(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) – Ogba is a distinct ethnic nationality in Nigeria. They are located in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, ONELGA, of Rivers State, and consists of 39 towns in three clans. The clans are Usomini, Igburu and Egi.
It is important to note that Omoku, which is the key commercial town in Ogbaland, also serves as the headquarters of ONELGA, and attracts people from other parts of Nigeria, including foreigners.
The reason is because, Ogbaland is endowed with abundance of hydrocarbon, with Total Energies, Nigerian Agip Oil Company and other companies actively engaged in oil exporation in the area for decades.
Ordinarily, one would have expected a significant improvement in the quality of life of Ogba people reputed to be the largest producers of hydrocarbon in Nigeria but our findings showed that the gains have not been proportional to their contributions.
Predictably, one of the reasons for the gap in expectations is infastructural development deficit.
Infrastructure, in general refers to those facilities and processes that facilitate communication, and improvement in the quality of lives of a people. It also has implications on the competitiveness of a people. In this context, we are looking at portable water, bridges, road and rail networks; hospitals and schools; safe environment, communication networks and electricity, among others.
Beside being the heart of the hydrocarbon industry in Nigeria and largest producer of Natural Gas in the country, Ogbaland is also endowed with good climate, vast arable land, vegetation and fertile soil. These features, according to a study carried out by Jerry Bless Integrated Services in 2007, were the reasons why the traditional occupations of the people are predominantly farming and fishing.
However, some of them are also engaged in trading, white colar jobs and business, while yet a good number are involved in politics. Interestingly, Ogba land is known to have produced such great names in politics like the late Chief G.U.Ake, during the administration of Dr. Peter Odili; Senator Wilson Ake, Chief Oris Onyiri, two term Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party at a time; the elegant Prof. Ngozi Odu, Deputy Governorship Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State ahead of the 2023 elections, and Bro. Felix Obua, an exceptionally resourceful politician, and former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State, among others.
Although Ogba land hosts the only Federal College of Education, Technical, in Rivers State, there have been loud complaints of limited road networks, and the deplorable condition of the ones available. Meanwhile,
about two decades ago, the people used to enjoy uninterrupted power supply from the oil companies operating in the area, but there are indications that so much have changed overtime, especially against the background of almost total breakdown of law and order in the area some years ago by rampaging cultists.
The security threat did not only force many, including the indigenes to flee to other towns, it also crowded out economic activities in the area.
It is heartwarming to see that normalcy has since returned to Ogbaland. And it has to be put on record that the presence of the multinational oil companies has been robbing off positively on the social and economic well being of the people. These are visible in the areas of employment, contracts, scholarship awards and provision of physical and social infrastructure.
Total Energies, for instance, periodically sponsors free health treatment in the area.They are also involved in sports and entrepreneurial initiatives; provide facilities in aid of the physically challenged, and identifies with host communities in good, and bad times.
Be that as it may, it was found that the physical environment of Ogbaland still remains a source of concern to indigenes because of the high level of air pollution from gas flaring and other forms of emmisions from oil exploration and related activities.
In this connection therefore, so much more needed to be done to enhance the physical environment and competitiveness of the people. And one of the ways that the identified gap can be closed is to ensure inclusiveness in development plans and implementation, in such a way that non of the 39 towns in the Ogba Kingdom under the leadership of His Eminence, Oba Nwachuku Obuoha Obi 111, Paramount Head and Oba of Ogbaland, is left behind.
It is good that the only road connecting Ogbaland with Ahoada is being dualised, however effort should be made to ensure that the work is completed, including the tarring of internal roads in Omoku and other important towns in Ogba kingdom.
We also recommend the connection of Ogba to other neighbouring towns by road inorder to enhance the level of communication, social and economic activities in the kingdom. Furthermore, it would be necessary for the traditional institutions in the area to take a second look at some of their traditional practices, with a view to bringing them in tune with current realities, and attracting more investors and visitors to the area.
Agriculture in the Ogbaland can be boosted in the area if new roads are constructed to facilitate transportation of farmers and evacuation of farm produce to areas that they are needed. Accessible roads also have the advantage of attracting investors, and encouraging the proliferation of new businesses.
It is further recommended that companies and governments at all levels assist Ogba people in the areas of entrepreneurial development, establishment of storage facilities for farm produce, as well as Sea foods. These initiatives will, in no small way, enhance the economy of the area, provide employment opportunities and reduce the level of poverty in Ogbaland.
The study also recommends that companies operating in Ogbaland should consider the option of recycling to avoid discharging harmful wastes into the environment. Also important is the need for the traditional and political leaderships to be proactive on flood issues in Ogbaland. This will reduce to the minimum the effect of flooding on the people and their sources of livelihood, whenever it occurs.
And finally, to enable the citizens compete in the globalised world, the traditional leadership have to laiase with government and oil companies to ensure the provision of libraries in strategic locations in Ogbaland land, establish Entrepreneurship Development Centres and provide digital infrastructure that can boost communications in the area. These initiatives have the potential to ultimately foster more commercial activities, and subsequently improve the quality of life of the people.