Photo Credit: The Whistler NG
By Sunday Elom
They have all the mineral resources to enjoy the good things of life- roads, functional health system, quality education among others.
But the reverse is the case. Welcome to tale of Ishi-Izzi Inyimagu community in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
The community is potentially endowed with an abundance of multiple mineral resources that have been lying untouched and unutilized for years now. The community has large deposits of limestone, crude oil (kerosene) and large scale of marshland for rice production.
The people of the community lamented that despite the richness of the community in mineral resources and other developmental matrices, most of its inhabitants are still wallowing in abject poverty.
An investigation by our reporter reveals that the crude oil and the limestone are in abundance in the community, but have neither been mined nor explored at all, partly due to the attitudes of the host villages and government policy, while only 0.5% of the scattered marshlands within the community have been utilized. None of the host villages of the various resources have really taken bold steps to tap them (resources) following the claims by some members of the community that the Ebonyi State government has enacted laws which prevent host communities from making the most use of their natural resources.
In an interview with the traditional ruler of the community, His Royal Highness, Eze Hyacinth Ijere (JP), he said: “This community has large quantity of limestone that has not been mined. It will be a huge source of income to the government and this community if utilised.
The local and state governments are aware of the limestone. Some mining companies have come to mine some part of it earlier, but the government policy has blocked the two companies from starting off any mining activities.
“The state government has made it clear that no community should mine her limestone for whatsoever reason without due approval from the government. A ministry has been created to monitor the mining of mineral resources, especially limestone in the state.”
According to Eze Ijere, it has become an offense against the government for any community to violate government order by mining any resources without official approval.
This policy notwithstanding is meant to protect all the mineral resources in various parts of the State from illegal and unduly manipulation; which will not be in favour of either the community or the State.
The traditional ruler disclosed that Richborn Company who came for the limestone has gone through the state government in accordance with the government policy but has not been granted approval to start work, while Bestman Anikwe Company who came only to the community could not start work because of the government policy.
He therefore noted that the community would have gone beyond her present stage of slow-paced progress in ensuring the utilization of the resources, but their hands are tied down by the policy.
He however pointed out that he has been working together with various community leaders to ensure the actualization of the project but their efforts have not yield any positive result.
Eze Ijere therefore expressed his readiness to go any length to ensure that the resources are explored to speed up the development of the community and the government at large.
He said: “I wouldn’t mind going to the government house as soon as possible for quick start of mining the resources in this community because development does not need to waste time.”
He further disclosed that in an effort to utilize the numerous large scale of marsh land in the community for rice production and other agricultural products, some corporative societies have been formed. Among the corporative societies are Eyekpe Farmers Multipurpose Corporative Society, Young Farmers Corporative society, etc.
It was learnt that the marshland in the community is capable of producing an estimated quantity of not less than 200,000 metric tons of rice every season. This no doubt will boost rice production in the state which is one of the most popular products the state is known with.
Also in an effort to utilise the mineral resources in the community, the former village head of Eguefi village, one of the villages with abundant deposit of limestone within the community, Mr. Godwin Agbom disclosed that “the members of the village have unanimously been taxed #5000 each for construction of access road that lead to the village.”
Mr. Agbom said that their plan is to hire contractors who will create a motorable road to the village which would have been the first point excuse by miners and government.
In the same vein, Mr. Peter Uguru from Oyege village in the same community, who works with the state Ministry of Finance, narrated how he has been making an effort through the local government authority to ensure the immediate start of extraction of the crude oil available in the community but he has not been successful.
Mr. Uguru said that the community has an unknown estimated volume of crude oil which its exact depth and lifespan neither has been determined nor given any attention.
He regretted the fruitless efforts he has made to draw the attention of the local and state government to the community concerning the availability of such enormous resources.
“I have written a letter to the former local government chairman, Hon. Godwin Nwogbaga, notifying him about the crude oil, but unfortunately he had not taken any action before he was relieved off of his duty. I believe the letter will still be in his house now.” Mr. Uguru said.
He pointed out that Ebonyi State government knows better than he does what it means for the state to be among the oil producing states in the country.
Mr. Uguru however expressed his unrelenting passion in ensuring that the resources in the community are utilized for the good of the community and the government at large; and therefore called on other notable members of the community to join him to do everything humanly possible to actualize the utilization of the community’s rich natural resources.
It is worthy of note that the natural resources in Ishi-Izzi Inyimagu community if mined and properly utilized can contribute at least 10% increase to the economic growth of Ebonyi State and at least 5% increase in the national economic growth.
Secondly, it will bring a rapid improvement in the standard of living of the people in the community and beyond.
The high degree of responsibility for the provision of social amenities and other developmental needs on government in Nigeria is staggering. The growing rate of urbanization still constitutes a source of worry. To reduce the pressure on cities and boost rural development, rural communities will have to seek out feasible ways to harness their resources to better their lot.
For a community like Ishi-Izzi Inyimagu community in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, with large deposits of limestone, crude oil and large scale of marshland for rice production, the goal should be geared towards seeking out partnership and collaboration with government authorities and private organizations to tap into the potential economic benefits of the resources littered within the community.