Sunday, 1 March 2015

Jonathan Finally Settles Ijaw / Itsekiri EPZ Feud

President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, in Asaba, Delta State, resolved the stalemate between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri in Delta State over the groundbreaking of the $16 billion Delta City Gas City project at Ogidigben, Warri South-West Local Government Area of the state.

Sunday Vanguard gathered that a new date of March 15 was agreed for the groundbreaking ceremony, which had suffered three postponements since 2014.

A reliable source hinted that the President, who was on a two-day visit to the state, held separate meetings with the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II, who led the Itsekiri delegation, and Ijaw leaders before he finally met with two principal protagonists, ex-militant leader, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, and Itsekiri leader, Chief Ayiri Emami.

At the fence-mending meeting with Tompolo and Ayiri, brokered by Jonathan’s host, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, yesterday morning, our dependable informant said, “It was agreed that the groundbreaking be done on March 15 and the ethnic groups should abide by the names proposed by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, for the projects.

“While the main project, Delta Gas City, which many refer to as EPZ, is at Ogidigben, an Itsekiri town, the other one is Gbaramatu Sea Port in Ijaw territory.”.

It was learned that Uduaghan had to intervene before Ayiri accepted the deal.

With the new date, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, has been instructed to reach out to the foreign investors of the project to ensure their participation at the groundbreaking.

Contacted, Ayiri, a PDP chieftain, said he was at the meeting with Mr. President, but declined to speak on the outcome.

An Itsekiri leader, Chief Thomas Ereyitomi, who attended the meeting of the Itsekiri leaders with Jonathan, on Friday evening, said he was not aware of the definite date of March 15, but he knew the Olu of Warri raised the matter afresh and the President said a new date would be fixed before the presidential election on March 28.

Similarly, Chairman of the Warri Study Group, Mr. Edward Ekpoko, whose group threatened earlier that Niger-Delta ethnic nationalities might not vote for Jonathan if the groundbreaking was not performed before the presidential election, said, “I was there at the meeting with President Jonathan on Friday, he said he would do the groundbreaking before the election but no date was fixed.

“He told us he would talk with Governor Uduaghan for a new date.”

Our reporter could not reach Uduaghan, who was busy with President Jonathan, for comment, yesterday, but a close aide said, “He is happy that the matter has been finally resolved and the President has asked him to work with the Minister of Petroleum Resources and other stakeholders to ensure a hitch-free groundbreaking ceremony.”

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