People in river-line communities of Delta State have demanded adequate compensation for losses they might incur over the latest plan by the Federal Government to dredge the Escravos-Chanomi/Ogbe-Ijoh down to Warri Port.

Already, the over 50 Ijaw, Ilaje and Itsekiri communities in the Chanomi creeks and those who reside along and around Ogbe-Ijoh axis have threatened to derail the project if their socio-economic interests are not considered before the project is flagged off.

Specifically, there is apprehension among the residents over possible fear of not only losing their means of livelihood but also displacement from their ancestral homes as they allegedly experienced in the 1980s when a similar dredging was carried out in the region.

Consequently, they want the Federal Government to carry them along and do the needful without any bias, political bigotry, manipulation, ethnic sentiment, intimidation of any kind, hatred or any act that will further put them in pains.

To demonstrate their grouse over the project, the communities have sent a petition to the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaech, through their solicitor and coordinator of the communities, Dr. Clarkson Aribogha said the affected communities, seeking notification of the modalities to be applied in the proposed project.

In the petition, he claimed that the people criticised the survey, mapping and the sounding activities, which they alleged was done secretly without their notice, demanding that they ought to be in the know when the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) activity was being carried out.

While asking that the project be extended to the dredging works to Gbaramatu Kingdom, Aribogba noted that Escravos River to Chanomi Creek was under the administrative domain of Gbaramatu Kingdom, just as Chanomi Creek to Warri Ogbe-Ijoh and Nigerian Port Authority are under the administrative headship of Ogbe-Ijoh.

They demanded: “We urged the Federal Government to pay compensation to the communities that will be affected during and after the dredging because their source of livelihood such as fish ponds, forest, swamp, fish migration, fish gear damages and many others are not going to be spared.

The communities urged the Federal Government to also provide an unbiased, fair and equitable mutual relationship with the various communities by paying them adequate compensation due to negative effect of the dredging.

This is even as they charged consultants and contractors that would handle the projects to be aware of their corporate social responsibilities to the host communities in the course of carrying out the dredging operations, adding that the communities adversely impacted by the current tidal river wave carry the debris to creeks, creeklet and streams are yet to be listed out.

The communities lamented the poor situation of Warri Port, which they claimed had been dormant over the years and thereby denying government the much-needed revenue.

They stated: “The approval of the dredging of the port is a welcomed and well-deserved development which besides other benefits it will derive also provide job for the teeming jobless youths.”

Meanwhile, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has assured that all interest groups would be taken care of to ensure that the dredging operation is not truncated due to agitations by community stakeholders.

Okowa said: “We are aware that there may be some agitations here and there but processes are being put in place to get everybody involved particularly the youths. We will try to let them know that it is in the best interest of all of us in the Niger Delta area particularly in Delta State that the dredging is taking place is for the good of all.

“Besides the Warri Port, there are other benefits that will come from the dredging of the Escravos Bar. So, I do not hope any youth will go and truncate the process but as at today plans are in place to engage all the youths and that engagement has started.

“When there is a clear understanding that the project is in the best interest of the people, I am sure that they will not stop the job”, Okowa added.