June 13, 2024

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A’Ibom: Oron Boils As Youth Protest Marginalisation

6 min read

There has been an uneasy calm in Oron, Akwa Ibom State, as youths of the area took to the streets in a peaceful protest to draw government’s attention to what they call the continued marginalisation of the local government.
Oron is believed to be the major source of oil production in Akwa Ibom State. The people are angry that despite their contribution to the economy of the state, which makes Akwa Ibom earn so much in oil revenue from the federal government, they have been marginalised by the state and federal government.
The youth who occupied the town for hours, with placards and banners, said they were tired of suffering in silence. One of the banners they displayed reads “is oil thicker than blood? Oro youth says no to continuous marginalization, enough is enough.”
One of those who spoke while the protest lasted gave his name simply as Barrister Omen. He said they were protesting the non recognition of Oron as an oil producing community, despite their contribution to the economy of the state and country.
According to him, “we want to be accorded our due recognition as an oil producing community. There is nothing superior to this, we want to be recognized. You know recognition comes with benefits, benefits like scholarships, employment opportunities for the youths.
“There are two issues involved, it is the duties of the oil companies to recognize Oro as host community, the entire Oro nation, the entire five local government areas of Oro nation and littoral local government areas. It is the duty of the oil companies to accord Oro nation the recognition as the host community, whereas it is the government’s responsibility to recognize Oro nation as an oil producing community.”
Another native who gave his name as Comrade Choice said the protest was meant to pass a message to the governor on their grievances. “We are here because we want to pass a simple message to His Excellency the governor of this state, which is governor Udom Emmanuel, but we have sent messages to him on severally occasions, the reason why we are here is to do a peaceful protest and tell the governor that we are not here to fight him, rather we are just looking for something from him, just for him to induce that thing that the five Local Government of Oro which it was already established are oil producing communities.
“If he refuses to do this thing before the next two weeks, that means he is calling us to fight him. We are not fighting him for now, rather we are his friends, we are his children, we are begging him, this protest would have taken place like three weeks ago but the senator representing Eket Senatorial District came begging that we should give her two weeks, that she will go and have a meeting with the governor and since she is our own senator, our sister, our mother, we reasoned with her.
“ I personally was angry with her, I told her madam, if you feel that you are going to do this thing for us, that if you want for us to give you two weeks stake your family for us, stake your house and yourself, that if after two weeks, I said that myself, she is my mother, I didn’t have problem with her, I love her so much, but for her to achieve my goal, the future of my own children, I am suffering now, I am suffering.
“I sponsored myself in school, so many of those in government now it was our forefathers that sent them to school, they gave them scholarship to study and made sure they are able to achieve what they have achieved, what have they done for us, nothing, what one thing has state house member, federal house member, senator, all these that say they are going to give Oro scholarship, none of them. That’s why we are here, concerning our own right. We are blaming our government we don’t care whoever is there but we are sending a simple message.”
It was the first time that the Oron people will be embarking on a protest of this nature. Some years ago, Dr Effiong Edunam, at that time the president-general of Oron Union, had lamented to TNN that the government was not fair to the people, even with its contributions to the economy.
Hear him: “Oron is easily the most maltreated oil producing community in the whole of Nigeria. And one major reason we can stand to justify that is that Oron is the largest oil producing community in Nigeria, and have not been recognized as such for more than 50 years.
“As a result, Oron has not had the benefit of whatever it deserves as such a large oil producing community. Oron is the only community in Nigeria which produces the volume of oil Oron produces but require the resolution of the National Assembly to be recognized even as an oil producing community.
“No other community like Oron has had to pass through that level of marginalization and neglect. I think it must be as a result of the long standing presence of Christianity in Oron area that Oron has not become a very restive part of this country, because very few communities would stand the level of injustice that this whole country in general, and Akwa Ibom state in particular, has subjected Oron to.
“Akwa Ibom state government derives 80 per cent of its revenue from oil from the Oron area. This has left Oron utterly neglected, underdeveloped, and I don’t see how that can represent any form of attention that Oron deserves. There are no roads, no schools, no hospitals in the Oron area, nothing at all to justify Oron status as the largest oil producing community in Nigeria.
“That neglect has been largely promoted by Akwa Ibom state government which has also refused to do the needful by setting up a commission that should promote the development of oil producing communities in the state itself.
“You may have noticed that most of the oil producing states have set up that sort of commission but Akwa Ibom state has refused to set up a similar commission for the development of oil producing sections of this state. And it is a verifiable fact that the most underdeveloped sections of Akwa Ibom state are the oil producing communities, and it shouldn’t be so.
“It is something that if anybody comes into the state, he would just travel round. The money from oil has developed Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, and left Eket senatorial district that Oron belongs to lagging behind. This is not a wild allegation.
“The poorest part of Nigeria is the oil producing area. That’s why no government can, in clear conscience, condemn the degree of restiveness and militancy in the Niger Delta, because when a people are over exploited, even the most patient would be aggrieved. And that’s what is happening in the Niger Delta.
“I have said that Oron has been producing oil for Nigeria for more than 50 years, and it’s not even accorded recognition as an oil producing community. What else is there to say? Whether it’s Akwa Ibom state government or it’s Nigerian government, the attitude has been the same. And that explains why I’m afraid.
“ If the persistence of Oron people in keeping the peace is not appreciated, it means Nigeria likes a people who resort to violence, not people who promote moral tuition. Because that’s what Oron has been doing, appealing peacefully through the newspapers, agitation in the newspapers, through its representatives at the different levels of legislative houses. And nothing is seen since 50 years.
“Nigeria only engages in dialogue when there is a crisis, when there is violence. When people are peaceful, Nigeria keeps quiet and walks away from its responsibilities towards such people, which are rather curious because a people who are peaceful ought to be rewarded for being peaceful, not really when people carry guns and matchet that government must listen.”

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