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Dredging: NPA in trouble as communities along Escarvos-Warri channel petition FG

For not being factored in ab-initio, loss of livelihood and displacement from their ancestral homes, a number of riverine communities on the way of the dredge channel from Escravos-Chanomi/Ogbe-Ijoh down to Warri Port in Delta State, have raised strong objection to the planned resumption of the waterway.

Business Hilights recalls that earlier in May, the Olu of Warri, HRM, Ogiame Ikenwoli had paid an SOS visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa where Mr. President assured him that action will be taken on the channel very soon.

In line with the presidential pledge, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman personally appeared during one of the Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting and worked for the seamless approval of the dredging deal.

Fears of the communities were further heightened when they discovered that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process avoided them and their possible inputs.

Business Hilights gathered that the over 50 Ijaw, Ilaje and Itsekiri communities in the Chanomi creeks and those who reside along and around Ogbe-Ijoh axis are apprehensive considering what it took them to recover from the hardship, pandemic poverty and sad memories of experienced in the 1980s when a similar dredging was done.

However, in a petition to the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi in which NPA was copied, the solicitor and coordinator of the communities, Dr. Clarkson Aribogha said the affected communities want the Federal Government to carry them along and do the needful without any bias, political bigotry, manipulation, ethnic sentiment, intimidation of any kind, hatred or any act that will further put them in pains.

According to him, the people criticised the survey, mapping and the sounding activities, which they said was done secretly without their notice including the EIA.

The community further admonished the Federal Government consultants and contractors to be aware of their corporate social responsibilities to the host communities in the course of carrying out the dredging operations, adding that the communities impacted through the current tidal river wave carries the debris to creeks, creeklet and streams are yet to be listed out.

“We urged the Federal Government to pay compensation to the communities that will be affected during and after the dredging because their source of livelihood such as fish ponds, forest, swamp, fish migration, fish gear damages and many others are not going to be spared.

“Since the last dredging by the Federal Government from Escravos-Chanomi-Warri Ogbe-Ijoh River in the 80s no such event has taken place till now, thus resulting in the tiltation of the river channels, creeks, creek lets, preventing bigger vessels from penetrating into Warri Port from commercial activities,” the solicitor averred.

Efforts to get responses from the NPA on Tuesday failed.

But it was also gathered that the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa had assured all stakeholders including the petitioning communities that “We are aware that there may be some agitations here and there but processes are being put in place to get everybody involved particularly the youths.

He averred that “We will try to let them know that it is in the best interest of all of us in the Niger Delta area particularly in Delta State that the dredging is taking place is for the good of all”.