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Published On: Sat, Apr 22nd, 2023

Rise And Fall Of Warri, The Oil City

WARRI-OIL CITY

By Emeka Obiora

LAGOS APRIL 22ND (NEWSRANGERS)-Warri was a big industrial hub in the 70s to 90s. Warri Refinery, NNPC, DSC, Delta Glass, Shell, Chevron, Schlumberger, Dunlop, Agip, Saipem, Halliburton, etc were in full operation back then. Escravos and Forcados was at its peak. The city thrived, maritime activities thrived.
Multinational and local banks were present: Citibank, FBN, ACB, Savannah Bank, etc. Business activities thrived. Entertainment/nightlife was at its peak. Musicians, live bands and comedians held their sway: Majek Fashek, Emma Grey, Oritz Wiliki, Rex Lawson, who died on his way to Warri in 1971.

The town was full of life and it thrived. Mc Dermot Road was busy with maritime activities and contractors. Joma and Mosheshe were big fish distributors across the Niger Delta. Rubber produced locally, was used to produce plastics and tyres.
The town grew in size and had people coming from Ijebu Ode, Benin, Asaba, Imo, Anambra, Calabar, etc to settle down in Warri for economic activities. The airports were super busy: Escravos, Forcados and Warri airports. The Warri airport was even relocated to Osubi for expansion.

Warri was revelling in its glory. I almost forgot to mention, Warri Ports was fully operational and served as an economic booster for the city. It served businesses in Warri, Benin, Asaba and Onitsha. The port created huge employment opportunities for locals in particular and the State in general.
Things started to go downhill from the late 90s. Community leaders and youth chairmen began to fight themselves over control and sharing formula for royalties that came from oil and businesses from settlers. Itsekiris, Urhobos and Ijaw leaders and youths started fighting each other.

The bloody fight started around 1999 and lasted for years till 2003/2004. The community leaders started imposing local taxes called “Deve” on all companies, industries and local businesses, buildings and projects. Little by little, the companies frustrated, started leaving.
This continued throughout the early 2000s till 2010. The companies kept on leaving, one after the other. The companies laid off their employees. Unemployment rose. More companies left for PH, Lagos and Akwa Ibom. They laid off more staff. Unemployment increased still.

Today all that is left of Warri is a shadow of its glorious past. 95% of all the big companies in Warri had either left or closed down. Most of the young people have left Warri. The ones left are driving Keke, doing POS, Spa or Boutique, Beer parlour or doing hookup.
There is peace now, but the damage the greedy community leaders did to Warri, still lingers on and is almost irredeemable at this point.

Obiora is a professional cardiovascular physiologist, an entrepreneur and writer. Twitter: @EmekaObiora_

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