‘’All hope is not lost on Okpe’s future despite its current travails, President General of the Okpe Union, Mr. Patrick Akpotor, affirmed at the weekend.
In a State of the Union address in Lagos, Akpotor hinged his optimism on the union’s plans to use the political, traditional and trade union leadership of the area to get a fair deal for the kingdom.
He called on Okpe politicians to close ranks to project a common front to the government of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa to revisit the issue of Sapele Polytechnic, Elume, the only higher institution proposed for Okpe land.
Akpotor said that a kingdom highly respected for industrialization, degenerated to one of the poorest kingdoms in Nigeria.
‘The dwindling economic fortune of Okpeland calls for urgent attention. Many companies and establishments which have accounted for the employment of our youths and teaming population have relocated out of Okpeland. In 2017, one of the highest employing companies in Okpeland and Delta State located in Sapele, Eternit Ltd folded up and relocated its proposed huge infrastructure installation to Emenite Ltd, Enugu for the inability of the investors of the company(which include the Delta State Government) to raise the sum of one billion naira only. Our area lost the thousands of direct and indirect jobs thereby’’.
The union’s president complained about the African Timber and Plywood.
‘’The largest of all, the African Timber and Plywood is in a sorry state now as production is hardly taking place there now despite the reported take over by the Delta State Government. The exact investment structure of the company is currently shrouded in misery. The NTA Amukpe has ended its operations reportedly because of seven hundred thousand naira for equipment. Many smaller companies and enterprises have gone under too’’ he said.
The community leader said there was no reason whatsoever for Okpe Local Government not to have a bank.
‘’It is shocking to realize that Okpe Local Government Area does not have a bank. The bulk of the salaries of council workers, primary school teachers, the Udogun Okpe accounts, and the several towns and villages around Orerokpe are sufficient to attract a commercial bank to Orerokpe if we can get the political, traditional and trade union leadership of the area to act in concert.
He also restated his stand on the advisory role of the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, Orhue 1, sayingthere is no law whether of the Constitution, Federal Act, or State law which empowers His Royal Majesty to set up caretaker committee for the Okpe Union.
“The Okpe Union Constitution does not contain any provisions for such. It does not provide for any role for his Royal Majesty. As the Royal father of the Okpe Nation, we have always received advice from our Orodje. However, it is clear that our royal father by the decree of the 3rd of October, 2020, has overthrown and suspended the constitution of the Okpe Union which is a registered organisation under the Corporate Affairs Commission with its legally recognised independence. There is no law whether of the constitution, federal Act, or State law which empowers His Royal Majesty to do so’’.
The role of the Okpe monarch was equally addressed by Akpotor.
‘’The Okpe Union is a registered organization under the Corporate Affairs Commission with its registered constitution. Allowing the overthrow of the Union is the beginning of the destabilization and destruction of the Okpe Union which our forefathers handed over to us as independent of the Palace. We must collectively protect the respected traditional stool of the Okpe people from coming down to matters which do not fall within its legal jurisdiction. The Okpe Union has always had its autonomy and mechanisms of internal dispute resolutions.
The 2020 annual national conference of the Okpe union was held in Lagos on Saturday, November 14, 2020.
“The Union shall not be governed nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of the Union or any part thereof except in accordance with the provisions of this constitution. The Okpe Union is an organisation which has membership. It is not every Okpe person that is a member of the Okpe Union. The reported interim National Executive Council by the Orodje decree of the 3rd of October, 2020 has only two members of the Okpe Union out of nine. The Okpe Union Constitution has no provisions for the role any external powers within or outside Okpe Kingdom’’ the community leader said.
Akpotor listed poor power supply and the current activities of government backed touts who harass vehicles bringing goods to and from the area especially Sapele on the pretext of stickers and other charges as factors militating against the growth of smaller enterprises in Okpeland
‘’It is said that trucks from different parts of the country are scared of bringing goods to our area and many a time ask that the goods will be dropped at neighbouring cities’’.
To improve job creation and enhance economic activities in Okpeland, Akpotor called for a multi-faceted approach.
‘’The power sector has to improve, the conduct of our youths has to encourage investors and the agricultural sector like palm trees, cocoa, fish breeding, livestock and the like have to be exploited. The Okpe area has comparative advantages in many of these areas and the hydra headed problems of unemployment and poverty have to be addressed from this robust perspective’’.
He called on the government of Delta State as well as the administration of the two local government councils of Okpeland to intervene in the issue of hindrances to businesses regarding free movement of goods to and from , the Okpe Kingdom which have brought down businesses enterprises and activities in the area.
‘’The Governor Ifeanyi Okowa led administration of Delta State needs to revisit the matter of the proposed Sapele Polytechnic as there is yet to be a higher institution in the two local government areas of Okpe Kingdom’’.
On the recent End Sars protests nationwide, Akpotor urged both the federal and state governments to achieve synergy in ensuring that the Nigeria Police Force is restructured in such a way that guarantees the protection of lives and property of Nigerians.
Akpotor said he was worried about the current controversial Water Resources Bill at the National Assembly.
‘’Firstly, it is a misnomer for there to be an attempt for the central government in a federal system to make provisions for a legal framework which attempts to cover the entire field of water resources management. That can only be tolerated in a unitary system. One problem of the Nigerian governance system is that after transition from military administrations in Nigeria which are basically unitary with concentration of powers at the centre, we as a country neglected to firstly restructure the country to a federal system. The adoption of a new imposed constitution is not sufficient in getting back the country to a federal system. The existing water resources legislations have already violated the federal nature of the Nigerian system of government. Much of the contents of the controversial Water Resources Bill like control of rivers and other water bodies as well as underground water are purely within the jurisdiction of the state governments and communities of the local government councils’’.
He called on the various ethnic nationalities of Nigeria especially those of the Niger Delta to close ranks and present a common front not only to prevent the passage of the current Water Resources Bill but also to evaluate existing ones which have already violated the agreed federal principles for the governance of Nigeria at independence.
“Okpe Union was founded by our forefathers officially in 1930. It was registered with the Colonial Government of Nigeria in 1934 under the Land (Perpetual Succession) Ordinance No. 22 of 1924. We celebrate our founders’ day 16th May of every year. The Union which started in Lagos has grown to several towns, cities and countries of the world. At a point especially between the 1970s and the 1980s, the union could boast of no less than sixty branches. Though there has been a drawback in its growth in recent decades, we have started experiencing some revival of the Union due to increase in communication from especially new media as well as the dedication to duty of the current leadership” he added.