EXCLUSIVE: UTUKPORITSERUN OF WARRI KINGDOM GIVES ACCOUNT OF STEWARDSHIP
Founder and leader of Ikpere Alemeje Traders Association, Ugborodo, Chief Mercy Olowu, Utukporitserun of Warri Kingdom, alias Eriegwa recently voiced out her experience and achievements of her tenure in office with Warri Voice Publisher, Mr. Femi Odonmeta.
How did Ikpere Alemeje Traders Association came about
The Ikpere Ale Meje started 1992 at Ogidigben Community were I come from, I summoned all the women to Ogidigben Community town hall where we unanimously agreed that Shell and Chevron that are operating in our land are not contributing to the development of the Community despite what they are getting from the land.
We also realized that our men are fighting for the development of the Community but the oil companies are keeping deaf ears to their plights.
The first action we took was to storm Shell and Otumara with our large numbers of women, collected their keys and shut down the place peacefully.
What were your demands to the Oil Companies
Our demands were very simple. Repair our roads, provide us light, water and re-build our primary school. When Atuwatse II got wind of the shut down by our women, he sent two of his Chiefs to come and collect the keys from us but we refused. We told the Chief that we will personally come to Warri and submit the keys.When we got to the king's Palace (Aghofen), we presented our demands and handed the two keys to him. Atuwatse II said that our demands are genuine and assured us that all our demands would be granted within one week.
Did the oil companies harken to the voice of Atuwatse II, the Olu of Warri in fulfillment to your demands
Yes. Between one week, Shell started developing Ogidigben Community which also spread to Ugborodo and Ajudaibo Community.
How did you people gain access into Chevron Yard
We the women about 500 of us on one fateful morning overpowered Chevron boat named Ginuwa which always come to Madangho Jetty to carry Ogidigben, Ajudaibo and Madangho workers every morning.
We told the quarter-master of the boat to carry us the women to the tank farm.The security at the bay gave us access thinking that we were workers. All of us came down and Chevron operation was short down.
What prompted us to shut down the yard was when we were told that an elderly Itsekiri Mechanic was denied appointment because of age whereas other men from different tribes who are older than the Itsekiri man are working in the yard, coupled with other of our demands.
While the women were occupying Chevron tank farm forcefully for eleven days, Chevron went to the new Ugborodo town and poured sharp sand in the place. The one in the MOU which Chevron later signed is the second phase which they did not do. During the shut down, Chevron officials wanted to buy me over.
They promised me some huge amount and even award me contracts if I can call off the action, but I refused. All these while, negotiation between Chevron and Ugborodo Community was going on at Ugborodo town hall before the eleven days protest was called off by us. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was written and signed. The content of the MOU are as follow:
(1)Re-sandfilling of the site of the Ugborodo new town to commence by September 1, 2002.
(2)Building works on the Civic/Community Centre will commence by September 1, 2002.
(3)Six contracts within the limits of approval of the company will be awarded before December 31, 2002
(4)These six contracts will be awarded using the open tendering and competitive bid process among Community that are competitive per contracting process.
(5)As part of the Company's policy to promote local content and local business development, the six contracts will be awarded to the indigenous contractors of the Community that are competitive per our contracting process.
(6)Without prejudice to the foregoing, wherever a contractor not indigenous to Ugborodo wins a contract on the new town project, the selected contractor will be required to give substantial consideration to local community content.
(7)The company agrees to train manpower from the Community in various skills at the SPMG workshop in Escravos Tank Farm.
(8)The company will provide electricity to Ode-Ugborodo for residential and cottage industry use.
(9)The Company will provide improved water supply system by extending the existing water connection from the Escravos terminal to Ode-Ugborodo up to Ugbolegin.
(10)The company will construct teachers quarters for 4 primary schools in the community.
(11)The company will construct a block of six classroom and teachers' quarters at Ogidigben Grammar School.
(12) The Company will process and pay the bursaries of Community Scholarship for the year 2000/2001 and 2002 at the existing rates.
(13) Effective from 2002/2003 academic session, bursaries for scholars in tertiary institutions will be increased from N50,000 (Fifty Thousand Naira) to N75,000 (Seventy five thousand Naira) only. Also effective from 2003, bursaries for Community scholars in Secondary Schools will be increased from N10,000 (Ten Thousand Naira) to N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira).
(14) Company will engage a non-governmental organization who will work with the women of the Community to form cooperative organizations for the purpose of fish farming, poultry farming and shrimp farming.
(15) Company will register women contractor from the community and provide them the opportunity to supply at competitive rates
(16) Company will supply four speed boats each powered by two 75 H. P. engines to ease transportation
(17) Company will employ 15 indigenes of the community through the company established hiring process.
(18) In addition, company will recruit a minimum of 5 persons every year for the next 5 years in the community.
(19) Company will build the official residence of the Eghare-Aja of Ugborodo and Olaja-Ororu
(20) The MOU shall be enforced from the date of signing.
Before the eleven days protest was called off, Chevron signed an agreement with Ugborodo Community on July 7, 2002.
Signatories of the agreements are: The Eghare-Aja, Chief Mercy Olowu, The Olaja-Ororu, Late Eric Igban, Chairman, Managing Director of Chevron Limited, representative of the Delta State Governor.
It was witnessed by Barrister D. O. Mayuku and Nengite Esijemine Lucky.
Very pleased with the way I lead the women during the peaceful protest, Mr. Phillgate from Chevron home office, removed his wristwatch in his hands and presented it to me and described me as a great and honest woman.
What other achievements can you boast of during your tenure
During my tenure, we the women also built a block of 18 rooms at Ode-Ugborodo and Ogidigben to provide accommodations for indigenes as a result of the Warri crisis where a lot of houses in our communities were raised down.
Do you have any words of appreciation to those who stood by your struggle
First and foremost, I thank Almighty God. I also thank the Olu of Warri, Atuwatse II and late Eric Igban, who was then the youth leader. Finally, I thank His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse III, CFR, because I believe that he will do more for Ugborodo.