Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Ekpeaga natives in Egbema clan in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA), Rivers State, have decried lack of basic infrastructure. They have also stated that the community has not seen electricity for several decades now.
Ekpeaga is one of the oil-producing communities in the state. The natives lamented that they have been cut off from other communities due to lack of roads to link them with neighbouring communities in Rivers and Imo states.
These complaints came as the community marked its annual New Yam festival, and coronation of a title-holder as their tradition demands. They called on the federal, state and local governments for help, regretting that there is no government presence in the community, which hosts many oil facilities.
It was gathered that the abandoned state of the health centre in the community has become a source of anger for residents. The paramount ruler of Ekpeaga, Eze Godswill Asuniya, the Eze-Ali II of Ekpeaga-Ngozi, claimed that the health care facility, after its construction, was not equipped. He stated that workers were not sent to the health centre: “The community health centre right from its inception in 2001 has never had any staff. We are just left without health attention. It was neither reopened staffed. So, our people travel all the way to Imo State where we have health centre.
“We are having high level of mortality rate especially during child birth. Before we will take women to any health facility outside here, some times, they give birth on the road. In some cases, we lose the baby, the mother and in few cases both.”
He alleged that oil companies operating in their area do not meet up with their corporate social responsibilities to the host communities. The community head also claimed that the community has been abandoned and neglected by government:
“The primary and secondary schools we have are in the same premises and they do not have enough classrooms for the students. The schools are understaffed and need upgrading.
“We do not have roads to link us with our Rivers community. We cross the river by using canoe. This has claimed the lives of many of our children. From Ekpeaga to Aggah community our sister community, is just 8.4 kilometres. But, because there is no bridge, we go all the way through Imo State before you can get there.
“In terms of development, our school is still at standstill as there is no upgrading of the school. We have written to the Federal Government and the state to upgrade the school because it is giving our children a very big concern, in terms of WAEC.
“We are a boundary community between Rivers and Imo states. In most cases, in terms of security, we are not safe if not for the effort of the community, we suffer insecurity.
“We have no electricity and the companies are not meeting up to their social responsibilities. Our pressing need now is link road, so we can connect with other communities in Imo and Rivers states and be able to sell our agricultural produce.”
Prince Ibe, Eze Ebuba Agunecheagu, stated that the community has been suffering, regretted that government and oil giants did not care. He urged youths of the area to shun crime and work for the development of the community: “Ekpeaga is suffering. There is no good water, no good health centre, no primary and secondary schools, no road. So we have been crying to the state government and Federal Government to assist in giving us all these.
“Agip is operating in this community, but their facility is in Aggah. They don’t give us anything here. We are praying that they should do the thing that they are sup- posed to do like the way they are doing in other communities.”
The Community Development Committee Chairman of Ekpeaga, Silvester Ekigbo, disclosed that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), through its intervention in 2010, brought electricity poles but cables were not provided: “They gave us electric poles for about eight years now without cables. And till now the poles are standing like that without light. Only rich people use generators.
“Here we are not benefiting anything. We have many oil wells in Egbema, Rivers State and its not showing. Noting shows that we are an oil producing community. We are in Rivers State, a rich state, and we are not seeing anything. We do not have roads. Sometimes we use pipeline as road to access other communities.
“Some years ago we lost many persons to fire. They were using the pipeline to cross to Imo State and never knew there was spill. It caught fire and many died. Also, we lost some of our children who were using local canoe to cross to Aggah for school. Because of that we used part of our primary school to create out second- ary school.
“We are begging government and Nigerian Agip Oil Company in our area to pity us and remember us for good.”