By Archibong Jeremiah, House Of Assembly Correspondent
The Cross River State House of Assembly, CRSHA has been accused of back stabbing for enacting the Cross River State Water Front Law without due consultation with the landlords through the appropriate quarters.
The accusation was made by leaders of the water front communities yesterday morning in a meeting convened by the Speaker of the House, Hon. John Gaul Lebo to discuss on the law and the Water Front Management Agency created by the newly enacted law.
The community leaders present in the meeting cut across the Efik and Efut regions of the State and they expressed their dismay at the development saying, “We don’t have a copy of the law, if you have made the law you have stabbed us at the back”, said a Chief from the Obong of Calabar Council.
Another Chief from the Efut Nation was quick to add that, “If you have enacted the law we don’t know the reason of being here”.
Several others who spoke criticized the law pleading that they should be given copies of the law and time to peruse it and come back for fervent contribution as the harm has already been done.
Responding to the complains made by the water front community leaders, the Speaker, Hon. John Gaul indicated that the recently passed law may be amended to accommodate the issues contended by the communities.
The Speaker who spoke extensively on the law observed that the law was never intended to short change the communities or deny them right of passage on the waterways but rather to harness the revenue potentials on Cross River waters.
Hon. Lebo maintained that the law was to set up an agency to regulate activities on Cross River water ways, with a view to making the waters safer, as well as maintain waterfront infrastructures for a more profitable regime, adding that contrary to speculation, the law does not seek to take over ownership of private properties of the indigenes.
He said that the Agency when constituted will have six board members, 3 per senatorial district (South and Central) and will serve as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to interface with the riverine communities with a view to reaching an understanding that would further elicit the people’s confidence on the law.
In his submission, the Niger Delta Development Commission’s Board Chairman, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw advised the House of Assembly to quickly amend the law so as to address areas of contention which he observed would help to assuage the fear and apprehension of the people.
The former legislator, who represented Cross River South at the Nigeria’s Senate, assured the royal fathers and riverine communities that the Agency would not extinguish the rights and privileges they enjoyed on the waters.
He advised that the law should specify who should be appointed into the board through consultation with the Paramount Rulers of the respective communities adding that only people who are knowledgeable with integrity and interest in the growth and development of their communities should be the ones appointed into the board.
Senator Ewa-Henshaw warned against acts of compromise by community leaders who may be induced to cede parts of community lands, saying that such act was capable of mortgaging the common wealth of the communities.
Consequently, copies of the law were distributed to the royal fathers and community leaders for critical study and input within one month, after which, the House of Assembly may commence the process of amending the law.
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