The people of Itsekiri ethnic nation have vehemently decried what they described as the marginalisation of micro-minorities in oil-producing communities in Nigeria by the majority, saying the situation is regrettably responsible for the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta region.
Using the Itsekiri ethnic group as an example, the leader of the people, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, at a press conference held in Lagos yesterday lamented that the Itsekiri ethnic nationality is the highest oil-producing block in the region but remains the least developed.
Briefing journalists further, the Rights activist, Lori-Ogbebor, who read a speech titled: ‘Marginalisation of micro-minorities by larger minorities in Nigeria: Don’t kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs’, said people are dying of treatable ailments in the oil-producing community as a result of oil prospecting and production.
Consequently, she said the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) should focus on the development of the region and eradicate extreme hunger, diseases, and all-round underdevelopment.
According to her, “Today, on the subject of the ‘marginalisation of micro-minorities by larger minorities in Nigeria, it is necessary to note that Delta State is the foremost oil and gas-producing state in the country, and the Itsekiri nation is by available statistics, the highest oil and gas producing area in the state.
“This area, like all other oil and gas producing areas, has become blighted. The flora and fauna of the Itsekiri nation are suffering the debilitating, poisonous, negative and devastating effects of oil and gas prospecting and production. Its major economic activity of fishing and other forms of aquatic agricultural activities have been made impossible.
“Our people have been ravaged by health challenges as a result of oil and gas prospecting and production. The cases of cancer and other deadly diseases have taken an alarming turn. There has also been an increase in unreported cases of people who died of ordinary malaria which was untreated because of excruciating poverty in the region.
“There is a glaring lack of basic facilities of portable water, schools, hospital, electricity, roads, and habitable shelters among others in our area.”
The veteran journalist alleged that: “The derivation funds have been so misapplied, mismanaged and stolen to the detriment of the future of the people in the area that produces the resources that survives the country.
“The NDDC like other intervention agencies is known for uncompleted projects in our area. It appears as if it was designed mostly to withdraw money criminally from the system, as there is no fear of sanctions. It has, therefore, made little or no impact on the lives of my people.
“The NDDC was created as result of many decades of struggle for the development of Niger Delta, which predates our Independence as a nation. The Willinks Commission Report of 1958 also captured our plight.
“We are therefore calling on the federal government and relevant government agencies as well as highly-spirited individual to come to our rescue and give us our fair share of development, as we can’t be living by the ocean, but washing our hands with spittle.”