You could feel the excitement in the air when the people of Oloibiri and Odi turned out at different occasions to witness the commissioning of some projects in their area by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Managing Director of the NDDC, Dr. Chris Oboh, assured in his address that the Commission would continue to take steps to redress challenges of neglect in Oloibiri and Odi in the region.
The story of neglect is not strange to the two communities. It would be recalled that oil was first struck in commercial quantity in Nigeria at Oloibiri in 1958. But sadly, this discovery did not in any way translate into development for the community located in Ogbia local government area of Bayelsa State.
The area suffered ruins and devastation from oil exploration. Matters became worse for the community when the oil wells dried up and they were completely abandoned.
Odi also shares a similar pain of neglect after the military invaded the area in 1999, destroying the economy of the people.
The sad situation apparently explained why the communities turned out in their rich attire to welcome the NDDC team when it commissioned projects in the areas.
At Oloibiri, the NDDC commissioned a link bridge, landing jetty, potable water and electrification projects.
Speaking during the event, Chairman of Oloibiri Council of Chiefs, Chief Foster Inengeti Ikpesu expressed gratitude to the interventionist agency set up by the Federal Government to cushion the pains of the region, adding that the Commission had given them a sense of belonging.
He recaptured the long years of neglect of the area when he said that the story of Oloibiri had been that of rejection, environmental degradation which arose from total abandonment of the area before and after oil exploration in the area.
According to him: “The story of Oloibiri has been that of exploitation, rape of our natural wealth, destruction of aquatic life, environmental degradation, neglect and total abandonment. Our case is both peculiar and pathetic because exploration activities have ceased in Oloibiri for some years now, which prompted the oil companies and development agencies set up by the Federal Government to completely forget the first goose that laid the golden egg”.
Continuing, he said they were happy with what the Commission was doing in their area. The people also commended the Bayelsa representatives on the board of the Commission, Edi Orubo, who led the NDDC team to the community.
“We are convinced that a new dawn has come through your commission for practical and sincere solutions to redress the past injustices meted out to the Oloibiri people, “ he added.
It was a similar story at Odi when the NDDC commissioned the 18-kilometre Odi/Trofani road which connects Odi, Aduku and Trofani communities.
Chief Asherifa Torru, of the Trofani traditional institution conveyed the gratitude of the community to the Commission for the project. He said it would further open the area to development.
“Our hearts are filled with profound joy on the commissioning and handing over of the Odi-Trofani road. The entire Trofani community is highly appreciative of the efforts of the NDDC in opening our town”.
Some youths who also spoke said the road would connect them with economic opportunities outside their community.
NDDC also installed a 33Kv transmission line and carried out rehabilitation work on some lines in Odi town. These have made it possible for the area to enjoy power from the Kolo Creek gas turbine in Kaima.
Orubo said the commissioned projects were part of efforts to make Odi community recover from the ruins of the 1999 military invasion of the area.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Army invaded Odi community in 1999 reportedly in search of militants allegedly behind the brutal murder of some senior security personnel. They completely destroyed Odi.
According to Mr. Michael Apia, it would take Odi several years to recover from the destruction that attended the invasion by the Nigerian Army. Meantime, like several others, he was excited with the projects commissioned by the NDDC. He described the projects as another leap for the community, adding that as youths, they would ensure that the projects were protected from any form of attack.
On his part, the traditional ruler of Odi, the Amananowei of Odi kingdom, Chief Shine Andrew Apre, said the projects had created fresh windows of development opportunities for the area. “It is pleasing to note that NDDC has through her intervention projects touched the lives of the people of Odi Kingdom in the areas of education, water, health and this time electricity and link road. These projects are visible and have direct impact on the lives of our people. With road you have given us access. With light, you have given us life, ” he said.