Following the recent explosion at an illegal refinery at Abaezi Forest, in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and former Police Service Commission chairman, Mike Okiro, has said his ethnic nationality, Egbema, is being marginalized and relegated in the scheme of things.
Okiro, who is the National leader of the Oguta-Ohaji-Egbema Socio Development Initiative, while expressing regrets over the incident said: “We as a people strongly condemn illegal oil bunkering in its entirety but was fast to say that oil company has not done enough for Egbema people.”
The former police chief stated this while addressing newsmen on Monday during his visit to the explosion scene at Abaezi Forest.
He explained that Egbema people are basically agrarians and fishermen but today their rivers and farmlands are polluted so the youths find nothing to do.
Okiro, while commiserating with families of those who lost their lives in the explosion, urged the government to take drastic measures and ensure that the menace of illegal oil bunkering was brought to an end in the state.
According to him, “We held a meeting on this national calamity. Egbema people are weeping. There’s no community in Egbema that is not affected.
“The 16 towns in Egbema are all affected. We lost 109 people here. There is no family or community in Egbema that’s not affected. we are not talking about people from other communities that are not accounted for because we did a roll call to arrive at the figure.
“We have come to visit the place as a group. We strongly condemn illegal bunkering. We as elders have been kicking against it longtime ago but apparently the youths have not listened to us , even though we know that the marginalization of Egbema people by the Oil companies is part of the factors fuelling this.”
Also speaking, Barr Chris Nwakibe, President of Egbema Elites and Professionals and President of Egbema League of Lawyers said, “in as much we say no to this illegality, in the same vein we make bold to say our people are not happy that a place like Egbema which is the main reason why Imo State is an oil-producing community does not have a road leading to it. There’s no road leading to Egbema from Oguta, no road leading to Egbema from Agwa, Ibeocha and Avu. We are cut off completely from our neighbouring communities.
“The basic things that the government of the state should provide, we are not getting it. For the past 16 years, we have not had a government present in Egbema. The oil company here are not doing much, you can’t point at any project executed by Shell Petroleum since 1962 they came to Egbema. Even Ukwugba the immediate host community could not have light. Even as we condemn it that the government and oil companies are the ones triggering all this illegality.
“Our people have identified a way of refining crude locally, the government should look into giving them licenses. You can’t be talking of shortfall of petroleum product in Nigeria when there are people that can do it, why can’t the government give them licenses, make it official so that generate revenue from it.”
By Tunji Ayodeji