The youths of Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State on Tuesday staged a rally to protest what they termed the neglect and abandonment of the oil-rich council area by the state government.
The youths who specifically demanded the speedy reconstruction of the deplorable Avu-Adapalm-Etekwuru Road booed an official of the state government and indigene of the area, Hon. Goodluck Nana Opiah who had come to address them.
Our correspondent gathered that as tempers flared up, Hon. Opiah would have been beaten up by the angry youths but for his security aide who swiftly whisked away from the scene.
The protesters numbering more than 200 blocked the ever-busy Owerri-Port Harcourt Expressway thereby causing traffic gridlock for some hours.
In a video circulating online, the youths were overheard shouting ‘Opiah go’, ‘Opiah go’ followed by booing as he exited fast from the scene.
The President of the Ohaji youths, Emmanuel Ugorji said the urgent rehabilitation of the Avu-Adapalm-Etekwuru Road would help alleviate the sufferings of the people of the area.
He wondered why Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area which he described as the goose that lays the golden eggs could be so mindlessly neglected in the scheme of things in the state.
According to him, besides the impassable condition of the major road that leads into the area, the council area also lacks electricity, potable water and other essential amenities that make life worth living.
Hear Ugorji; “There is no government presence in Ohaji. The reconstruction of the Avu-Adapalm-Ekekwuru road is our major concern. Though we don’t have electricity, in fact, we don’t have anything in Ohaji”.
Another youth who spoke on condition of anonymity recalled that Hon. Opiah had been speaker, Imo State House of Assembly and a member of the House of Representatives before he was appointed as Commissioner for Petroleum by the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma.
The youth claimed that in spite of occupying these positions, Opiah has no project in the area to show.
He described him as one of the enemies of the people who delight in occupying positions and answering leaders without delivering any dividends of democracy to their people.
But speaking via telephone later with our correspondent, Ugorji, who said he is not a politician, said he would not want to vilify any politician.
Ugorji lauded Opiah for using his position as speaker of the state legislature to help in establishing the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC), though the agency is yet to acquit itself creditably.
According to Ugorji, ISOPADEC is supposed to develop the oil-rich region of the state but has not delivered on its mandate.
He attributed the shortfall of the agency to its successive managements.
Reacting to the incident, the Commissioner for Petroleum, Rt. Hon. Goodluck Opiah disclosed that the Avu-Adapalm-Etekwuru road was awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) many years ago without the contractor mobilizing to site.
According to him, the state government under the leadership of Gov Uzodimma had re-awarded to Roudo Construction Company which had been mobilized to start work on the road.
He regretted that some people ostensibly opponents of the state government got wind of the readiness of Roudo to commence work on the road and mobilized the youths to stage the protest rally in order to sabotage the efforts of government.
Opiah said that was what he wanted to explain to the youths when he came to the scene of the protest rally.
The commissioner however disclosed that he later addressed leaders of the protesting youths at another location different from scene of the protest rally.