Ogoni — The Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority, OCIA, a self-ruling government of the Ogoni ethnic nationality in Rivers State, has triggered the economic, social, cultural and political freedoms of the Ogoni people especially as it has introduced an agricultural policy to secure food for the people, stabilize and ensure speedy development of the communities.
NDV learned that OCIA adopted by the general assembly of Ogoni people in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, September 13, 2017, to provide home-grown government for the people, spread in four local governments of Ogoni, Eleme, Tai, Gokana and Khana, came on board in 2012.
The indigenous government has been struggling since then to ensure economic, social, cultural and political freedoms for the people without causing uproar and agitation for secession, until its latest far-reaching initiative of establishing 59 cassava farms in 54 districts of Ogoni.
Promoting local economy is our vision-- Diigbo
President of OCIA, Mr. Goodluck Diigbo, told NDV: "With the aim of promoting the local economy and food security, the Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority has established 59 cassava farms in 54 districts scattered throughout eight provinces of Ogoni.
"The farms cover more than 132 acres of lands with initial estimated cost put at N7.7 million, about $24,000, covering lands, cassava stems, low-cost labour supply and other logistics. Our initial estimates rate of return on the investment is 100 percent because the costs of establishing the farms were written off at about 85 percent.
"This is part of the broader agenda of OCIA to organize the people of Ogoni in Nigeria for political, economic, social and cultural liberation in ways to bring to an end all forms of oppression against them. Farms that apply chemicals instead of natural manures will be delisted," he said. Diigbo, however, announced that OCIA was ready to partner investors that understand the potentials of the local initiatives in the project.
Chief of Staff, OCIA, Mr. Ndorbu Beabubari, who conducted NDV round some of the farms, emphasized that the essence was to make the area independent in the area of food.
Beabubari, who was in company of Hon. Mbeke Godwin, Chairman, Governors Forum, OCIA, Rev. Favour Aluale, Head of Administration and Management, OCIA, Mr. Confidence Jacob, Clerk of Ogoni District Central Assembly and Mr. Zor Akpobari, Ogoni Human Rights Watch Bureau, urged residents of Ogoni to embrace and support the vision of OCIA.
He said: "The essence of this is for food security. The farms will be for the district to use in their development. Each of the districts is autonomous. They will decide what to do with the proceeds. At every point, the central body will in turn benefit if there is need for that."
Nigeria govt failed us
Also speaking to NDV, Ogoni Central Assembly Speaker, the legislative arm of OCIA, Hon. Jonathan Keanyie, regretted that the Nigerian government had failed the people of Ogoni and the entire Nigerian populace in the area of provision of food, adding: "OCIA had commenced what the Federal Government could not do."
Keanyie said: "This project is a capital step, but Nigerian government could not provide food for its citizens, so we have capitalized on this policy for the development of our communities and food security is important to us. For this policy, I have mobilized the people of my district and we have cleared this bush for the planting of cassava as directed by our government. We have six plots of land here, although some parts are not cleared because we attempted the planting, late this year. The people of the districts are happy that Ogoni is having this kind of project, so they are ready to come out anytime we call them."
Botem and Sakpeenwa District governor, Augustine Nkerelo, added: "We started this farm in line with the OCIA agricultural policy. We want to focus on agriculture to be able to secure food for our people. Food is necessary to man. Soon we will finish this planting, and then we hand it over to OCIA. It will be used to develop and empower our people."
Reintroducing ancient communal life style: His Luebe district, representatives Hon. Mrs. Lily Nalubue, noted that the Ogoni self- government was reintroducing communal lifestyle in tackling the issue of poverty and underdevelopment.
Nalubue, who spoke when Niger Delta visited Luebe farm, explained that the people of the communities that make up the district, meet once in a week to marshal out development plans for Ogoni.
She said: "In the olden days, communities plan their development, but recently it has not been in practice. The OCIA has made us to go back to that communal life again. This farm will be used to develop our districts. I organise women once in a week and we come here to farm. Every Sunday during our district meeting, we announce when to come here."
Nalubue, however, regretted: "The challenge we faced is the money we used in getting this land, but some people later donated. We have already succeeded so we do not need to relent in this effort of developing our home. This is how self-government starts. It always starts with a people finding out how to solve their problem peacefully. I advise that we should not relent in this drive."
Women team up for self-empowerment: Meanwhile, the women's wing of OCIA has come up with a scheme to empower women of the four local governments of Ogoni, Eleme, Tai, Gokana and Khana. The women, who have bought nine different farms spread across the provinces of OCIA, said the farms would serve as empowerment projects for women.
Speaking to NDV, Mr. Alice Nwine, director Women Empowerment, OCIA, said: "This farm is for women empowerment. OCIA decided to use this farm to help women. If we uproot the cassava, we will use it to help widows and orphans. We will use the proceeds to develop our women. We are done with the planting; we have nine different farms for women's empowerment."