The Ebubu Trailer Park in Ejamah was originally conceived to serve as Motor Park for heavy trucks, especially trailers waiting for their turn to lift fertilizers from the National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria (NAFCON) and transport it to various retail distributors across the country.
With time, human presence in the area multiplied; and so did trailers and other vehicles, which caused a lot of jam on the roads. The Trailer Park soon gave rise to a shanty town around it, which can be described as a slum and is over populated.
If someone drives through the major roads, he will mistakenly assume the Trailer Park to be a decent and safe place. On the contrary, Trailer Park is worse than Ajegunle in Lagos touted as Nigeria’s foremost slum settlement. The only similarity between Ajegunle and Trailer Park is that both are built on the ground. Otherwise, Ajegunle is Paris; at least, there are well built houses with toilet facilities. There are roads and streets accessible to vehicles and some of the roads are tarred. Besides, Ajegunle is under the authority of the State and subject to the laws of the land.
Again, in comparing the Port Harcourt Waterfronts that were demolished and dismantled by Ex-Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi due to safety and security concerns, Trailer Park is worse, and therefore not fit to continue to exist.
The Trailer Park is connected with Okpako settlement n Ejamah through a pipeline, which is presently used as access way and contains a hand-dug earth drain flowing from the Park into Epene Stream through Okpako settlement.
The shanty structures inhabited by so many people who have no sanitary facilities, resulted to indiscriminate defecation all over the place. Some persons, due to the high population density of the area, put up insanitary commercial toilets and channel the waste into the earth drain that flows down through the slum along the pipeline, also making the place inaccessible.
The Trailer Park and the resulted slum are very filthy and dirty with heaps of refuse scattered all over. The residents of this slum also dispose their refuse along the East-West road directly opposite Daewoo Nigeria Limited, a Korea Company, constituting a serious menace to the public, moreso, polluting the Epene Stream which hitherto serves as source of drinking water for the people of Ebubu.
The houses are made mostly of corrugated iron sheets and timbers. A few are normal block houses, but they are invariably so tightly spaced together that even commercial motorcycles (popularly known as Okada) find it difficult to gain access. Vehicle owners in the settlement park their vehicles along East-West road, Onne road or Ebubu road and trek to their homes down in the hovels.
There is an awful stench that hangs in the air and those who spend some time there carry this odour around town, giving off a whiff of decay. Trailer Park is deafening and disorderly. Even some corporate bodies are not left out in polluting the environment as they have turned the area into a junkyard for dumping of toxic wastes and other dangerous materials.
Lamenting the environmental degradation of the area, Senior Pastor with the Assemblies of God Church, Okpako, Rev. Eugene Osarobele said, “Last year they dumped something here and fire engulfed the whole area. People were burnt to death, and properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed. This year again, the same business people have come to dump Chemicals, and those mostly affected are women and children”.
A woman was killed last year by inhaling Chlorine fume that leaked into the atmosphere when the container exploded. Many children whose respiratory system were affected by the fume also died later in the hospital – an incident which forced Daewoo Nigeria Limited to shut down for two days.
It took the intervention of experts from NOTORE Chemicals Limited, Onne and INDORAMA Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited to seal up the hazardous, destructive and killer toxic explosion and prevent further loss of lives.
Apart from sanitation, the most critical and worrisome attributes of the Trailer Park is the total lack of security and the reign of the laws of the jungle put in place by underworld mafia lords who made themselves immune to the laws of the land.
Until recently, the law enforcement agencies were unable to take control of crime in the area. Robberies were committed in broad day light. Women were regularly raped. Hardly does a week pass without people being murdered. There was an unwritten law which forbids victims of crime to report to the police, even with a police post in a Caravan along the East-West road. Those who break the law will pay with their lives or those of their dear ones.
Of a truth, some gang chiefs have erected permanent outposts where sentries are stationed to watch out for the presence of law enforcement agents. There are also landlords and caretakers who rule by the gun. There are gunrunners who feel free and fear no laws. There are drug dealers who fear no NDLEA operatives. There are also hired killers who laze about with sharp knives and tout for jobs. There are freelance assassins waiting for any odd jobs.
Of course, there are legions of sundry criminals who serve as recruits for political thuggery, oil bunkering, foot soldiers, prostitutes, armed group informants, and so on. Trailer Park appears to be on its own, having a government of its own. What harm has these hardened criminals and prostitutes at Trailer Park not caused to lives and property in Eleme as the area continue to offer them safe haven.
Another contributory factor is the demolition of waterfronts in Port Harcourt and its environs and the sacking of the residents which created hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Rivers State. This development resulted in mass movement of different types of people into Ebubu and contributed immensely to rising cases of crime in the area. The social decays which prompted the sacking of these waterfronts are known to all of us. These evils find their way into Ebubu and the result is increasing cult cases, armed robbery, rape and other sundry crimes.
The inability of the former Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to provide alternative settlements for these internally displaced persons coupled with the lack of adequate arrangements to mitigate the diverse negative impacts of unplanned mass movement of people into Ebubu is worrisome, and therefore calls for immediate attention by the present Rivers State Government under the able leadership of Chief Barr. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to addressing the increasing security challenges arising therefrom in Ebubu.
In recent times Ebubu had recorded an increase in violence clashes between warring street gangs. The Trailer Park has become a strategic staging area for cultists and other criminals to kill, kidnap, rob and rape both indigenes and non-indigenes alike at random.
Many of the toughest secret cult groups have their operational centers in the shanty hiding village of Okpako – Trailer Park, because it provides excellent hiding place and escape outlets in an emergency.
The security threat posed by these illegal, lawless and irresponsible settlers at the Trailer Park is real. The Trailer Park is home to many hardened criminals and prostitutes. They have transformed the hitherto peaceful and orderly Ebubu towns and villages into violent and crime infected communities where cultists, armed robbers, rapists and other hoodlums operate freely day and night.
The roles being played by non- indigenes in the ongoing violence in Ebubu have revealed the danger posed by continues existence of Trailer Park. Let Trailer Park go!
It is on record that during the Town Hall Meeting held with Eleme people at Ambassador Nne Furo Kurubo Modern Secondary School, Ebubu on August 19, 2010 the Ex-Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi directed the then Executive Chairman of Eleme Local Government Hon. Oji N. Ngofa to demolish the Trailer Park “to give way for the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone complex, and to arrest the health hazards and threats to lives and property posed by the illegal, lawless and irresponsible settlers at the Trailer Park”.
This directive, as loud and clear as it came, was not implemented. Today, all communities in Eleme are facing one security threat or another. Ekporo has been sacked; the very survival of Ebubu is severely threatened. There are reported cases of cult related kills in Ogale, Alesa, Aleto, Alode, Agbonchia, Onne, Eteo, etc.
The criminality, hostility, and lawlessness of the illegal settlers at Trailer Park grow by the day. There resistance to the law of the land and disregard for government authority and development is bothersome.
When on Wednesday 2nd April, 2014, the Eleme Local Government decided to take development to the illegal settlers at the Trailer Park by grading an access road hardly did the authority know that the exercise will be stiffly resisted and turned out to be bloody. Government officials led by the Supervisor for Environment, Chief Emmanuel Oluji and the Secretary of Ejamah Council of Chiefs and Elders, High Chief Augustus A. Yanwi were rough handled, attacked and assaulted by these hoodlums who ganged up into a mob. The grader’s windscreens were shattered, and the Operator beaten mercilessly, not minding the presence of the police.
The lack of security is a major problem in Ebubu in particular and Eleme in general. Trailer Park should be sanitized. Everything possible should be done to provide security of lives and properties in the area.
Towards this end, all law abiding citizens and residents of Ebubu are to support government’s determination to make Ebubu safe and secure, so that people can go about their legitimate businesses without fear.
The Trailer Park area is porous and poses a serious threat to peace and security within Ebubu and Eleme. Therefore, the calls for the destruction and dismantling of all houses around Trailer Park, and for the government to in turn provide an alternative accommodation for the residents are not out of place.
This is a call on the security agencies to beam their security lights on Trailer Park and possibly take over the place.
Instead of this vast portion of land to be left fallow or to continue to provide sanctuary for criminals, it can be used for other meaningful developmental projects such as a Housing Estate or a Standard Market or a Standard Motor Park to serve the Onne Oil and Gas free Zone and the Onne Ports Complex.
My investigation revealed that the owners of the land are willing to donate the land for any of such developmental project. These are all public revenue generating ventures that the governments can exploit for the benefits of the citizens.