Ethnic feud puts $16b EPZ project at risk
Protracted disagreement over the appelation the proposed $16billion Export Processing Zone (EPZ) should bear is threating its take-off.
The Gbaramatu Ijaw, co-owners of the land on which the project will be sited, are against naming it after Ogidigben (EPZ Ogidigben), an appellation which suggests an Itsekiri landlordship.
Speaking at a press briefing in Warri yesterday, representatives of Gbaramatu kingdom, led by Chief Godspower Gbenekama, rejected the name already placed on the project by the Delta State government, describing it as an insult on the two Ijaw kingdoms, whose land will house 70 per cent of the project site.
They accused the Delta State government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of playing games with the project, warning that the development is capable of reigniting the bitter, but rested Ijaw/Itsekiri wars of the early 2000s.
They urged the Delta State government to set up two more interface-committees for both Gbaramatu and Okulagha kingdoms, for the sake of equity and peace.
“The people of Ikpokpo community, which is the site for the proposed seaport and entry port to the proposed EPZ project, would suffer the most because its entire land would be swallowed up by the project. What this means is that Ikpokpo would cease to exist,” they said.
The people will become homeless and strangers in other communities, while only the bushes and the peripheries of Ugborodo communities of Madangho, Ajudaibo and Ogidigben, which the project is now named after, would be affected”, they said.
According to the group, more than ten communities of Gbaramatu Kingdom would be losing land to the project, frowning at the failure of the state government to see the sacrifice of the Ijaws in the area and accused it of working to play a game of mischief by selling the view that all the land on which the project would be sited is owned by the Itsekiri.
The people, however, demanded, among other things that “the name of the project must be changed from EPZ Ogidigben to another name that reflects the joint ownership of the Ijaw and Itsekiri in the project. We align with GIBABU, as suggestion by the Gbaramatu Traditional Council of Chifs. We totally reject the present name because of past experiences and antics of the Itsekiris of Ugborodo in basterdising our communities’ name.
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