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Published On: Fri, Aug 1st, 2014

Clarion Call on Jonathan, Uduaghan to Inject $500m on Reconstruction of Kokori

(Left) President Goodluck Jonathan and Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan

By: Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe.
LAGOS AUGUST 1ST (URHOBOTODAY)-Delta State oil producing and political town of Kokori is an integral part of the various communities in Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State in South-South Nigeria. The medium size town of approximately 10,000 population played host to leaders, elders and thousands of Peoples Democratic Party faithful during monthly and strategic political gatherings from 1999 till June 2013 when the first major youth’s restiveness was recorded since 1958. Kokori is also well known for playing host to Shell BP during its inception in Nigeria in 1958. From 1958 till date, crude oil worth trillions of dollars has been exported from her shores. The community is still blessed with large quantities of oil will oil and gas analysts say may last for another 100 years or more.
As we know it today, Kokori has little or nothing to show for the huge financial contributions it made to the national treasury through crude oil exploration and exploitation by multi-national oil giant, Shell Petroleum BP. The community has been deprived of substantial economic benefit for nearly 59 years when crude oil export commenced in the country. The corporate social responsibility of Shell BP and other oil giants doing business in the communities is nothing to write home about. The community health care they provided never had drugs in them thereby turning the three bed-room flat health centre to mere consulting rooms.
Socio-economic analysts say that the neglect of the Kokori communities by government and muti-national oil companies is largely connected with the activities of some corrupt community leaders who will usually go-cap-in-hand to collect “settlement fees” on a monthly or quarterly basis which run into hundreds of millions of naira to the detriment of the vast majority of the people in the communities. They also blamed the federal government for not living up to its expectations in ensuring that hosts communities are adequately compensated in financial terms by the oil exploration companies. The ideal thing, they posited, was for the oil giants like Shell Petroleum BP to collaborate or partner with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to provide infrastructural development through provision of modern housing schemes, construction of several road networks linking major communities as well as build primary, secondary and tertiary institutions of higher learning for their host communities.
In all of the above measures, Shell BP and other oil giants that drilled oil in Kokori communities, for reasons best known to them, deliberately refused to embark on any meaningful socio-economic and poverty eradication projects that would facilitate economic or social benefits for members of their host communities. It is sad to note that the government on its part failed to take statistics of all oil producing communities within the Kokori axis with a view to injecting substantial funds towards poverty alleviation and/or eradication programmes. Government must of a necessity provide huge funds for the reconstruction of Kokori communities to reflect the monumental financial gains that accrued to the federal government as a result of oil exploration and export since 1958.
It is a sad story to tell that Kokori do not have reliable power supply. The supply is epileptic such that the electric current from the electricity is not just good enough to power equipment for commercial activities. The two primary schools and two colleges are buildings that belong to the 18th century. The schools are ill-equipped and the environments are not conducive for learning. We are told that contracts were awarded for the renovation, furnishing and equipment of libraries but a visit to the schools revealed that the contract sum for the projects may have found its way into private pockets. The environment suggests that some of the class rooms can only be used for rearing pigs. The situation in Kokori is quiet pathetic which is why Delta state government in conjunction with the federal government will need to develop a special blueprint on how to reconstruct the oil producing political town.
A visit to Kokori will tell the story in its proper perspectives. It is better seen than imagined. The frustration and depression on the faces of the people in that community continues escalate on a daily basis. The youths are worst hit by these high levels of socio-economic neglect which span across five decades. The economic injustice is monumental and will need to be properly addressed for the sake of justice, good conscience and equity. Today, Kokori remain the “goose that lays the golden eggs” but its people suffer from acute poverty, malnutrition, poor primary health care and degrading life style. its people are victims of inferiority complex as a result of the poor condition of living. By the 2012 rating, the living condition is less than $1 per day which is why the community has become volatile due to anger, frustration occasioned by joblessness, acute poverty and neglect by political actors, government and oil giants engaged in the exploration and export of crude oil worth trillions of dollars annually.
The youths are grumbling and yearning for empowerment and socio-economic integration. Their elected political representatives have failed them consistently. Elected state and federal representatives could not politic to attract substantial federal constituency projects to the political town of Kokori in particular and Ethiope federal constituency in general. The situation is getting worse by the day. From June 2013 to early part of this year, Kokori was wrecked down by youth restiveness and subsequent military occupation.
Frustration and anger has not departed the land of Kokori. Hunger and depression continue to envelop the youths and the people which is why the state and federal government must commence socio-economic reconstruction of the communities to avoid another outburst of violence. The cause of violence and alleged criminality in the communities is as a result of poverty, joblessness and official corruption on the part of political representatives who only lined their pockets with huge funds meant for development and economic empowerment to the detriment of the population.
Our youths are also angry that they were used cheaply at the risk of their lives by certain political actors to consistently prosecute elections for them only to be abandoned after victories. They complained of not having job slots at both state and federal civil service. The political town of Kokori presently has over six hundred University graduates who are patrolling the streets in search of jobs. Majority of them are engaged in menial jobs, petty trading, bus conductors, gate-men, political bouncers and casual workers in local factories in Ughelli, Warri, Asaba, Bayelsa and neighbouring communities whereas they are seating on top of crude oil which is being exploited and exported in exchange for billions and trillions of dollars annually.
Job recruitment in state and federal governments owned agencies and corporations eluded them as political representatives either refused or deliberately failed to endorse or facilitate their employment selection process based on oil producing communities’ formula. Majority of them parade second class upper division in several disciplines of academic excellence. A handful of them who were recently employed in state owned agencies. It got to a point where the teaming jobless youths completely lost confidence in their political representatives who have found new homes outside Kokori communities.
The spill-over effects of the youths anger and frustration accounted for the agitation for the oil-money reparation in June last year when they gave the federal government ultimatum to either “settle Kokori Community” for the large quantity of crude oil that has been drilled from the community since 1958 or face the consequent of vandalizing or shutting down of oil wells and installations. The youths vexed their anger on government when political representatives failed them completely. This perceived threats resulted into massive bombardment of Kokori town by the military. There were Heavy clashes between the youths on the one part and the federal forces on the other part. Houses were razed down, vehicles burnt, innocent people were killed and the bubbling political and oil producing town of Kokori became a ghost town for nearly twelve months.
At the moment, peace has returned substantially to Kokori town which is why political and economic activities are picking up gradually but not without fear of reprisal by the youths who have vowed to keep agitating until their living conditions improves. They are bitter over the socio- economic injustice that has been inflicted on them by self centered and unscrupulous political actors and successive governments. Delta State Governor recently had fruitful consultations with the youths and community leaders on the way forward.
We urge Gov. Uduaghan to partner with the federal government and the oil exploration companies to take concrete and result oriented steps that will stabilize peace and security in the political and oil producing town of Kokori. The peoples’ political representatives have abandoned Kokori town and now organizes re-election political meetings in far away Udu local government council towns and in Oshimili local government area city of Asaba. They have totally cut-off themselves politically from Kokori communities for fear of being mobbed or molested by the angry teaming youths.
Some key political representatives who hails from Kokori have been declared “political outcasts and good for nothing political actors” by the people. There is acute disunity, political divorcement and economic acrimony between the people of the political town of Kokori in Ethiope East LGA and their representatives. The political representation acrimony can only be resolved through huge injection of funds in infrastructural development, youth’s empowerment/skills acquisition programmes and other strategic employment slots at both federal and state owned agencies, corporations, civil service and multi-national oil exploration companies in Delta State. The people especially the youths have vowed that non-performing political representatives will not and must not represent them in the forthcoming general elections in 2015. The atrocities’ of these representatives have been well itemized and will soon be laid at the doorsteps of the Peoples Democratic Party at the national, state and LGA secretariats.
At the moment, the youths are still yearning for government attention. They want state and federal government to come to their aid in terms of job placements, skill acquisition and vocational programmes that will put food on their table. They are also asking government to establish small scale industries in conjunction with private investors to provide skilled and unskilled jobs for the teaming youths and women. They want banks to establish branches in the town and communities to facilitate commercial transactions. They are also in dare need of modern housing facilities through deliberate efforts of state, federal and the oil companies to provide free and conducive shelter for the population.
The people of Kokori are by nature peace loving people as can be seen from the social, political and economic history of the town from 1904 till date. The people are yearning for functional health care system, establishment of institution of higher learning, micro-finance schemes, access to state and federal government funds to boost agriculture and peasant farming activities particularly the establishment of cassava milling plants to process large quantity of Gari, Starch and other bye-products for local consumption and for export so as to earn substantial foreign exchange that will cushion the harsh effect of poverty and economic backwardness.
Kokori restiveness is a small problem for the state and federal government to resolve, once and for all. Financial experts say a mere $500 million can kick-start the socio-economic reconstruction of Kokori communities with emphasis on some of the key areas articulated above. The amount is indeed very small compared to the trillions of dollars in profit that has accrued to both the federal and state governments as well as oil companies from 1958 till date. Mr. President should through the relevant ministries, departments and agencies set in motion the modalities for the reconstruction and workout methods of funding and attainment of developmental goals for the people of Kokori communities
This clarion call is for our caring Governor, Dr. Emmanual Uduaghan and peace loving President Goodluck Jonathan. The duo in partnership with the oil giants doing business in Kokori area oil wells should help us to rebuild the poor and devastated political town of Kokori so that our people will feel the impact of the dividend of democracy and gains of Mr. President’s transformation agenda. Government should utilize funds from gains of oil exploration and export to bring quality life to our people, considering the fact that federal government military troops also physically wrecked havoc on our community in the wake of youth’s agitation for their share of oil wealth.
The government military troops destroyed several houses, vehicles, commercial shops and properties of innocent and law abiding citizens. Our communities have been producing crude oil for this country since 1958 and it is fair and reasonable that Kokori should be well recognized in the socio-economic and political scheme of things in Nigeria. Our people have re-affirmed total support for President Jonathan’s administration as well as the Nigerian military under the leadership of Lt-General K.T.J Minnimah as Chief of Army Staff. We thank the military high command for restoring peace in our communities. The federal and state government should now commence massive reconstruction of our community to further stabilize peace, security and economic prosperity.

Dr Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, hails from the oil producing and political town of Kokori in Ethiope Federal Coonstituency in Delta State. He is the National President of the Green White Green Vanguard, a socio-economic and political advocacy group based in Lagos. He is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) and Human Rights and Political Communication Committee member of the American Political Science Association (APSA) chaired at the New York University, USA.

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