Okey Sampson, Abia
Ukwa, located in the southern fringes of Abia State and made up of two Local Government Areas of Ukwa East and West, is the only oil producing area the state can boast of. But from all indices, Ukwa remains the proverbial hen that lays the golden egg, yet lacks the basic ingredients of life.
To ameliorate the situation, there has been agitations by eminent personalities and groups from the area clamouring that the Abia ministerial slot should be given to somebody from the area as a way to not only redress the imbalance in political appointments in the state, but also as a way of compensating Ukwa land for her contributions to the socio-economic spectrum of the nation.
Recently, women of the area took to the Aba – Port Harcourt expressway, to stage a peaceful protest over alleged neglect and marginalisation of their communities by the three tiers of government in the country and demanded for ministerial position in the yet to be constituted Federal Executive Council.
The women, who protested under the aegis of the Concerned Women of Ukwa land, said it was unfortunate and very regrettable that they were suffering untold hardship because their farmlands that hitherto gave good yield have become unproductive due to the negative effects of oil exploration and exploitation in their area, yet they were not compensated.
Speaking through their leader, Mrs. Odochi Onuegbu, the women pointed out that though the Federal Government established the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to intervene in both infrastructure and human capital development of the area, the communities have continued to suffer various forms of deprivation. She was of the view that the Federal Government should consider appointing an indigene of the area a minister in the Federal Executive Council. She further said that the group would guide the government in the appointment of credible Ukwa indigenes into the board of the NDDC so the people of the area can feel the impact of the interventionist outfit.
In a related development, another group known as the Ukwa Consultative Assembly has also called for the appointment of an indigene of the oil rich community as a minister for the sake justice and fairness.
Another group, Abia Oil Producing Area Vanguard (AOPAV) has equally called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to consider the appointment of competent persons from the area as minister.
Leader of the group, Chimsom Ekeke who addressed newsmen in Aba said the appeal has become imperative as a result of the marginalisation of the area in the scheme of things not only in Abia South but Abia State in general.
According to Ekeke “with two Local Government Areas of Ukwa West and Ukwa East, the people of this only oil producing area in Abia State believe that the only political patrimony they have with their Ngwa ‘brothers’ is the Abia South Senate seat which of course they consider should be rotated between the two areas.
“However, sadly enough, by 2023 the (Ukwa) people would have lurched for 16 straight years, waiting to have a bite of the Senate pie as Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Ngwa man) who has been in the Senate for the past 12 years had just been given a Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to return to the Senate for the fourth time running.
“It was against this backdrop that the question that easily agitates the mind of right thinking people from the area is whether an Ukwa man can ever represent Abia South again in the Senate, considering the fact that majority of the Ngwa people of Abia South who are far more in population may have vowed not to vote for any Ukwa son or daughter who aspires to the seat”.
The AOPAV leader said with large quantity of crude oil deposits that made the area the largest centre of operation of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) on land, Ukwa has nothing to show for it in terms of infrastructure development, political representation and appointments.
Ekeke regretted that the Ukwa people have not benefitted from the system in whatever form, stressing that it is not in the interest of equity and justice that the Ngwa (Obi Ngwa) should hold the positions of governor, senator and two recent federal appointments which went to Chief Nyerere Anyim and Dr. Chris Akomas without the Ukwa man having any.
“Since Nigeria is a country that preaches equity, fairness and justice all the time, it is imperative that the president considers a native of Ukwa for ministerial position. This has become imperative more so that since the return of democracy in 1999, no Ukwa man has been appointed a minister and now is the time to redress the anomaly,” he said.
Ekeke posited that Ukwa people unlike their neighbouring Niger Delta folks, have been peaceful which he said was not as a result of weakness, but sign of maturity and with the believe that the Federal Government would one day look their way and reward them appropriately.
He said the area has sons and daughters that are eminently qualified to occupy ministerial or any position of trust given to them and that they are confident they would deliver well enough if given the opportunity to serve.