By Anietie Akpan, Guardian Newspaper
The partial payment of compensation by the Cross River State Government on its multi-billion naira deep seaport project is causing ripples in some host communities of Bakassi Local Government area of the State.
The State Government was said to have paid some compensation through the Paramount Ruler of Bakassi, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet who accordingly shared the money to the benefiting communities.
The main host community of Usung Inwang was said to have received only N4 million through its Caretaker Chairman, Chief Ankot Antigha but this is causing grumblings in the communities leading to a petition to the State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade.
The people of Idua Iwang in their petition dated November 23, 2020 and endorsed by their lawyer, Mr. Ozinko Ozinko with the backings of the new nine-man standing Caretaker Committee headed by Chief Ene Adim Okon, said whatever compensation by Government or that which will be paid later; it supposed to be paid to the individual beneficiaries and not intermediaries like the Paramount Ruler, Clan Heads, Village Heads, Caretaker Committee and others.
Following the advanced age of the then Village Head of Idua Inwang village, Chief Effiong Ene Iman, on June 8, 2012, the people of Idua Iwang and Government officials met and resolved to constitute a 10 man Caretaker Committee with Chief Antigha as its Chairman “to wholly assist him in the full-time traditional function and responsibilities of the Idua Inwang village in order to bring in the very much needed peace, stability and all time progress of the villagers”.
But following the alleged poor handling of issues affecting the Idua Inwang community like the Deep Seaport compensation money from the Government, the village water pumping machines, village palm fruits, lands and other things, the Idua Inwang people met and resolved to remove Antigha as the Caretaker Chairman and accordingly notified the Governor, security agencies and others with “a warning to all to stop engaging and dealing with him on the community behalf but rather to deal with the legitimate and properly constituted new Caretaker Committee of Idua Inwang Esighi Village pending the selection, appointment and presentation of a new Village Head of the village by the Idua Inwang Esighi Village Council.”
That the Idua Inwang Esighi Village Council members met and passed a vote of no confidence on Antigha on September 30, 2020 and on October 22, 2020 constituted a new nine man standing Caretaker Committee with Chief Ene Adim Okon as Chairman following the poor handling of the compensation issue and others as the host community of Idua Inwang “has been in recent time grossly affected by the militancy, cessation of Bakassi to Cameroun, non-implementation of the green tree treaty, insurgency, and IDP’s and compensations paid by Government has not gotten to them directly…but was shared in another village called Itam Ikot Antigha a great insult to the community which the community has endure for over nine years of rule without account and clear disrespect to the people”.
They argued that “compensation has never been known to be paid to people who are not directly affected; it should be paid to the affected individuals who own properties, economic trees, land, ponds, assets etc”.
On the chosen location, who was paid? How much was paid and what was it paid for are all questions that must be answered considering the sensitive nature of the Deep Sea Port project wherein private investors will bring out billions of Naira to invest.
“It is quite essential that the security of the project to be guaranteed by doing the proper thing at the onset to forestall any unforeseen incident like insurrections, community uprising, insurgency in the already volatile area of Bakassi.
“Idua Inwang which is the main host community has been cheated and sidelined in the whole compensation arrangement and N4 million only was given to one Mr. Ankot Antigha who himself does nor live in the community nor have land or property in the community to justify his benefit.
“It is clear that another man cannot be paid to take over another’s lands, grave, ponds, properties, palm fruits etc”.
The Idua Inwang community charged the State Government that “any further signing of documents by him on behalf of the village and or dealing with anyone as such was not acceptable…We also believe that a person who does not want noise while eating should learn not to buy his foodstuffs on credit.
“Flowing from this sad sympathetic chronicle of event, we urge you most humbly to use your good office in respecting the peoples wish in line with their customs, laws, and rights protected by law and Government”.
The embattled Antigha who is a civil servant could not comment on the matter but one of his close associates who pleaded anonymity said, “Antigha is still the Caretaker Committee Chairman and as far as we know, the Deep Seaport compensation money was shared accordingly to beneficiaries in all communities. Wherever they take the matter to we are ready”.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Christian Ita declined comment on the matter but top sources close to Government said, “a quarter of the compensation was paid to the Paramount Ruler as the finances of the State improves the balance will be paid”.
The sources gave the assurance that affected persons who were captured and properly documented in the enumeration exercise will be adequately compensated and there was no threat to the Deep Seaport project.
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