Abia Oil Producing Communities Decry Neglect

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By Uchenna Nwosu in Aba

Ukwa people of Abia State, under the aegis of Asa Development Union (ADU), have warned the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and oil exploring companies in the area against pushing them to resort to violence over the continued neglect of their communities by sidetracking them in the scheme of things.

Conducting journalists round the various sites where projects were started but abandoned by NDDC over 10 years ago in many communities in Ukwa West Local Government Area, the President General of Asa Development Union, Dr. Onwubiko Dike, insisted that since the discovery of crude oil in Owaza in Asa in 1958, the people have not enjoyed any landmark project to atone for the long years of degradation of their environment.

Accompanied on the visit of the abandoned projects by elders and leaders of thought from various communities in Asa land, Dike lamented that even the ones sited and started sometimes ago have been abandoned by the commission, thus giving the impression that Asa communities are not part of the oil producing communities of this country.

He disclosed that the NDDC has reneged in all agreements it had with people which, according to him, included the building of a multi-million civic centre/multi-purpose hall at Ugwuati, a modern sports complex at Okeikpe, 132/133kv electricity substation at Ikpokwu, Obokwe district hospital as well as the reconstruction of Ugwuati-Obokwe-Uratta-Aba road amongst other agreements.

He regretted that despite the efforts made by his people to enter into dialogue with the NDDC aimed at ensuring the completion of the projects, the commission had continued to rebuff any parley that would make contractors handling the projects in Asa land to return to sites.

Addressing journalists later at a meeting of Asa Development Union in Obehie attended by prominent sons and daughters from the area, Dike outlined the sad experiences of Asa people in the hands of the commission which, he said, included the non-execution and abandonment of its projects, awards of non-existent of roads/bridges, poor execution of its projects, non functionality of the few executed projects, deliberate denial of Asa people of benefits of NDDC human capacity development programmes among others.

In their remarks, the Secretary General of ADU, Dr. Ikechi Ajuzieogu and an elder in Asa land, Alfred Agomuo, requested that all the NDDC projects meant for Ukwa West to pass through the Asa Development Union before they are satisfied for execution, adding that a joint programme committee of NDDC and Asa Development Union should be instituted to assist the conceptualisation, design, implementation and execution of any project to be sited in the area.

“Award of contracts to Asa indigenes should be a top priority of NDDC in the execution of infrastructural projects sited in Ukwa West LGA for the purpose of empowerment and ownership by Asa people”, they further demanded.

The people used the opportunity to call for the immediate swearing in of their son as a member of the commission now that President Muhammadu Buhari has returned from his medical vacation, pointing out that it was only Abia that has not had a representative on the board of the NDDC.