. He appealed to the government and all security agencies in the country never to allow the case die but do all it takes to investigate the matter thoroughly by bringing the authors to book. DAILY INDEPENDENT recalls that the body of the late vice chairman, according to Efetobor, is in the morgue at Sapele Central Hospital.
He explained that he is sending Save Our Soul (S.O.S) message to the government, all stakeholders in Oghara Community to intervene in the matter so that peace can reign in the community. The only way those who escaped from the community to abroad or within the country can come back home to be with their family is to ensure that peaceful atmosphere prevails in the community.