By Ushang Ewa
The protest by youths and women of Ukambi community over the ongoing demolition of their community farmlands for the proposed Obudu International cargo and passenger airport, has claimed one life, according to information reaching CrossRiverWatch.
The victim, Mr. Raphael A. Ushie, a Chief Inspector of Nigeria Immigration Service who is also the younger brother of Governor Ayade’s personal physician, Dr. Vincent Ushie, died Thursday morning, after being rushed from a hospital in Obudu to the Univerisity of Calabar Teaching Hospital UCTH.
CrossRiverWatch gathered from one of the community leaders that the deceased who was nearing retirement from the Nigeria Immigration Service had invested in a palm plantation in his village, Ukambi.
“On hearing that farmlands in neighbouring Atiekpe and Ikwomikwu had been demolished and same was going to commence in Ukambi, he rushed home to confront the bulldozer that was encroaching into his palm plantation. He arrived last Wednesday morning and went straight to the farm in his uniform and met the bulldozer nearing his plantation. He faced the operator and tried to prevent him from encroaching into his land before other community members joined him in the farm. He participated fully in the day’s protest and the demolition and collapsed after then. He was rushed to a hospital in Obudu. The matter couldn’t be handled there and he was moved to UCTH in Calabar where he passed on this morning.” An elder in the community explained to CrossRiverWatch.
CrossRiverWatch also gathered that, a second person, Mr. Andepibekong Atsua, has also collapsed and is critically sick in the hospital after his farm was demolished.
“One can conveniently say, the airport is among other things an exercise that will claim lives of the very electorates who voted for Ayade and he no longer listens to them or care about their welfare.” Our source concluded.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders have also reacted to the development and have called for due process in the acquisition of the land and adequate compensation for affected land owners.
The Cross River state Chairman of APC, Mr. Etim John, in his reaction, called on the elites from Obudu to come together and approach Governor Ayade to resolve the ongoing crisis and prevent further lose of lives. He also called for due process both on the part of government in acquiring the land and paying compensation, as well as from community members protesting the land acquisition.
Mr. Etim described the latest development in Obudu as: “A very pitiable development and I am honestly short of words. I will advice that everything must be done to avoid further loss of lives. I will implore the elites from Obudu to come together and approach the Governor to see how this matter can be promptly resolved. I also want those who are protesting to employ legal means of passing their grievances and at all times refrain from taking the laws into their hands and while the matter is being resolved, parties should withdraw from the bush to avoid further loss of lives. There is nothing in this life that is worth the blood of anyone.” He said.
The State Chairman of African Action Congress AAC, Mr. Agba Jalingo, also described the death of the Immigration officer as “unfortunate and a blinker on the Governor’s conscience”, adding that, “we have made our position on the proposed airport very clear. As a party, we are opposed to the airport project because we do not see the need for it. The governor should concentrate and finish the many projects he is presently undertaking and he has a handful of them. Secondly there is no urgency about this project that should warrant the invasion of these community farmlands with such alacrity, when initial things like EIA have not been done. It’s true that government has a right to acquire land for public good. But there is also a due process of doing that and I dont think it is too difficult for the Governor to follow.” Agba said.
In his reaction, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Calabar Bar, Dr. Emmanuel Idaka, called for dialogue between feuding parties and urged the governor to ensure due process is followed and proper compensation is paid to affected land owners.
According to him, “The facts of that airport matter are still very scanty and not clear. But the long and short is that if the governor wants to acquire the land, he should follow due process and pay adequate compensation to owners of the affected lands to avoid any confrontation that will lead to further loss of lives.”
CrossRiverWatch has reported that women and youths of Ukambi community in Obudu have been protesting the ongoing acquisition of their farmlands for a proposed airport and this has ignited a face-off that is still ongoing.
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