His Royal Majesty, Obi Osita 1, the Akor of Oko Kingdom, speaks with ANASTACIA ELUWA on the non-accessibility of the only road leading to his kingdom, the hardship being faced by his people amongst others.
Oko community, a suburb of Asaba, the Delta State capital, is about six kilometres to the capital city and its indigenes are predominantly farmers including fish farming because of its location at the western bank of River Niger. Oko Kingdom is in Oshimili South Local Government Area and consists of six communities, Oko-Amakom, Oko-Obiokpu, Oko-Anala, Oko-Ogbele, Umuoko and Orife. Orife is the last town within the kingdom, but shares boundary with Ndokwa East at Abala-Oshimili.
This kingdom has witnessed enormous challenges, even as the only access road is in a deplorable condition. The road leading to Oko kingdom is about 56 kilometres and passes through other towns such as Utchi and Ubo in Ndokwa East Local Government Area. As a result, farmers and the entire people living along the River Niger between the western bank up to Utchi and beyond find it almost impossible to convey their farm produce to various markets in the state.
Also, the community lacks medical facilities, pregnant women are usually taken to the nearest dispensary which is about 12 kilometres away on motorbike and a good number of them have lost their babies while undertaking the tortuous journey.
Following the frequency with which this occurs, the Akor of Oko kingdom has appealed to the federal and state governments to assist the community with the construction of the road. He said the un-tarred road, which is of interest to the people, links Okpai Independent Power Plant, IPP, project belonging to Agip and which supplies electricity to Obosi in Anambra State.
The royal father said the IPP is a very important national project that would have been an asset because of its proximity to Oko, adding that rather than being a plus, the community has not benefitted from it.
The monarch lamented that the road has been neglected for a long time even when the late Professor Ambrose Ali was Governor of old Bendel State. He awarded the contract for the construction of this road in 1978. It was to be tarred up to Abalagada after Abor town in Ndokwa East Local Government Area and link Patani town in Patani Local Government Area all the way to Warri.
“The contract which was awarded to Messrs Soleiboni Nigeria Limited in 1978 as Asaba-Oko-Anala-Oko-Ogbele-Utchi, Okpai junction-Abalagada road within Delta North Senatorial District, was abandoned after a change in leadership.
“Since that time, other efforts had been on promissory level without success. Many governments have used the road as a campaign item, but at the end of the day nothing happens. I always tell those who care to visit us that the biggest thing you can do for Oko community is to construct this road. When constructed, it will open up the area, provide access for our people to take their goods to big markets, reduce unemployment and boost the economy,” the royal father said.
He added that it should have been a federal project because of the terrain, cost and economic importance of the road.
“Oko that is a major link to other states like Anambra from the eastern flank of the road, all the way from Onitsha stretching to Atani and Akili-Ogidi after Osamala town, as well as the corresponding area in the western part to Abor town. So if such road could be tarred in Anambra, there is no reason why the one at the western bank cannot be tarred except for political reasons. The one in Anambra was tarred by the state government.”
He recalled that during the administration of Emmanuel Uduaghan, contract for the construction of the road was re-awarded in 2011, but no budgetary provision was made.
The main entrance to Oko junction is at the cow market, where the Hausa community display their cows and goats for sale. An access road created by Julius Berger while working on the second Niger Bridge is not the major entrance, but a temporary gateway.
Friday Magazine observed that what seems like a relief to Oko kingdom came some years ago when the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, awarded the 6.1 kilometre Asaba-Oko road (there is a sign board placed inside Okwe village), but till date work is yet to commence.
“I was told about the 6.1 kilometre road project, but I couldn’t believe it until I got to Okwe and saw it. I have challenged the National Assembly through the Senator representing Delta North, Peter Nwaoboshi. I requested that they come to Oko community to see if work has commenced on the awarded road project.
“I have written to the Senate Committee on NDDC with Senator Nwaoboshi and to the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on NNPC, Nicholas Mutu. They assured me that something would be done. It is my prayer and belief that the construction of this road takes off soonest.”
He said Oko people are known to be peace loving, warning that being peaceful should not be misinterpreted as weakness. He, however, assured that he would continue to plead with the community to remain calm and not confront the authorities angrily.
Ironically, the royal father said Oko-Anala, where he lives and which is part of the capital territory of Delta State is yet to have minimum developmental projects.
On the evacuation of their produce, he said; “it may interest you to know the pains that our people pass through at the end of the harvesting season. We use canoes and other small boats to ferry our goods daily to Onitsha market during the rainy season. Paddling canoes crossing the River Niger, crossing that bridge, you can imagine the current of water at that time.
“When we get to Onitsha, we are forced to sell at whatever rate because we cannot bring them back as there is no storage facility here, there is nobody to leave it with on trust and as soon as you carry your goods to Onitsha market, whatever is the prevailing price on that day, you sell it sometimes with tears.
“We are faced with the constant capsizing of boats that sometimes lead to death. At the eastern bank, because of no access road, the water current is always very high. These are the annual challenges that we have been experiencing because we don’t have motorable roads.”
The monarch added that the evacuation of their farm produce is always time consuming and tedious because of non-accessibility of roads, explaining that “they wait most times towards the rainy season so that water will enter the bush and create a way for them to use boats to convey their produce.”
An indigene of Oko said “we have challenges like every other community, but ours is lack of access roads. You can see how close Oko community is to Asaba, the state capital, but if Oko has good roads, you can imagine the amount of economic activities that would have emanated from here to either Onitsha or Asaba on a daily basis. That is not happening because of non-availability of access road. During the rainy season, this access way that you passed to this place will not be available. May be you can manage to get to the first Oko which is Oko-Amakom, but you cannot get to this place,” Ambrose Oduah said.
“During the 2012 flood incident, this palace was covered with flood and because of it, whatever we plant, we rush to harvest it. Incidentally, we have good farmlands that are far away from here and no matter the height of the flood it will not carry it. So if this road was tarred, people would be encouraged to farm in those places so that we can have enough food that will last us till the next farming season,” Akor Osita 1 said.
He decried the challenging medical situation in the community which has subjected pregnant women to forced labour, complications and mortality.
While saying that the best local government chairman will not be enough for the community, the monarch noted that “we will continue to pray that the economy improves. On the part of our local government which is Oshimili South, our present chairman who is from this community has done well in terms of assisting us, especially in the grading and filling of potholes.

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