For the people of Ophorigbala community (Ughievwen Clan) Ughelli South, Delta state, life is apparently nauseating.
Located in an oil rich state yet monumentally ravaged by poverty and all forms of environmental and economic retardation. It exists in the 21st century but the archaic and shabby infrastructure portray the village like an 18th century settlement.
Ophorigbala community was renowned as a commercial hub. But the once flourishing and promising village is now a shadow of itself. Deserted like an Ebola scourge, the village has evidently deteriorated in manners that display both excessive environmental and infrastructural dilapidation courtesy heavy flooding, bad road channels and drainage, and government neglect.
While its people wallow in pains, frustration and denied rights to basic needs of life, their fate hang in the balance as hope of restoration keep waning each passing day. The acute environmental degradation and poor living conditions paint the picture of a forgotten land and one bereft of government presence.
Though the residents' enduring spirit is legendary, they cannot but come to terms with the everyday realities of living in such an environment. Like birds displaced from their nests, those who could not bear the unpalatable conditions are forced to leave for neighboring villages and towns ( Warri, Ugheli and other major cities in the state).
Ophorigbala community has two major access roads. The first link-road to the village is through Okwagbe Oto-Otutuama axis (two neighboring villages) while the second route is through Ukperheren-Esaba axis.
Due to the swampy and water-logged terrain, accessing Ophorigbala community is neither a pleasurable transit nor an adventure for the cowards.
To create a temporary relief, the dwellers constructed makeshift bridges. They continuously carry out routine clearing of the road, bracing it with planks to make it passable.
Ideally, accessing the community via the first route should be a 2-hour journey if the roads are in good condition but it now takes longer hours due to poor state of the road. Whoever attempts to ply this route also faces the risk of being submerged in the water-logged potion of the road.
Legit.ng investigative team learnt it rained few days before the arrival of the team and as a result, the road had been heavily flooded.
Anyone who is bent on plying the route would be compelled to either swim or meander through the water naked apparently with an eminent health hazard due to the foul-smell of the flood.
The bad state of the roads have evidently ruled out the possibility of driving to the community. Hence, the investigative team like every other settler is left with the second option; that is engage in a 2-hour trek to Esaba village (the nearest neighboring town).
The link road between Ukperheren and Esaba is highly marshy and dilapidated. Thus, Legit.ng team had to trek for hours from Ukperheren to Esaba and continued the journey via a local canoe to link Esaba (nearest village to the targeted community).
Another option available was to also transit for a 1hour cruise on a local boat from Ukperheren to Esaba which was the option chosen by the team while returning from Ophorigbala community.
To meander through the swampy terrain, wasn't a funny experience. The team tactically and skillfully tip-toed to scale through the terrain.
Though the link road from Esaba village to Ophorigbala is not motorable, it can be accessed by motorcycles.
Getting to the targeted village (Ophorigbala community), it became obvious some visitors are in town. The look in the faces of the dwellers showed evidence of dejection and that they hardly receive visitors due to the bad state of the access roads.
But Legit.ng team was accorded with a warm reception in their own unique way (breaking of the kola).
While interacting with this medium, they could not mask their ordeals and their protracted agonies.
To the dwellers, fixing of the access roads would greatly relieve the pains they often encounter in their daily endeavors.
''Our predicament is very hurting as there are no commercial activities taking place in our community, the rate of migration of our people is alarming. It has been a difficult task developing the community or building houses as a result of extremely high cost of transporting building materials to our community'' Philip Mukoro, the vice chairman of the community lamented.
''It is highly worrisome we cannot sell our food anymore because the market is taken over by flood. Nigeria is 55 yet this village is yet to experience any meaningful progress in terms of infrastructure.''
'' Government doesn’t even bother to fix the road. This road was awarded in 2007 but nothing has been done. It is painful.We don’t want to shed blood or resort to violence. We believe in dialogue and not violence'' Efa Joseph, former chairman of the community added.
To the youths of the community, life is unbearable as there are no business concerns to engage them. They had resorted to okada business (motor cycle and tricycle) and farming to eke living in Warri and neighboring villages.
Philip, the youth leader also narrated the plights of the young people in the village ''The youths are suffering here. There is no where to go and nothing to do. The only thing we do to survive is okada business. Some times, we regret being from this village. I have two kids. I’m going through the pains and if our wishes are not done , my children will also experience same fate. We pray our prayer are answered in this time,'' he said.
Investigation showed that none of the four water reservoirs and water tap facilities installed in the community is functioning. To survive, residents of the town source drinking water from the well which in most cases is unhygienic. This exposes them to further health hazards.
Standard of living, cost of goods and services in the community have skyrocketed. Absence of good access roads has birthed poor economic operating environment and also discouraged buying and selling.
Residents often buy products twice higher than their usual prices. While rent, transport have also increased sharply, a litre of petrol sells as high as N200 in the village.
The petrol products are purchased from Warri (about three hours journey) and often hawked in smalls kegs for the use of the villagers.
Painfully, the village now experiences epileptic power supply. Leaders of the community revealed that the last time they had electricity supplied to the village was two years. Though transformers and electric cables were installed in the village, they are now moribund as the whole village strive in total darkness.
Most of the indigenes live in uncompleted or dilapidated mud or wooden houses inherited from their ancestral parents.
The dilapidated health centre is under lock and key. The stinking condition of the clinic showed the facility had been abandoned for long. The health centre is taken over by weeds while the interior is littered with animal excretes and expired drugs.
This medium found out that no medical staff or personnel has resumed duty in the last two years. According to reports, residents, especially children, die on regular basis due to absence of medical personnel or proper medical attention.
Apparently, phone communication or making phone calls is quite impossible in the village due to absence of telecom mars. To receive calls, they often hang their phones on a tree, roof top or any raised platform to receive signals.
The community is privileged to have two schools; Ophorigbala Mixed Secondary School and Taku Primary School.
The dilapidated state of the school buildings are highly mind-boggling.
While most of the teachers had ceased from coming to teach in the schools due to the sorry state of the link roads, the pupils and students are at the mercy of few unqualified teachers who reside in the community.
Authorities of the schools revealed that virtually all teachers posted to the school had worked their way back to the city or better neighboring villages.
However, for the people of Ophorigbala, their penchant for fun is undeniable. Despite the deprivation and the overwhelming frustration, the people still catch fun in their unique ways. The residents, most especially the men, often gather at local pubs in the community to unwind and catch fun.
Legit.ng was reliably told that some residents and other prominent sons and daughters had made frantic efforts to contact Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the state government to come to their aid but all fell on deaf ears.
To press home their demands this time, the dwellers have however vowed to resist every move to campaign in the settlement and also took a stand that no election would be held in the village until the roads are fixed.