STATE-OF-THE UNION ADDRESS AND STEWARDSHIP OF OFFICE FOR THE PERIOD UNDER REVIEW BY CHIEF (ELDER) ISRAEL EJIRAOBARI GOMBA-ABBEY JP., PRESIDENT GENERAL, O-E’LA OBOR ELEME (THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF ELEME PEOPLE, WORLDWIDE), ON THE OCCASION OF THIS YEAR’S TRADITIONAL ELEME DAY CELEBRATION HOLDING AT ELEME CIVIC CENTRE, OGALE ON WEDNESDAY, OCHUN 26TH DECEMBER, 2018
My brothers and sisters, respected and dignified sons and daughters of Eleme here present, those following this event online from their houses, those of us in the United States of American, Europe and around the world participating in this important event online, I bring you all season’s greetings from the Executives of O-E’la Obor Eleme. I salute you on behalf of the Executives and entire members of O-E’la Obor Eleme which is the apex socio-cultural, non-partisan and non-profit making organization of the people of Eleme ethnic nationality comprising the men, women, youths, elites, professionals, clergymen, artisan and every Eleme man on earth. Oku Eleme Mmawii e!
It is my pleasure to specially welcome you all to this epoch-making occasion. The Eleme Day Celebration is a very important event on the calendar of every freeborn Eleme person. This day was largely a day when Eleme sons and daughters around the country returned back home to meet, unite and socialize as a people. But today, the essence of the traditional Eleme Day has gone far beyond that. It is a day that affords us the opportunity to come together to acknowledge our uniqueness and pride of place as a distinct people in Nigeria. It is a day that reminds us of our proud ancestry and rich cultural heritage and it is a day for stock taking, presentation of state-of-the union address and review of our performance and socio-economic, political and cultural development as a people.
We hope that this event will provide us the platform to rob minds together over the numerous challenges facing Eleme of our time. The criminality, insecurity and social vices in Eleme today is shameful and denigrating, our young men take pride in perpetrating evil through involvement in cultism, armed robbery, kidnapping and pipeline vandalism. On the other hand, our young females are influenced into prostitution and other negative and harmful habits. What happened to the rich cultural heritage handed over by our forefathers, why the fear of extinction of the Eleme language, why has our revered traditional institution been converted into an instrument for self aggrandizement and destruction of the people they are meant to serve and protect?
Why have we allowed ourselves to be infiltrated and divided by other people. The corporate bodies in our midst here use us against ourselves to achieve their selfish aims. Why are we stagnant whereas other ethnic nationalities in the state and around us are forging ahead progressively? I pray that this event today will avail us the opportunity to critically consider these issues.
For a start, I am going to present this state-of-the union address and my stewardship since I took over office two years ago, precisely on the 26th December, 2016 as President General of O-E’la Obor Eleme. Due to time constraint, I have group my address under three subtitles which are our achievements, our challenges and our prospect or way forward as a people.
The following are some of the achievements we have been able to record since we took over office. By the grace of God, and with the support of some of our people, we were able to set-up a functional office for the day-to-day administration and running of the affairs of Eleme people under O-E’la Obor Eleme. The office organises meeting of Eleme stakeholders from time to time to discuss salient issues that bothers on our development and wellbeing as a people.
The office also provides the opportunity for Eleme sons or daughters as well as non-indigens to walk in for consultation, interaction or simply ask questions and be well attended to. As a matter of fact, I resume at the office everyday from Monday to Friday to do the work which Eleme people have mandated me to do. And so, there are few employees to in the office providing services, who receive monthly stipends, and they include a Secretary, a genitor or cleaner and a security guard.
O-E’la Obor Eleme under my watch has been carrying out its statutory obligations as the mouth-piece of our people. We also have been making efforts to meet the expectations of our people who have not only been so cheated, but denied their entitlements in this state and nation where we occupy a place of pride as the heart-beat of the nation’s (Nigerian) economy.
We have also been able to secure a monthly subvention of Three hundred thousand naira (N300, 000.00) from the Eleme Local Government Council. The approval was given in October 2017 by Chief (Hon.) Obarilormate Ollor’s Caretaker Committee administration and O-E’la Obor Eleme remains eternally grateful to him and the Eleme Local Government Council for this support. However, that amount is too meager considering the enormity of the challenges and responsibilities before us and on our hands to handle. So, we urge the Congress as usual to please request the Council for an upward review of this amount.
I am also pleased to inform you all that, O-E’la Obor Eleme under my watch was able to commission two world-class consulting firms, Kemnoulli Nigeria Limited and Chioro Nigeria Limited to carry out a comprehensive environmental audit of Eleme with a view to unraveling the level of environmental degradation and impact of operations of the companies around us on our lives and surroundings. The report on one of the multi-million dollars company operating in Eleme is ready with me here and I can tell you, it is damning and catastrophic for dwellers of Eleme land.
The environmental audit report which cost millions of naira to procure is now available and I am seeking its adoption by this Congress as a working document for O-E’la Obor Eleme. We have consulted a foreign based law firm in the UK, to study the document with a view to demanding justice for Eleme people. I am billed to travel to the United Kingdom sometime early next year for a meeting with the international lawyers because we cannot continue to fold our hands and watch the incessant depletion of our environment by these companies and their collaborators.
I want to also inform you that we toured companies and corporate bodies in Eleme sometimes last year to assess their level of compliance with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to Eleme their host Community as provided by relevant local content Laws and to demand for employment opportunities for qualified Eleme youths. We heard of on-going recruitment at Notore Fertilizer and Chemical Industry, Onne and sent a list of engineers of Eleme extraction for consideration. We are glad that most of them were interviewed and recruitment.
In the same vein, we visited the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Onne, and was told that their only gazetted host communities are Ogu, Ele and Onne. We challenged that comment and explained how the operations of NPA, for example their vehicles and other activities impact no less than seven Eleme Communities. So, we wrote to the Minister of Transportation in Abuja and the Managing Director of NPA in Lagos, and they replied us in writing that Eleme has been considered as a host Community. But I requested for an appointment with the Managing Director of the NPA, Mrs. Hadiza Bala Usman to further discuss on the terms and benefits of Eleme as a host Community and to gazette the approval. The appointment has however been pushed to early next year after the 2019 elections.
We also visited companies like Daewoo Nigeria Limited, Oil & Gas Free Zone Authority, Integrated Data Services Limited, a subsidiary of NNPC located in the Indorama Life Camp Area, Aleto, PHRC and PPMC at Alesa and the Nigerian Naval College, Onne amongst other. At the Naval College, Onne, I made a case for special consideration for five chances annually for the recruitment of Eleme youths as Officers of the Nigerian Navy. That Eleme has provided vast expanse of land at Onne for two naval institutions, the Nigerian Naval College (NNC) and the Nigerian Naval Basic Training School (NNBTS) at Onne, and so, we deserve being so considered.
However, I was told that only the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas can grant such request. So, I had to travel to Abuja and after two visits, I met with him and made the demand for an understanding between the Navy and Eleme people as it is elsewhere. It was a lengthy and interesting discussion which was rescheduled to allow us file in necessary papers and documentation as advised.
On the insecurity in Eleme, prior to the Rivers State Amnesty, we met as O-E’la Obor Eleme temporary office with the leaders of the various cult groups, most of whom are Eleme children, and appealled to them to turn from their evil ways. Our security committee met with late Lord Ben of Alesa and his boys, late Mba Joe, late Okoro and others before they were killed, on the way out of cultism for a more peaceful and prosperous Eleme and the interface is still on-going with the quick.
We also facilitated the coming of the Special Committee on Amnesty led by its Chairman, Sir (Barr) Ken Chinda to Eleme to extend State pardon to cultists in Eleme. Our involvement took me to Okrika to ask High Chief Ateke Tom to release our boys in his camp when it became obvious that we needed to go there. Presently, we are a rallying point for the repentant ones to ensure that, as much as possible they stay out of trouble and remain peaceful so that people can live peacefully and without fear in Eleme.
As stated earlier, Eleme is always treated unfairly irrespective of its huge contribution to national development. It will surprise you to know that the NDDC last year published in two national newspapers: The Nation and Vanguard of March 15, 2017, a list of over 300 sustainable development projects to be executed across Rivers State and Eleme was not given even one. Rather, about 8 of those projects given to Okrika are to be cited on Eleme land. As you all are aware, the Rivers State Government under His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike on the 20th June, 2018 commissioned 15 new roads totaling 11.5kilometers on Eleme land and called it is Okochiri. To worsen matters, the Governor said the project was to enable the people have access to their communities, boost economic activities and improve the value of land in that area.
However, we swung into action immediately by sending two strong petitions to NDDC that Eleme must not be excluded in their development plan considering our huge contributions as a people to the economy of this nation and to also state. That we will resist any attempt to cite projects meant for the Okrikans on Eleme land.
We also wrote the Rivers State Government to express our objection to what has been done and have consulted for legal advice to enforce the 1958 Supreme Court judgment and the Rivers State Government White Paper of 2000 which affirmed that all the lands down to the river shores belong to Eleme. All the letters were copied the National Assembly and other relevant government agencies. Indeed, I can assure you that we are taking every necessary step and opportunity to ensure that Eleme gets better.
On Ekporo, we are working in synergy with the Rivers State Government, the Eleme Local Government Authority and other relevant bodies to ensure the peaceful return of Ekporo people to their ancestral home. We wrote a very strongly worded letter to the President and Commander-In-Chief of Armed Forces, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR demanding his intervention so that our people can be resettled.
After the meeting of Ekporo and Ogu with Governor Wike on the 31st of March this year, O-E’la Obor Eleme has held stakeholders meeting with the people of Ekporo to help resolve their internal disputes. We tried severally to meet the Governor to follow up on the resolutions of the 31st meeting and for the release of funds for the rebuilding of Ekporo to facilitate their return. The challenge we have is to secure an appointment with the Governor.
Let me also mention that, on your behalf, we have repeatedly hosted our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora under the auspices of Ofalarun Eleme USA Inc. at Prodeco Camp, Onne. They came in this year in July with a state-of-the-art medical equipments and donated to Nchia General Hospital, Ogale Eleme. Let me at this point quickly thank them for all their efforts and contributions to development in Eleme. I also salute their effort and concern for the people of Ekporo and all they have been doing.
Furthermore, I will like to specially express a very profound gratitude to the Arlington Assemblies of God Congregation in the State of Virginia, USA, and the International Aid Trust of the United Kingdom for their partnership with Ofalarun Eleme USA for good works in Eleme. I commend their works particularly in the Nchia General Hospital at Ogale Eleme and support for the internally displaced people of Ekporo in Odido, Eleme. I want to say here that Ofalarun Eleme USA invited me to the 13th Annual Convention in July last year and I ensured we support them by attending their conference in the city of Denver in Colorado, US.
During the Voters Registration sensitization and mobilization, we saw the need and political benefit to boost registration in Eleme, and wrote to churches and the various communities in Eleme to sensitize and mobilize the people. Our jingles in Eleme and English language calling on Eleme people of 18years and above and those who are yet to register to go and do so was on Love 97.7 FM and Rhythm 93.7FM throughout the period.
We also embarked on mass campaign, encouragement and enlightenment of our young people to take advantage of the opportunities in the military and police by registering and writing qualifying exams for admission into the Police Academy (POLAD), Kano, Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, Maritime Academy, Oron in Akwa Ibom State and the Nigerian Immigrations, among others.
We also organized and instituted the first ever Eleme political debate in collaboration with Inside Eleme Newspapers to provide a platform where our aspirants seeking to serve in public and political offices for Eleme will have to address Eleme people on their agenda and development programmes before asking for our votes. We also supported good programmes centred on the preservation of our language and culture as a people. Some of those programmes include the Singing and Reading Competitions in Eleme Language organized by our daughter, Pastor (Mrs.) Atosemi Teetito, and the Eleme Language Quiz Competition organized by Prince Awalanta Mike Ejire in collaboration with Inside Eleme Newspaper.
Acknowledgement – At this juncture, let me pause and commend all of you sons and daughters of Eleme for your support so far. It is your words of encouragement and moral support that is keeping us going. I will like to use this medium to express our heartfelt condolence to the family of late Oneh Eh Eleme, HRM, Sir S.O. Ejire and members of Eleme council of chiefs and elders, for their support during the period.
I thank very specially, our own son, His Royal Highness, Dr. Appolus Chu, Egbere Okori Eleme for supporting O-E’la Obor Eleme from time to time, especially when we organised the Eleme Congress during the Rivers State golden jubilee. I remain grateful to the Chairman and Board of Directors of Elano Investments Limited for their immeasurable support and finally, the Eleme Local Government Council for their monthly subvention without which we would not have come this far. I can’t mention everyone for time sake but I acknowledge Chief Samuel Osaro (Ojukwu) for his support as Market Master and all others.
Let me specially thank the management and staff of Inside Eleme Newspaper for all their technical and media support and collaboration with O-E’la Obor Eleme to serve Eleme people better. I thank everyone both corporate bodies PHRC, NPA, IDSL, OGFZA & INTELS and individuals who in one way or the other have contributed to the success of this event.
Our Challenges – Before I take my seat, some of the challenges of O-E’la Obor Eleme are as follows:
1. Funding: This is the major challenge of O-E’la Obor Eleme. To provide solution to this concern, I want to suggest the following for your consideration: i) Payment of annual membership dues/levy by all sons and daughters of Eleme as provided by the Constitution of O-E’la Obor Eleme. ii) Voluntary support by well-to-do persons of Eleme and friends from time to time. iii) Upward review of the monthly subvention by Eleme Local Government Council amongst others.
2. Lack of Unity & Togetherness amongst Eleme People as each individual, group and community pursue their own selfish interests.
3. Uncontrollable Unemployment rate of youths in Eleme has become a huge challenge because it is directly proportional to the rise in the level of insecurity we witness today.
4. The polarization of our population along political party lines causing sharp division, hatred and enmity resulting to brother killing his brother, etc.
5. Eleme people holding positions in government and companies and other public officers tend to use it to work against our common interest and progress as a people.
6. The reluctance of political office holders of Eleme extraction to account to the people in meetings such as this which are non-partisan is cause for concern.
7. The serious on-going encroachment of our land as well as the hiccup in the seemless return of Ekporo Community to their homeland.
8. O-E’la Obor Eleme election is due this month of December, but after due consultation with a good number of stakeholders and security agencies, we were advised to allow it until after the 2019 General elections. Also, considering the security situation in Eleme now and the non-availability of a comprehensive membership register for the organization.
9. The propensity of politicians to hijack elections of O-E’la Obor Eleme, influence the outcome and make it a political appendage of their government has become a challenge in recent times and we need to make a statement to reaffirm that O-E’la Obor Eleme Organization is non-partisan socio-cultural organization of Eleme people.
10. Non-availability of eligible voters register for O-E’la Obor Eleme at the moment, hence elections may be made or marred by the ineligibility of the voting population. Hence, we are contemplating elections by delegates, subject to your approval as congress.
Finally, as you can see, there are so much at hand to be concluded by my administration and therefore, I will appreciate if you allow me another opportunity to serve to enable me conclude what have been started.
I thank my Executives, my wife and family for their support and sacrifices. Let me conclude by saying, I am determined to always make myself available to lead the revolution for a better Eleme and whatever price required, I will pay, that Eleme become a place we all can be proud of.
I remain yours truly,
Chief (Elder) Israel Ejiraobari Gomba-Abbey JP.
President-General, O-E’la Obor Eleme