When this reporter left Uyo for Ohaobu-Ndoki in Ukanafun Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, he never had an inkling of what awaited him.
The journey from Uyo to Ikot Akpan Nkuk, the Ukanafun Local Government Council headquarters, was smooth. But from Ikot Akpa Nkuk to Ohaobu-Ndoki, it was a tortuous journey.
Having initially lost his way after being directed by some Ukanafun locals to the Azumini River in Etim Ekpo Local Government Area instead of the blue river in Ukanafun, a detour to Ukanafun was activated. Upon returning to Ukanafun, few smart locals rightly directed him and his companion, Bassey Ikara (a professional photographer), to Ohaobu-Ndoki.
Treading a long, muddy bush path leading to Ohaobu-Ndoki, is not a task for the fainthearted. Twice, our car got stuck in mud, the vehicle’s exhaust pipe was damaged. It took about 45 minutes to save the situation.
As we progressed on the Ohaobu-Ndoki route, we intermittently encountered clusters of bare-bodied children cheering as they caught a sight of our vehicle. After about two hours from Ikot Akpa Nkuk, we arrived Ohaobu-Ndoki.
Ohaobu-Ndoki literally stared at us, looking haggard and enveloped in swathes of bushes that could pass for a forest. Ohaobu-Ndoki is literally lost in the woods. It is in a world of its own.
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We first got in contact with a certain Mr. Precious Moses Enyinna, who sought to know our mission. Upon discovering our identities, he shrugged and said: “it must have been a tough journey for you. That is what we are passing through here. Well, thanks for coming.”
Mr. Enyinna did not hide his disappointment with the authorities.
In a sorrowful mood, he said: “it has been so bad that since the creation of this state, we have not had even a casual worker or civil servant in the Local Government Area or State, we have not had a representative in government, no appointee, no elected official. Only God can save us.”
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Ohaobu-Ndoki at a glance
Ohaobu-Ndoki are four distinct communities fused into one. The communities are: Ohaobu, Umuchuta, Akpala and Okpikoro. It shares land and water boundaries with Etim Ekpo LGA in Akwa Ibom State, Rivers State and Abia State.
The community has no functional school, health centre, electricity, tarred road or any other social amenity. It is administered traditionally by the Village Head-Elect, Eze Lucky J. Nwosu.
Ohaobu-Ndoki has an estimated population of 10,000 people. It is in the political bloc of Southern Ukanafun Ward 2. Her people engage in subsistence farming, fishing, oil palm business and hunting.
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The community was formerly in the old Imo State but was ceded to old Cross River State via Decree 23 of 1985. It became part of Akwa Ibom on September 27, 1987, when the state was created by the General Ibrahim Babangida regime.
Ndoki dialect which is adapted from Igbo language is spoken in the community.
Name change debacle
In recent times, attempts have been made by the state government to rename the community as Ikot Inyang Udoh II. This has been vehemently rejected by the community.
A certificate of recognition bearing Ikot Inyang Udo II, issued to the village head-elect, Eze Lucky J. Nwosu, by the state government under Governor Udom Emmanuel was rejected by Eze Nwosu and his subjects.
Nwosu when quizzed on this by our reporter, responded: “we have Ndoki people in Abia State, their name has not been changed. Our people in Rivers State, their name has not been changed. We are here in Akwa Ibom, why should our name be changed? Our name should not be changed. I think Governor Udom Emmanuel is not aware of what is happening to us.”
Secretary of the village council, Pastor Magnus Kamanu, chipped in, saying: “ours is a special case. Imagine, the Warifes in Oruk Anam LGA are also from the Ogoni stock who belong to Rivers State, their name has not been changed now that they are part of Akwa Ibom State. The Obolos in Eastern Obolos are Andonis, their name has not been changed. See, our forefathers deforested this place. Why should we be detached from our heritage? It is painful that we are passing through all of these.”
Ohaobu-Ndoki sitting on a potential ‘volcano’
Domiciled in the community are two gigantic gas stations belonging to Seven-Energy and the Nigeria Gas Limited which is a subsidiary of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The facilities, checks reveal, channel gas to Cross River State, Ikot Abasi LGA in Akwa Ibom, Delta State, Ondo State and other far-flung places in Nigeria.
The gas is used for purposes including generation of electricity.
Despite being the host community of the facilities, Ohaobu-Ndoki ironically does not have electricity. A concrete building which was to serve as a control post for police officers securing the facilities was reportedly destroyed by youths of Ikpe Annang community in neighbouring Etim Ekpo LGA. It is said that Etim Ekpo lays claim to some parts of Ohaobu-Ndoki. The matter remains unresolved.
Seven-Energy – one of the operators of the gas stations – erected a bungalow-like edifice for the community, but it has not been utilized by the community. It was also discovered that Seven-Energy had donated desks and tables to the community primary school which is now in ruins.
“The gas facilities are dangerous. In any event of accident or sabotage on the facilities, the community will bear the brunt”, an indigene, Okoroafor Micah, lamented.
Tourist site abandoned
The Ohaobu-Ndoki blue river: so expansive, so calm, so majestic.
It’s dark blue somewhat a rarity in this clime. Deep into the stretch is the Abia State section of the river which is white. The river was a notable route for conveyance of slaves from ancient Igbo land to Bonny Island in Opobo Kingdom. Again, secretary of the village council, Pastor Kamanu, chipped in that the famous King Jaja of Opobo was ferried to Bonny Island via the blue river route.
Today, the river lies desolate. Edifices which were erected by tourists on the river bank are in ruins.
Blue river, militancy and oil bunkering
Reacting to claims that the river is a highway for militants and perpetuators of oil bunkering, Eze Nwosu said his domain does not tolerate any form of criminality but called on the government and security agencies in the country to effectively secure the waterways in the country because the task is beyond the capacity of the host communities.
Perceived political exclusion
Ohaobu-Ndoki has never produced any official of government in Akwa Ibom State. This, according to the Chairman of the village, Chief P. N. Obasi, is not as a result of their docility.
His words: “In 2007, our son, Mr. A. M. Nwogu, vied for the councillorship of Southern Ukanafun Ward 2. For reasons best known to them, the nomination exercise was taken to the Mobile Police base in Uyo. We mobilized our people. We hired buses to take our people of voting age to the venue. Our aspirant defeated other three other aspirants at the primary election. We returned home jubilating. The next day, a radio announcement was made and someone who did not even stand election was announced as the nominated candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).”
Chief Obasi said with an estimated population of about 10,000, the community deserves to be given a ward.
“Here we are, lumped together just to render us politically impotent. We are only a unit, instead of a ward”, he decried.
Access to telecommunications network
Mobile phone network is very poor in the community. Without any nearby telecommunications mast, the community partially benefits from masts installed in Abia State.
Relationship with neighbouring states
Despite sharing land and sea boundaries with two states, members of the community said they have not been any record of any infraction with their neighbours from other states.
Clash with neighbouring Etim Ekpo
The relationship between Ohaobu-Ndoki and Ikpe Annang in Etim Ekpo LGA is not rosy. This has led to intermittent confrontations.
On that, Eze Nwosu had this to say: “There is a oil scraper station here, they came to claim the place. Ikpe Annang said the thing is in their community. We have left the matter for Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo Local Government Councils to settle.
Ohaobu-Ndoki under successive administrations since 1999 (Obong Victor Attah (1999-2007)
Records show that the community never benefitted from a military or civilian government in Akwa Ibom State from 1987 to 1999.
During the tenure of Obong Victor Attah as governor between 1999 and 2007, the community was a Mecca for tourists from Africa and the western world. Attah made the community a ‘Special Tourists’ Centre’.
Infrastructural development facilitated by an Akwa Ibom government in Ohaobu-Ndoki started during the Obong Victor Attah tenure, Eze Nwosu claimed.
“No government has done what Obong Attah did for us. The now-abadoned health centre was brought by Obong Attah in 2005.
Obong Attah made Ohaobu-Ndoki a Special Development Site. White men used to come here from Friday to Sunday to explore the blue river. They used to set up camps, go fishing and even search for artifacts under the sea. Today, the reverse is the case”, he decried.
He added that the Obong Attah administration gave the community a pipe borne water project which is now moribund due to lack of maintenance.
- Senator Godswill Akpabio (2007-2015)
His administration provided electric poles and wires to parts of Ohaobu-Ndoki. The electrification project was however not completed. Those infrastructures lie in ruins.
The Ohaobu-Ndoki Primary School which was established and ran by the community was taken over by the Akpabio administration.
The school literally died in the hands of that administration. Effort to resuscitate it in 2014, still under the Akpabio administration, was short lived, as attention was not given to deteriorating facilities and staffers’ welfare.
Akwa Ibom state inherited two classroom blocks in the school from the old Imo State.
Parents who can afford now send their children to schools in Rivers State, Abia State or Uyo, Abak, Ikot Akpa Nkuk in Akwa Ibom State. Most children in the community do not have access to education.
- Governor Udom Emmanuel (2015-till date)
During his tenure, the community has not witnessed any ample development.
The community through its Chairman, Chief P. N. Obasi, pleaded with the governor to come to their rescue.
“We want His Excellency, the governor, to look into our predicament. We believe that he is not aware of our predicament because we do not have someone to draw his attention to us. We are of the belief that this administration can give us a sense of belonging”, Chief Obasi pleaded.
Paramount Ruler reacts
The Paramount Ruler of Ukanafun, His Royal Majesty, Akuku (Engr.) Amos Daniel Akpan, when contacted, expressed concern over the plight of the community.
On the name change, the royal father suggested that their original name be maintained. He called on the Ukanafun Local Government administration and state government to care for them.
“Their original name should be maintained. Ukanafun Local Government Council should care for them, the state government too should care for them. They left their kith and kins in Abia State to join us in Akwa Ibom State. They should be well received. Whatever we can do, let us do for them”, Akuku Akpan suggested.
While calling on the community to hold any company operating on its domain responsible for their actions, the royal father urged the leaders of Ohaobu-Ndoki to channel their grievances through him to official quarters.
“I am willing to help out. Their needs should be attended to. One of the ways is to write officially to the state government through me, the Paramount Ruler. They should be well taken care of”, he concluded.
(For a slightly edited version of the report, pick a copy of Crystal Express Newspaper.)