LAND AND PEOPLE OF ISOKO

Urhobo5The isoko ethnic group is one of the smallest minority ethnic groups in the Niger-delta region of Nigeria in West Africa. Occupying an area of about 1,200 square kilometres with a residual population of about 750,000 by 2001 census. The Isoko land is one of the most densely populated areas in Nigeria with about 300 persons per square kilometer compared with the average of 198 for Delta state. The consequence of this has been shortage of farmlands, a shortage accentuated by oil exploration activities in the region.

Not surprisingly, a lot of Isoko people estimated over 470,000 are migrants to other parts of the country, residing in Ughelli, Warri, Sapele, Benin, Ijebu-Ode, Ondo, Lagos, Kano and Predominately in the rural agricultural land areas of Benin, Ondo, and Ijebu-Ode. Isoko land is essentially rural with no urban and semi-urban centres. Situated within the economic shadow of the vibrant industrial, commercial Warri metropolis, the Isoko land has been largely of backlash effect, with most of the young men and women graduating to Warri sub-urban area.

The residual population is mainly into agriculture, small-scale commercial and industrial enterprises. Against this background of the petty economic activities, massive unemployment of youths is very high. The quality of life is low and below the standard of living recommended by the United Nations Development Organization.  

The poor condition and living standard of the Isoko people in Delta state can no longer be accepted as normal but lamentable. There should be no denial of the fact that the  people live in this century with the lack of basic infrastructural amenities such as clean drinking water, electricity and adequate transportation, good roads, and massive employment opportunities, in a region abundantly blessed and endowed with natural resources controlled by the state.    

The isoko people and the land of isoko have been neglected by previous political governments and administrations forgotten in both national and state consideration for rural development. The isoko land, unlike the case with several neglected undeveloped minority and even some majority groups, has oil wells, the pivot of nigeria’s continued financial  existence and relevance in the world map. The oil wells at olomoro and Uzere in isoko land have contributed immensely to the foreign exchange earning potentials for over thirty years of Nigeria. Ironically, the National state and local governments cannot at present name a single sustainable project established in the area since oil exploration activity licences have been granted to multi-national companies in the area.

The isoko people are very non-violent, law abiding, obedient, mostly Christians, co-operative and loyal especially to constituted authority such as National and state government but this obedience and loyalty may have been the undoing of the isoko people, considering the unrest in other areas of the Niger-Delta region  where some much extention have been focused  recently. The need to transform the isoko community from a traditional one to a 21st century modern society  is imperative now if the global goal to combat poverty in sub-saharan Africa is to be achieved. Indeed, the encouragement of the establishment of small scale industries and commercial enterprise is one option to be supported by the state, individuals and organisations. However, the lack and inadequate electricity power supply to the area has been a major bane in the commercial and industrial development of the Isoko community.