Ondo State Government has reiterated its commitment to ensuring that the much-awaited bitumen development in the state come to fruition without rancour between the host communities and the investors.
The state Commissioner for Regional Integration and Special Duties, Prof. Bayonile Ademodi stated this at the weekend, during an interactive session with bitumen-bearing communities in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State held at the local government secretariat hall in Okitipupa.
According to him, the interactive session became imperative, considering the recurrent crisis in the Niger Delta region of the country as a result of the unhealthy relationship among the communities and investors which had culminated in all manners of criminal activities.
He stressed that the government was highly committed to peaceful exploitation of the bitumen resources in the state, noting that a similar interactive session had been carried out in Irele local government.
The commissioner, who informed the gathering that the ministry had concluded arrangement with the state ministry of Environment to work out modalities for evolving effective environmental protection strategies that the license bitumen companies must comply with, posited that they would do everything possible to ensure that the companies observe all the internationally accepted practice of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before commencing operations.
While assuring the Royal Fathers and the community leaders that their views would be adequately captured and implemented to the best level of practice as the process move forward, he said there are immense benefits the development of bitumen will bring to the host communities ranging from direct and indirect employment to physical development.
The commissioner added that the Federal Government, who has the responsibility of awarding bitumen blocks, has allocated blocks to five companies within the bitumen belt of the state.
He equally disclosed that they had concluded arrangement to formally form a Bitumen Production Advocacy Club (B-PAC) where members will cut across the various bitumen-bearing communities with their roles well spelt out.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Acting Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Engr. Ebenezer Ogunsanmi, informed that the present government in the state was committed to the development of the industrial sector, hence the need for communities to create enabling the environment for investors to operate.
The Consultant to the Ministry, who is a retired Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Engr. Dele Ogunwolere allayed the fear that their farmland would be destroyed without compensation, noting that the EIA would capture the compensation of the farm owners, while there will be yearly Environmental Impact Auditing to take care of the environment.
The Chairman Caretaker of the local government…. who was represented by Mr David Ojajuni said the gathering was a prerequisite to the commencement of the long-awaited project which he affirmed could be found in all Ikale land.
Responding, the Abodi of Ikale Land, Oba George Babatunde Faduyile commended the state government for organising the programme and its commitment to the project.
To him, the project, if well executed will bring a lot of relieving and income to the State.
“The project will change the standard of living of our people. It is now the duties of we the monarchs and community leaders to sensitise the youths in their area to ensure peace”, He said.
Various stakeholders who spoke at the event stressed the need to duly compensate them because of the cash crops on their lands which is their means of livelihood, emphasising that their unemployed youths should be considered for employment when the project commences.
They, however, promised to give their maximum support towards the development of the project.
Those who attended the meeting include, the Jegun of Idepe-Okitipupa, Oba Michael Adetoye ,the Majuwa of Ilu-titun, Oba Adeoye Idepefo, The Oniju of Iju Odo, Oba Festus Olumoyegun, Halu of Aye kingdom, Oba N. Akinlade, The Regent of Ode – Erinje, Oba Adekoye Ipinsanmi, and various heads of host communities in the area among others.