Location:Ilaje Local Government Area, Ondo State
From: Larry Bowoto
Date: July 14, 2008

The Ilaje Yoruba people migrated from Ife and settled at Ode-Ugbo, Mahin, Aheri and Etikan kingdoms which today make up Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State in the south west of the Niger Delta region, Nigeria. Ilaje Local Government Area covers about 2,300 square metres.
The Ilaje people were known for fishing, agriculture and weaving; their primary occupations that made them famous in Nigeria. Their location on the sea shore made them a major producer of sea and fresh water fish. Fishing gave them joy, comfort, and contentment.

Before oil exploration in the region there was fish every where. Teachers and visitors hardly ever bought fish as they were freely given by the people. The people made enough profits to buy boats with outboard engines for private and business purposes and to build comfortable houses. Their sons and daughters were morally disciplined. Robbery and stealing were unheard of before the advent of oil companies. Windows and doors could be left open without fear of molestation. The orderly arrangement of houses in the communities, natural vegetation and fresh breeze from the sea blended perfectly to create a peaceful and serene environment. The transport means of our people was mainly water transport through streams. The stream was our only source of drinking water. Rushes, cotton, raffia, plantain trees and mangrove trees were in abundance and boosted the economy of our people. They also served as shade and enhanced the beautiful scenery of our communities. Our women had enough rushes to make mats before the era of oil companies in our land.

The advent of oil companies was initially a welcome development as we thought it would enhance development in our communities. Sadly, the opposite is the case; they have brought environmental degradation and pollution. Our land is gradually being washed away and becoming uninhabitable. Though there is water every where there is non for us to drink. The stream, our only source of drinking water, has been polluted by the oil companies. Fishing, farming and weaving which used to be our people’s main stay are no longer profitable because of oil pollution and sea incursion. The luxuriant vegetation has since disappeared leaving the communities exposed to storms.
The youths are migrating from their homeland as they can no longer cope with the destroyed sources of livelihood. The people now move their houses farther inland for fear of being swept away as sea incursion caused by oil exploration activities is steadily increasing.

Our people are dying of strange sicknesses as a result of gas flaring. The government and oil companies are aware of this but have chosen to respond to our plight by killing, molesting and detaining us for speaking out. It is an indisputable fact that the oil companies are not friendly but hostile and covetous. They are conniving enemies of progress. Fear them! They came to you pretending to be angels but they are agents of communal strife.

Most of the communal strife in the Niger Delta today is caused by the oil companies. We understand the language of oil companies i.e. violence. We too are capable of violence but Ilaje is a peace loving tribe, generous, honest and God fearing. Our environment has been polluted. We are dying. We have no good water to drink, no jobs for our youths, no electricity, no roads, no hospitals, and no good houses to live in.

We want the world to judge between us and the oil companies.

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