A socio-political group, Ilaje Advancement Forum (IAF), has accused the administration of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo State, of marginalizing Ilaje people in the state. The group issued a four-week ultimatum to the government to reverse the trend or face civil unrest.
The position of the group was contained in a letter addressed to Mr. Akeredolu. Signed by Mr. Atilade Fadeshola, the letter claimed that Ilaje people have been “systematically marginalized, relegated, ostracized, cheated, neglected and deprived of basic social amenities”.
According to the IAF, Ilajeland is responsible for more than 85 per cent of the total allocation that accrues to Ondo State, adding that the state would have been unable to meet her obligations without the contributions of Ilajeland.
Specifically, the socio-political group said N807 million was approved for the construction of wooden walkways and jetties in Ilaje/Ese Odo Local Government Area of the state out of the sum of N11.29 billion recently approved by the government for various infrastructural projects in the state. This, said the group, amounts to 8 per cent of the total sum approved for projects in the state. The IAF argued that at least 40 per cent of the total sum should have been allocated to Ilajeland based on its contribution to the financial well-being of the state.
“It is a shame that the Ilaje/Ese Odo Local Government Area is without electricity for the past 10 years and we are equally disappointed to say the least that in the 21st Century, a responsible government led by a legal luminary, who built a first class Law Hub in Ibadan, could contemplate building wooden walk ways and jetties for Ilaje people,” said the group.
The group also claimed that that most of the projects flagged off by the Akeredolu administration have not commenced, as contractors are yet to be mobilized to the site. It described the development as disgusting and wondered why a government that promised change should function like the one it replaced. It warned that it will henceforth be more vigilant to ensure that there is no return of the days when funds from the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC) were mismanaged, illegally diverted or misappropriated.
To redress the perceived injustice against Ilaje people, the IAF is demanding a reversal of all the contracts approved by the Ondo State government, which do not improve the living conditions of the Ilaje people, and cancellation of contracts for wooden bridges and walkways. These, said the group, should be replaced with modern, concrete bridges and walkways.
In addition, the IAF is also demanding the immediate relocation of OSOPADEC Headquarters to Igbokoda to make the agency and closer to its operational base and more efficient. Equally, the group wants the government to grant OSOPADEC financial autonomy with an allocation account opened for it. The envisaged account will, on a monthly basis, be credited with 40 per cent of the revenue from Ilajeland in accordance with the law establishing the commission.
Also, the group is demanding the sack of non-indigenes of the area employed in the commission and for such to be replaced by Ilaje people. Similarly, the group is asking the government to pay N74million as reconnection fee to the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) to ensure that power is restored to Ilajeland within four weeks.
Other demands include an upgrade of all schools in the area, continuation of all abandoned projects, a halt to further sea encroachment, especially at Ayetoro and Mese; potable water, reconstruction of the General Hospital at Igbokoda and construction of well-equipped health centres in all riverine communities.
“We hereby give the Ondo State government a four-week ultimatum to intervene and meet our demands. Failure to meet them will lead to civil unrest breakdown of law and order that has never been witnessed in the history of Ondo State.
“We appeal to you to use your good office to reverse these injustice and ugly incident and save the state from descending into anarchy,” the group warned.