‘Let’s return to revenue sharing formula of first republic’

Ovie of Ughelli

Ughelli, a town in Delta State, had an estimated population of about 82, 994 in 2007, according to National Population Census. Although the town was originally an agricultural centre, it has now become industrialised, as Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), started petroleum extraction in the area many years back.
The town is also home to Our Lady of Waters Cathedral, seat of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Bomadi. His Royal Majesty, Wilson Ojakovo Oghogovwe Oharisi III was crowned the Ovie of Ughelli in 1980 and has ruled over Ughelli and Urhoboland kingdoms for 37 years.
The Palace Watch recently had an interview with the Ovie of Ughelli in his palace.

How has it been ruling people of Ughelli for 37 years?
By God’s special grace, we have been doing our very best, even though it has not been easy. But we thank the Lord that we have been able to maintain peace and harmony among our people in this kingdom.

Presently, the kingdom is peaceful, although there was a time it was very rough. I was then forced to put vigilante in place to assist the Nigeria Police in the maintenance of peace and order in the kingdom. We have witnessed steady development of Ughelli and its environs during my reign. We thank the Almighty for this. Now, the new township roads have been dualised during my time. The East West Road also runs across the centre of Ughelli town. So, it depends on how you look at it, because to a certain extent, all this is development.

The Ughelli I knew while growing up was a commercial hub. Since you were enthroned, what major structures have been put in place to make the town better?
Ughelli is still a centre somehow. It is, therefore, not surprising that it is attracting so much trade and commerce. We have the Ijaw axis, the Olomu axis, the Ogor and the Orogun’s, who all have their businesses here. Ughelli town is also playing host to most of the major banks in Nigeria. In view of the commercial activities here, the town is slowly and steadily developing along its own pace into a very big city.

Over the years, Ughelli people have learnt to take advantage of commercial bank facilities, which has also helped in the town’s development. There are new structures, almost everywhere you go in town. And unlike before, Ughelli is wearing a new and beautiful look. We thank God for this.

Anyhow, I must be quick to say there is no major industry here in Ughelli. So, I would like to appeal to owners of industries in Nigeria to consider establishing their branches in Ughelli. I promise we will do all within our powers to make them comfortable here. STRACO construction company has been operating from here for sometime now, and a new company known as HERITAGE recently joined them to make this place its administrative office. This no doubt will begin to make Ughelli livelier. By God’s grace, we are moving forward, though we are looking forward to a more developed Ughelli in the nearest future.

However, the town is bubbling, as it is centrally located. From here, people can easily get to their different places of work and return before nightfall.

In your 37 years on the throne, you must have witnessed different administrations. Which of these would you say did well in developing Delta State?
I must confess that past governments, both military and civilian, did their bit before leaving the stage. We are grateful to them for what they have done to develop Delta State. But the fact still remains that among these governments, that of James Onanefe Ibori is the most outstanding. When Ibori took over from the military as a democratically elected governor, he undertook the state’s development, as if there was no tomorrow.

During his administration, Ughelli was just like a village, but he helped to develop the town to what it is today. The argument most people are advancing today is that, during Ibori’s administration, there was oil boom. I agree with this, but if he had refused to work, there was nothing anybody could have done to him as a governor then. But he decided to take on the task of turning most parts of Delta State into modern cities. This commendation must be given to him, as he really tried, regardless of what anybody might want to say. These are some of the reasons we are very pleased with him.

If you must know, I was very sad, when he was jailed. As far as I am concerned, I am yet to see any governor who has worked as much as Ibori in the development of Delta State.

You are in the heart of Delta State. How has the issue of militancy affected you and your people?
With regard to the issue of militancy, if people in government were ready to listen to my advice, I would say it is not being properly handled. An arrangement where the so-called militants are removed from their villages by government and trained without providing jobs for them is not proper. I would have thought if government is not ready or willing to empower them by engaging them permanently, then they should let them remain where they were taken from. What is the idea of moving them from their different villages only for them to be let loose on innocent and law abiding people in cities and towns?

To me, this does not make sense. At some point in Ughelli here, they were making life uncomfortable and the town uninhabitable for the people. My suggestion therefore, is that, henceforth, if government is not ready to engage them permanently, they should be made to remain in their places of birth, where they are known. Whatever empowerment government is willing to give them should be extended to them in their respective villages or towns, so that whatsoever nuisance is associated with their activities will be within their locality.
nother benefit that will be derived from militants remaining in their localities is that whatever empowerment they are given will be seen by their people, who will also see for themselves how such money is being used. Some of them will, therefore, be forced to live more responsibly.

How do you see the current level of infrastructural development in the Niger Delta Region, especially with regard to Federal Government and oil companies operating here?
The Federal Government, whether past or present, has deliberately refused to develop this region. I am yet to be told of the crimes we committed to deserve this. If enough resources have been plowed into the development of this region, a lot of progress would have been made, but they are refusing to do what is right. I don’t know why. Go to the part of Ughelli, where the float stations are located, and you will be surprised at the deplorable state of facilities there. And yet, this is where they make a whole lot of money. I am honestly yet to understand the reason(s) people in Abuja are behaving the way they have been doing. We do not know what they are doing with all the money they are making from this region. It is a serious matter.

The Federal Government was supposed to have given special recognition to these areas, where monies are made. I had expected that by now, they would have made it a deliberate policy for all the companies operating in this region to locate their headquarters here, so that at least, they can provide some employment for our people. Once this is done, it will help ease the present hardship in the Niger Delta Region.

If you were to advise the Federal Government, what would you want them to do immediately to make this region environmentally friendly and habitable?
In the First Republic, when agriculture was the mainstay of the nation’s economy, the Western region was the major producer of cocoa, while the Northern region was producing groundnut, hides and skin. The money realised from these products were not mismanaged, as is the case with crude oil proceeds. There was adequate arrangement for derivation that was suitable to the people of these regions. The Southwest and the Northern regions were then made to have 50 percent of all the resources made nationally. Why is the situation now different, especially as it affects the Niger Delta Region?

So, my advice to government is to return to the former ways of sharing money accruing to the national purse, just as was the case in the First Republic. If this is done, the oil producing regions will have enough money to develop their areas.

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