Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The last may not have been heard about the plight of the communities of Ohaji/Egbema in Imo State where people have lived without electricity for almost a decade.
It was recently reported of how over 10 communities in the oil rich area, have been living in darkness, but the people are now poised for a showdown with the Federal Government unless their condition was reversed.
It was gathered that the people of the affected communities under the aegis of Ohaji/Egbema elites have properly mobilised their youths and women for the task ahead; they have decided to struggle till their objectives are met.
Last weekend, the angry youths and women took a protest march to the federal government National Independent Power Project (NIPP) at Mmahun, Egbema where a turbine gas plant of N18 billion naira contract awarded by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001 was abandoned.
The card- bearing protesters threatened to shut down all the oil operations in the area and retrieve their land if the federal government refused to look into their agitation.
Leader of the group, and heir apparent to the throne of Egbema after his late father, Prince Francis Uzor, told Daily Sun that the elites of the community prior to embarking on the protest had taken a cursory look at all the abandoned projects in Egbema and why they have not been completed.
Uzor emphasised that the essence of the monitoring is to see how the community could benefit from the federal government projects sited in their community.
“If the projects are completed, we would have good number of our youths working with them; business activities of this place would also increase automatically “, he said.
Uzor also lambasted the federal government for reneging on its promise to put in place skills acquisition centres in Ohaji/Egbema to alleviate the sufferings of their youths.
Curiously, Daily Sun learnt that federal government had at various times in the past, inspected most of the abandoned projects; the last visit was done by the vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, where he promised to complete the abandoned projects.
“But, three years after his visit and promise, the community is still counting and waiting, how long they would wait may depend on the mood of the angry youths,” their leader said.
The aggrieved indigenes therefore, gave seven-week ultimatum to the federal government to restore light and return to the sites of the abandoned projects.
Spokesperson of the youths, Adimachukwu Chimaroke warned the government against treating their matter with levity, insisting that the community is serious with the threat.
He said: “Our youths are restive because they are poor, please don’t try their patience, we know that the federal government has given the state over N189 billion in form of allocation since the project started, 14 per cent is supposed to get to the Ohaji/Egba local government, yet we surfer in darkness.
“Asa gas plant is the highest gas plant in West Africa, yet we don’t have light, business can only thrive if the project is completed. The federal government has failed us; we are calling for probe as the goose that lays the golden egg. We therefore give the federal government two weeks to listen to us or we shut down the oil companies and take back our lands”.
The youths are not alone in their threat, the women of the communities have equally vowed to protest naked to Abuja, the seat of power if the government refused to listen to them.
The first female councillor from Egbema, Mrs Elizabeth Opara, who was among the protesters said that “Our youths are intelligent and our women are ready, would march to Abuja naked, if that is what it will take to get out of darkness and provide good living condition for our youths”.
Daily Sun had reported that the communities have been in darkness because the Imo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (ISOPADEC) which agreed to be paying their electricity bills failed to do so.
President General of Ilile autonomous community, Napoleon Amadi, told us that “The communities actually entered an agreement with the state Government to offset our electricity bills monthly in exchange for our oil, and the State Government was doing it. I could remember that it was so during the administration of Achike Udenwa but the arrangement was halted when the present government neglected ISOPADEC.”