By Our Correspondent
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River state has written to three villages in Obudu, Atiekpe, Ikwomikwu and Okambi, all neighbouring his Kakum village, appealing for their cooperation towards the commencement and speedy completion of work at a new airport the governor plans to build in Obudu.
According to a letter to Clan Heads of the affected communities, signed by the immediate past Special Adviser Technical, Arc. Eric Akpo, which was obtained by CrossRiverWatch, the new airport to be known as the Obudu International Passenger and Cargo Airport (OIA), will slice 9km square land from the three communities and due to the “urgency and speedy completion of the project”, the governor wants to start acquiring that land under the Land Use Act, so work can commence.
“I have the directives of His Excellency, the Governor, to notify you and the entire community that the government of Cross River State under the administration of His Excellency, Senator Professor Benedict Ayade (Esq.) proposes to develop an international standard passenger and cargo airport in Obudu to be known as the Obudu International Passenger and Cargo Airport (OIA).
“The preferred site of about nine (9) square kilometers for the location of the proposed airport is the land lying northwards of Obudu, belonging to Atiekpe, Ikwomikwu and Okambi communities.
“The choice of this location was arrived at considering its topographical and physical features in relationship to the open horizon at the north-eastern and south-western axis, which is convenient for the runway orientation.
“The proposed airport conceived for common good, would impact positively and progressively on the socio-economic, tourism and agriculture sectors of the State and of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in relative terms.
“Kindly note that for the urgency of this project, and its speedy completion, acquisition and compensation process in line with the statutes Nigerian Land Use Act (2004) would commence immediately while also site preparation works such as clearing and development of access road would be kick-started by the project delivery team.” The letter reads; while also soliciting the maximum cooperation of your highnesses, chiefs and elders of the affected communities for “a seamless project development”.
But the affected communities seem not as happy and do not feel the urgency as the governor. Most of the villagers who spoke with CrossRiverWatch say they are afraid of speaking publicly for fear of what may happen to them afterwards.
One of the Chiefs told this reporter that “these targeted villages are some of the smallest villages in Obudu in terms of land size. By the time you slice nine kilometres square from those three villages, places like Ikwomikwu and even Ukambi may disappear. We are not even given the space to discuss or negotiate to raise our concerns. We are just sent letters and orders and asked to obey. They have started harassing and arresting people already for attempting to resist. We don’t know what is coming. That is our greatest fear.” the chief said with a trembling voice.
But the government says compensation will be paid to land owners who will be affected.
CrossRiverWatch asked why the governor was planning to build a new airport in Obudu when there is an airstrip at the foot of the Obudu Ranch Resort that was renovated by Duke and recently fitted with Instrument Landing System and Dupplar Very High Omni Directional Range DVOR machine, by Imoke?