Youths of Obudu Local Government Area in Cross River State, have staged a peaceful protest rejecting the ongoing Obudu International Passenger and Cargo Airport project.
According to Mr. Kajetan Ifeayi, who took to social media disclosed that, “Youths of the four affected villages – Igwo, Okambi, Atiekpe and Ikwomikwu have pledged not to leave their ancestral home.”
The protesters displaying placards with different inscriptions such as “We don’t have land for airport”, “Ayade leave Okambi alone”, ” We can’t lose our heritage”, “No to demolition of our land and houses” amongst others.
Protesting peacefully at the site of the airport were work is ongoing, the youths lamented that, their only source of survival which is farming has been forcefully taken away from them by the Ayade led administration, and now their ancestral heritage.
The protest was occasioned by a public notice from the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Major Projects, Mr. Paul Obi, dated 24/12/2020, titled “Clearing and Earthwork on the Terminal Building Area” requesting the immediate relocation of those affected.
The eviction order which sparked waves of belligerency in many quarters saw the youths on the streets expressing their tantrum, refusing that they cannot leave their ancestral home.
It all started like a dream which no one knew the interpretation or aftermath. It is the month of March 2019 and the peaceful community of Okambi is recovering from the hustle and bustle of the New Year and just days after the General Elections where the Governor had been generously handed a second term in office with people settling down to the routines of life in the Community. The duo of Eric Akpo and Joseph Adie (Jungle Joe) summon a joint meeting of Okambi and Ikwomikwu, to Ikwomikwu at the Palace of the Clan Head of Okambi/Ikwomikwu Clan; Utsu Isaac Ugbe to announces the decision of the His Excellency the Governor of Cross River State to site an Airport within the premises of these 2 Communities.
Naturally, the people are happy and feel lucky to host the airport project. The Okambi Community agrees like others and goes home to sleep with the expectation that the natural process will follow towards the acquisition of land as specified by the law, unknown to them that the style of this regime is different from standard procedure or due process.
Concerns and trouble started just a week after the announcement of Government intention to build the airport project, when barely one week after the announcement, Eric Akpo and co arrived in Ikwomikwu with a bag of money over his shoulder and bulldozers to commence the clearing and destruction of the ecosystem in the name of constructing an airport with payment of compensation to farm owners as the spirit directs.
Alarmed by the turn of events, the Okambi Community Council and Development Associations (ODAs) nationwide decided to act before irreparable damage was done by the Government without recourse to the due processes. This decision was after the realization that Government agents had taken advantage the Community’s illiterate Chiefs poor foresight with promises of jobs for the children, building of new houses and buying of cars for them.
The following timelines will explain to the world what has transpired between the Okambi Community and the Cross River State Government regarding the airport project. The saddest point is the decision of His Excellency the Governor to engage proxies to work in place of the statuary Ministries/MDA to conduct business of the State on this project.
Ministry of Lands and Urban Development was not involved in the project until the 1st of October, 2019.
Hiring of airport Project Manager without education or requisite experience to drive the process of project implementation for a project of this scope and magnitude without consideration of the image of the State or his own status as a Professor and Governor of the State.
Assigning responsibilities of estate valuer to Eric Akpo in the beginning of the project without recourse to his own profession or the fact that land acquisition and compensation are the absolute responsibilities the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development.
OBUDU INTERNATIONAL CARGO AND PASSENGER AIRPORT ACTIVITIES TIMELINE IN OKAMBI COMMUNITY.
First meeting with Community to inform them of Government plans to build airport.
Eric Akpo and Joseph Adie (Jungle Joe)
Community accepts the project without objection.
Government commenced bulldozing of farms and clearing of Community lands.
Eric Akpo/Paul Obi
Community taken aback by immediate take-off of bush clearing.
Okambi Community requested for a letter for Government to the above effect.
Counsel to Okambi Community Council/ODA
Okambi decision reached as a result of lack of due process in land acquisition and non-existence EIA for the project.
21st April, 2019
CRSG published back dated expression of interest for the feasibility study and designs of the airport with an expired date for return of interest by consultants.
An obvious oversight reaction from the realization that people are naive and foolish as Government agents expected.
The Court will determine the validity of this publication.
25th April, 2019
Community received first letter from Cross River State Government of its desire to build Airport with the community land amongst others.
First official communication from CRSG on the airport project.
Confrontation between Okambi Community (Youths, Women and Men) leading to the death of Mr. Raphael Ushie.
Community people on ground during Government action.
Results in temporary suspension of bulldozing and destruction in the Okambi.
16th May, 2019
Okambi Community sent a letter to the Governor to file their complaints.
Counsel to Okambi Community Council/ODA
No acknowledgement and no response to date.
21st May, 2019
Cross River State Government published a back dated revocation of lands and coordinates for Airport project.
Community senses fear of total up-take of available land by Government.
The Court will determine the validity of this publication.
22nd May, 2019
Mr. Raphael Andielgwe Ushie dies as a result of the trauma of watching the destruction of his palm oil plantation.
First casualty of the airport project in Okambi.
26th May, 2019
Okambi Community begin the survey of its community land to ascertain the extent of land taken by the airport as published by the coordinates.
Okambi Community Council/ODA
Completed and to be tendered in Court.
30th May, 2019
Okambi Community petition Paul Obi to the Inspector General of Police for arming youths and inciting violence in the community.
Counsel to Community Council/ODA
Pending investigation and document to be tendered in Court during trial of Paul Obi.
31st May, 2019
Okambi Community file a suit against Cross River State High Court, Calabar.
Counsel to Okambi Community Council/ODA
Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme refused hear the case.
3rd June, 2019
The Governor meets with Atiekpe, Ikwonikwu, Okambi and Igwo Communities at Perogrino Hall to address the Airport host communities.
H.E. Ben. Ayade & aids (Eric Akpo, Paul Obi & Joseph Adie)
The meeting was called to ridicule and intimidate Okambi Community into submission of giving up their land without proper acquisition by the State with agents like Spokesman Agogo.
14th June, 2019
Okambi Community officially complained to the Paramount Ruler of Obudu LGA Uti J.D.Agba and its Council on forceful style of land acquisition from Okambi by the state government and
Selected Elders of Okambi Community led by Mr. Bonnie Adie
The Paramount Ruler and his Clan Heads came to the meet with the Community at the Clan Head of Okambi/Ikwomikwu’s Palace and decided not intervene in the matter.
16th July, 2019
Okambi Community sent a petition to the Hon. Minister of Federal Ministry of Environment on EIAs concerns.
Okambi Community Council
Federal Ministry of Environment acknowledges notification to threat.
24th July, 2019
Federal Ministry Environment visited the Community on fact finding over EIA.
Eric Akpo/FME Staff
No report published up till now.
19th August, 2019
Okambi Community Council/Okambi Development Association re-filed a suit against CRSG at the High Court in Obudu.
Counsel to Okambi Community Council/ODA
Case is ongoing but completely ignored by the agents of CRSG.
1st October, 2019
CRSG communicates with the Community for the second time, stating its intention enumerates land owners for compensation.
Mr. Celestine Atsu
Exercise petitioned to CRSG and ignored.
26th October, 2019
Okambi Community petition the Paul Obi’s activities and the Obudu Division of Nigeria Police failure to arrest him over incision of violence and arming youths in the Community to the Federal Ministry of Defence
Counsel to Okambi Community/ODA
Investigations are on-going, exhibit shall be tendered in Court during Paul’s prosecution in the near future.
9th January, 2020
Okambi Community petitions CRSG on payment of compensation due to compromised process in Okambi.
Counsel to Okambi Community Council/ODA
Petition ignored by the Commissioners for Lands and Urban Development and Aviation respectively.
CRSG commences payment of compensation to Airport Communities.
Akomaye and Associate, an Attorney appointed for the Community by Mr. Celestine Atsu and Paul Obi
Still ongoing and full of sharp practices.
19th March, 2020
Court advised Counsel of government and Okambi Community to stay action until suit is heard.
Justice Ofem, High Court of Obudu
Verbal order disobeyed by CRSG.
13th April, 2020
Airport project manager Mr. Paul Obi returned to resume work in Okambi against Court advise.
Paul Obi and armed cultists
Community members are chased away from project site.
6th of April, 2020
Commissioner for Aviation wrote the 3rd CRSG Communication to Okambi Community about the airport project; to notify them of commencement of work on Okambi land.
Hon. Jake Otu Enyia
Community replied through its Counsel.
9th April, 2020
Okambi Community responded to Commissioner’s letter.
Counsel to Okambi Community/ODA
Ignored by the Commissioner.
20th April, 2020
Commissioner for Aviation visited the Okambi Community and issued a threat about issues of work interruption by the Community.
Jake Otu Enya in company of Paul Obi
Frustration, fear and intimidation sent into the hearts of the Community.
21st April, 2020
Airport Project Manager Mr. Paul Obi commenced selective destruction of palm plantation of those concerned about the land acquisition style of the Airport project.
Commissioner reports success of resolution of Okambi issues in Government information newsletter in Calabar while Paul Obi declared 7 perceived enemies of his in the Community wanted and vowed to cause Police to arrest them.
25th April, 2020
House of Assembly representative for Obudu and SA to the Governor on Cargo Airport visits Okambi on fact finding mission and visited the site with Commissioner for Aviation & Appointed Estate Valuer for the Community.
Hon. Godwin Akwaji (CRHA)
Godwin Undeshi (SA Cargo Airport
Jake Out Enya (Com. For Aviation)
They saw the selective and malicious destruction by Paul Obi for themselves and express regrets.
26th April, 2010
Okambi Community files another suit of human rights violation against Paul Obi, others and the CRSG at the federal high Court in Calabar since state Courts are on covid-19 vacation.
Counsel to Okambi Community Council/ODA
Paul Obi, Jake Otu Enya, Nigeria Police and other 4 persons to stand trial.
27th April, 2020
Paul Obi continued further destruction of farms and plantations against advice of visiting team on 25th April, 2020 with support of the Police.
Commissioner for Aviation when contact said Paul did not have his clearance to continue but said nothing can be done to stop him till he visits the Community in person again.
30th April, 2019
House of Assembly member representing Obudu and Commissioner for Aviation returned to Okambi Community for peace talk.
Hon. Godwin Akwaji (Member, CRHA) & Jake Otu Enya (Commissioner For Aviation)
The Community request for Paul Obi to be removed from Okambi land and assurance that the 7 persons who fled from the Community because of Paul’s threat of arrest be guaranteed safety before possible peace talks can commence.
11th May, 2020
Appointees of CRSG from Obudu LGA visited the Airport host communities to ascertain the extent of development of the project and listen to the concerns of the Communities.
High Chief Eugene Akeh, Chief Anthony Undiandeye, Dr. Peter Adigeb, Mr. Godwin Undeshi, Mr. Martin Orim, Mr. Kenneth Alah and others.
They saw for themselves the inglorious activities and destructions all in the name of development by the Government and its agents.
Note: it is interesting to share that in all this information above all backed with dates and verifiable facts, our illustrious son and brother, the Governor Prof. Ben. Ayade has remained silent to every correspondence and representations to him on this subject.
While we want the world to know this story and share our pain, it is interesting to note that as of today the following have transpired;
Agents of the State Government are pushing on with the airport project despite the lack of due process in land acquisition and other considerations required such as the EIA, the ongoing Court case against the State Government by the Okambi Community for which the Courts have directed both parties to stay action. They have also continued with the use of thugs and cultists to force work to continue.
The Aviation Ministry is looking for ways to validate all activities previously carried out by agents of the Government rather than engaging the state Governor to discontinue the use of unconventional means of Land acquisition and project implementation. Jake Enya has unfortunately become a lackey of a tout rather than a lawyer and Law teacher that he is.
Okambi Community has become factionalized due to cash inducement of illiterate Chiefs who now buy arms for their own children to join Paul Obi to reign terror in the Community for the sake of the airport project.
The airport Project Manager (Mr. Paul Obi) reports directly to the Governor and has control of the Divisional Police Station in Obudu as well as the Squadron Commander of the MOPOL unit in Obudu. Therefore, the Police raid homes of purported/perceived “enemies” of Paul Obi and remove property and valuables if they don’t find their arrest target.
The Governor has suddenly lost memory of all his family ties with Okambi Community, his own political appointees and other prominent citizens from Okambi whom he has known and perhaps been of use to him at some point in time but prefers to deploy the Commissioner for Aviation and others to go for peace talks in Okambi rather than taking personal interest in the Community which is geographically next to his village and solve the problems to get (his) project going.
The okambi Community does not feel hopeless and believes in the wheel of justice grinding to its favour in the end. They are now convinced that Governor Ayade has betrayed their confidence and votes at the 2015 and 2019 elections.
Cross River State Government has started reordering its priorities to meet up with aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic by taking N4.5 billion from the Local Council purse to invest in the aviation industry.
The State Government had in a letter with reference No. MLGA/e-P090/2020 and signed by the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Stella Odey; Permanent Secretary, James Odok; Director of Accounts, Ironbar Bassey and another Director of Accounts, Mrs. Paulina Odey, directed First Bank to “transfer N4.5 billion only from the Cross River State Local Government Salary Account to the Local Governments’ capital project accounts indicated in the schedule,” meaning that each of the council’s accounts should be credited with N250 million totalling N4.5 billion for the Cally Airline and Airport project which is located in Obudu.
Justifying why the State is investing in the aviation industry in this period of the pandemic, the state’s Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong (Jnr), at a briefing with some newsmen yesterday said: “The State sees an end to the virus, and so, it is important for us to realise that it is in the time of crisis and recession that heroes are born. When you have challenges, those companies founded during that period are those that grow up to dominate the world. The airline industry is under problems right now and there will never be a cheaper time to buy a plane than now. All the airlines are stranded and are on tarmac.
“Soon, we are going to witness these dark days of zero allocation from crude oil. We earn billions of dollars from crude but there is going to be zero now.”
In another development, two regulatory bodies, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) have given approval to Cross River State garment factory to continue production of nose-masks.
From day one, I have maintained the stand that the gra-gra by Governor Ayade that he wants to build a third airport in Cross River is deceitful and fraudulent. He is just creating needless confusion. He won’t build any airport.
Apart from the grandiose promises of building everything super and mega, none of which we have seen, the Obudu cargo airport is a land grab scheme that will fail woefully and create intractable communal wars when Ayade leaves power from 2023.
A 1000 hectares international cargo airport in Obudu is not only another wishful thinking, it will be one of the biggest airports in the whole world, the size of Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos (400hectares), Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja (360hectares), Margaret Ekpo Airport, Calabar (300hectares), combined together. It will only compare to the biggest airport in the world, Heathrow in London which sits on 1,200 hectares of land.
Even Asaba Airport (360 hectares) and Uyo Airport (360 hectares), took 7 years each to construct at a time those two States were flowing in real oil money not audio intellectual money that we hear in Cross River. Governor Ayade doesn’t only lack money to do an airport, he also doesn’t have the time. Now he is scooping a whopping 250million each, from 18 LGAs capital votes for God knows what.
You are planning to build a multi billion Naira airport about the size of Heathrow and you carry “one boy”, Agbebia Paul Obi, who himself may not even have entered an aircraft before nor handled a project of even 5million Naira before, as Project Manager, and unleash him to create untold confusion and break down peoples’ homes and scraping livelihoods?
A project that was supposed to occupy three villages is now encroaching into five villages and even more with two deaths and several persons in detention. Lagos with 20million people and N33billion monthly IGR has only one airport. Cross River with 4 million people with a paltry N800million monthly IGR wants to have a third airport. I am still laughing.
My own one storey building which is still under construction at Indi-Abeb has also been evaluated and considered to be within the perimeter of the proposed airport runway and I hear they want to demolish it. I won’t lift a finger or waste money to go to Court.
If after locking me up in Afokang prison for 6 months, Governor Ayade still wants to scrap my house, I will leave him to God. When he leaves power by 2023, I will recover all I have lost under him. I am no better than all other persons who have lost properties and even lives in this sham project.
Upon the swearing in of the present administration in Cross River State (CRS), I had vowed not to hold a public opinion on anything happening within the State – be it public policy, economic policy or general administrative style. I made this decision for two reasons; the current Governor, His Excellency, Professor Benedict Ayade is first of all an uncle (maternal) and secondly, I earned my first pay check upon leaving the university, from working at what used to be Global Environmental Consultants (GEC) in Warri, Delta State where he was the Chief Executive Officer and owner. I arrived at GEC on 16th of August 2000, straight out of NYSC Orientation Camp and did my national service at GEC, working as a trainee Environmental Consultant I subsequently worked there for nine years before leaving in September 26th, 2009 to pursue other endeavours.
I had felt that there was no reason to create a fuss in public space, given that I have always had direct access and could use other back channels to offer viewpoints and suggestions on whatever I still believe could help in the governance of my State. I didn’t consider it a tall order at the time because, like many others, I have his phone number. In fact, I purchased the SIM card/number he uses, way back in 2001 when phones were sold with SIM packs for about N35,000.00. He had directed me at the time to buy two phones; one for me and one for him, so I got an Econet SIM + Motorola TalkAbout Phone for myself and an MTN SIM + Sagem Phone for him (the type that had a vibration mode). So naturally, I have always had the number up to this day, and had constantly gotten in touch to offer unsolicited suggestions and give opinions. Most times, I got replies which were one-liners, like; ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘not interested’, ‘not necessary’, ‘1B’, ‘not looking for a buyer’ ‘speak to so-and-so’ etc. Those were sufficient – I mean, I was dealing with a State Governor here; I hear they are busy people.
Over the last 7 months, I have continued to offer suggestions on alternative ways to approach the proposed airport project for which Okambi, the village where I come from, has suffered untold hardship, being in the eye of the storm. My calls and appeals to the Governor to intervene have gone largely unheeded, which has brought me to the conclusion that His Excellency has not found my suggestions worthy of any attention regarding the airport and I cannot sit here and watch my community get striped of her dignity. I am therefore compelled to end the self-imposed Omerta Code of Silence in absolute good faith. I believe that it is the right thing to do both for himself and my community, so that our remotest posterity will record both our accomplishments with pride.
My village, Okambi, has been in the news over the last year or so for all the wrong reasons; the Government of CRS wants to obliterate us from the face of the earth – quite literally, to build an airport at any cost. The interesting fact is that, the people of Okambi may be at best, unenthusiastic about the construction of a third airport in CRS, but are not exactly opposed to the idea, however, they have insisted that such a project should follow due process and they have also asked for transparency from Government agents.
They want the Government to produce a credible EIA (following every letter of the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, No. 86 of 1992). Most importantly, Okambi Community is asking for the involvement of their elites in the consultation process (which is fundamental requirement of an EIA process) not just the illiterate village Chiefs and illiterate community leaders who are themselves vulnerable and completely ignorant of the enormity of the potential impacts likely to result from this proposed project and which is actually a basic requirement of the Act, not their personal opinion. These prayers can be better appreciated if you consider the size of Okambi community. Being a small community, with a population of about 2,637 inhabitants (projected from 2011 population census of 1577 people, using a growth rate of 2.8%) and a land mass of only about 436 hectares, they consider this an existential threat- to put it mildly.
Actions of Government Agents.
So far, the tale has been one of intimidation, coercion and outright physical mugging, employing the services of cultists (gangsters). Most members of the community have been declared wanted by the so called Airport Project Manager Paul Obi and the Aviation Commissioner Dr. Jake Enyia. One of such persons is Mr. Solomon Adie, who is an uncle of mine. Uncle Sol who recently retired from Local Government Service is also the Catechist of St. Michaels’ Catholic Church Okambi, and those who know him can attest to his extraordinarily calm demeanour. He is an epitome of humility and forthrightness. Such is the calibre of person that State Government agents are looking for to terrorise.
One of the tactics they have employed is to isolate and completely obliterate the farms of the individuals who are insisting that due process should be followed as shown in some of the photographs that were taken earlier in the week below.
This is however in spite of a subsisting Court directive for all parties to maintain status quo, pending the hearing of the matter and for which the Attorney General of the State has been duly communicated (meaning that, ordinarily, no Government agent should be found around my village at this point in time), not to mention the ongoing earth works – grading and wanton destruction of the fragile ecosystem, causing a potentially irreversible damage to people’s only means of livelihood. Yesterday being Saturday the 25th of April was earmarked for my late uncle, Utsu Jeremiah Adieligbo’s palm plantation to be completely levelled to the ground – this is the plantation from where his widow ekes her living (he was a former State Commissioner in the second republic and the Clan Head of Okambi/Ikwomikwu Clan). I brought some of these issues to the attention of the Governor, and never got a response, but I kept mute – we are family and I have been bounded by the self-imposed Omerta code. The Ushakas’ palm plantation has been brought down and as you read this, all adult males in the family are on the run from home for fear of being arrested by Police on the instructions of Paul Obi. I should reiterate, that, that is the only source of livelihood for most of those affected by this proposed Airport project.
I understand that the Commissioner for Aviation, in company of Paul Obi, were in Okambi on Monday 19th of April, where they read what they termed the “Riot Act” to my community. This makes it really difficult to decipher who the real aggressor is, in all of this. Here is a small community of 2600 persons, consisting of 95% peasant farmers, who currently struggle for sufficient arable land from year to year (evident in the perennial skirmishes with their Benue neighbours), going about their legitimate businesses, being invaded by total strangers to surrender over 80% of their heritage, the land where their forefathers lived, died and were buried or be massacred. If this is not an invasion, I do not know what else is. It makes me wonder who, between both parties, is supposed to be reading the so-called Riot Act.
The other individuals who have been “declared wanted” by the little-known individual who goes by the name of Paul Obi for speaking up against these ills are my cousins and paternal uncles including Mr. Joseph Ungwugwaye Ushaka, and Mr. Goddy Liwholiwhe Ushaka. While in my community, the gentlemen who arrived in a convoy of Mobile Police officers, went berserk and terrorised innocent, poor and hungry villagers who were supposed to be observing the Covid-19 lockdown, seizing motorcycles of those who they tagged as ring leaders and in the process they beat up my cousins mum (Nurse Dora-Joseph Ushaka) who was later admitted at Obudu Clinic for three days and treated for injuries. It sounds a bit like scenes from a horror movie, but all these things are happening right in my small community, Okambi. Now, that could have been my frail mum! But come to think of it, Nurse Dora is my mum too (by all definitions of the word mum) and it is a bit disappointing that I have been kept in the dark about all of this by my immediate family and for reasons obvious reasons; for them, it is family.
Another cousin of mine, who is autistic was ruthlessly manhandled by the Mobile Police officers and it took his mother’s dogged struggle with the Police to prevent them from taking him away. He is the son of my aged uncle, Mr. Donatus Ushie and his only crime is that, he was the only male member of the family at home with his mother at the time of their ‘raid’, having received orders from Paul Obi to arrest all male members of the family.
It is pertinent to put on record that my family has so far paid the ultimate price for this airport project and as I recall, this was reported widely in the news at the time. My uncle, Mr. Raphael Ushie an Immigration officer who was due to retire in December 2019, collapsed in his palm plantation as he watched it being levelled to the ground and died in Calabar Teaching Hospital a couple of days later (precisely on the 22nd of May 2019), leaving behind four children. The family is yet to overcome that tragedy.
With respect to project planning, to this point, the agents of the CRS Government have neither provided a design, nor a survey plan of the proposed project site which has led to insinuations that such documents do not exist. The survey plan currently in their possession is the one that was produced by Okambi Community (see attached) and this makes everyone wonder if the handlers of this project have the requisite competency to manage a project of such magnitude.
Purported Compensation for Affected Communities.
It is my understanding that His Excellency, the Governor made a public pronouncement to the effect that a compensation package of 500Million Naira (as announced by the Commissioner of Lands and Urban Development to Nigeria Institutes of Estate Valuers during courtesy call to his office) has been released for payment to the affected communities (four communities in total) and like I already mentioned in one of my communications to His Excellency, there is no definitive evidence of such disbursements in my community. I have been made aware that the total money received by my community is in the region of about 1.5 to 2 million naira (one million and five hundred thousand naira to two million naira). These figures are still in the realm of speculation because the whole exercise is shrouded in secrecy, which for me, is very disturbing. I had raised an alarm to the Governor concerning these irregularities and I do not remember getting any response. However, there are claims by Government agents – the Commissioner for Aviation and the Project Manager that the community has been “well compensated”. Individual payments/disbursements range from 5,000 naira (five thousand) to 145,000 (one hundred and forty-five thousand naira). No payment vouchers were at any point sighted nor cheques issued during this exercise and as I understand, folks were made to pay ten thousand naira for the services of “property valuers” and another ten thousand naira for the services of “attorneys” all provided for them by Government agents. A request was made for a list of the compensated individuals to be made public, but the handlers are averse to this and have refused to comply with these requests.
The Prayers of Okambi Community.
The fact that Government intends to annex 348 hectares of Okambi community land, (out of the purported 1000 hectares required for their cargo airport) leaving the community with a paltry 87.2 hectares (for about 2600 inhabitants to live and farm), the people of Okambi cannot therefore over emphasise the need for a proper engagement between respectable Government representatives and a select Committee from Okambi community to clarify the underlisted points raised by members of the community. I should clarify that the 348 hectares annexed by Government is estimated from the area which the State Government has marked down and pegged for grading.
Does the airport have a design? – This is a fundamental requirement of the EIA. The proponent (developer) is expected to show the host community a project design, to help the consultees from the host community appreciate (for themselves) the perceived environmental impacts and make informed judgements.
Has the Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) now been completed? If no, is it appropriate for the Commissioner for Aviation to write to the community, expressly declaring that “full construction work” is commencing in earnest by next week and that anyone who does not comply with Government directives should be decisively dealt with by armed Mobile Police officers?
Why is Government continuing with construction work, despite a subsisting Court directive, urging all parties to maintain status quo?
Should the community heed Government’s own directives even when they are in contravention of a Court directive?
Is the Government really leading by example in this matter?
In the highly likely event that the community cannot be supported by 87.2 hectares of land left after the construction of the airport (assuming the project goes ahead as planned); what is Government’s plan regarding resettlement of the community to an area that is adequate and arable?
Between the airport project and the resettlement scheme, which one should commence first?
Is the community not supposed to be resettled and be made comfortable before their land is seized?
Is 2 million naira or thereabouts sufficient to build roughly 600 housing units which as we expect, should include social amenities in case a resettlement is eminent?
Since this is the planting season, where should Okambi community, which, due to the siting of the proposed project, does not have any land to live on, let alone plant their food crops – where should they plant yams and cassava? Are these villagers expected to divest from sustainable farming relying on the 45,000 naira (on average) received as “compensation”?
Usually, EIAs provide alternatives already sought by the proponent or developer. What alternative to our land has the Government sought? Also, what alternatives to an airport has the Government sought as a means of moving goods or cargo other than by air?
If the Government continues with the tactics of intimidation and bullying during the construction phase, how does the Government intend to smoothen over frayed nerves during the operational phase? How will Government deal with a hostile host? Is Government also planning to use brute force?
One of the aims of an EIA is to ensure that the host community “takes ownership of and protect the project”. Is this likely to be achieved at the moment?
These are critical issues that the Government needs to look at carefully with a view to changing their current strategy going forward. From my experience living and working in the Niger Delta for almost a decade, and taking the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) case studies into consideration (having worked at two of shell’s locations – Bonny terminal and Bonga field myself) the moment you force a project on the host community, you inadvertently put the lives of the operators and future users of the project at risk. There are recorded cases of hostilities perpetrated by host communities who were not ‘carried along’ in several major projects in Nigeria. The East West road recorded the highest incidents of kidnapping in the history of Nigeria leading to the implementation of the Local Content requirement for contracts in Nigeria. Similar scenarios have played out in Igwo village, leading to the kidnap and murder of a traditional ruler, and the lynching of others. It is my view that Government should not, through its actions during this construction phase create a fertile ground for similar hostilities in the future, thereby jeopardising the good intention of this proposed project. No investor would be persuaded to expose themselves and their priced assets to such potential risks.
I therefore urge the Government of CRS led by His Excellency, Governor Benedict Ayade, to please consider reviewing the whole project approach, project plan and project execution in a timely manner and change course. A stich in time, they say, saves nine. You have my absolute best wishes always.
Dr. E. Ushie writes from England.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Dr. E. Ushie and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
As the Obudu cargo airport project crisis depens, the Cross River State Government has dished out threat to Okambi Community, in Obudu Local Government Area and any other opposed to the project.
Impeccable source monitoring on-the-ground progress of situation in the Community has revealed that: “Yesterday (Monday) evening between 5:30pm – 6pm, the Commissioner for Aviation, Hon. Jake Otu Enyia visited the Community (Okambi) to address the Community Chairman.
“The Community Chairman insisted to talk to the Commissioner where he will have witnesses and they went to the primary school and gathered the few Chiefs and persons around. The Commissioner was accompanied by Paul Obi, the Airport Project Manager.
“The Commissioner warned the Community Chairman and further threatened the Community that Government has decided to build the airport and there is nothing anyone will do about it.
“He informed the Community Chairman that work will resume tomorrow (Tuesday) in the Community and anyone who stands in the path of the work will be dealt with according to Government wish.
“As we speak, work is ongoing, our Community is a grave yard as everyone not in support of the project is in hiding. There is heavy Police presence in our Community.”
As at the time of filing this report, our newsroom is contacting the Commissioner for Aviation.
Prior to this move, the Aviation Commissioner had written to the Community on 6th April, 2020 about commencement of work.
See letter below.
The Community after receipt of the letter replied three days later through its Counsel.
Women of Okambi community of Obudu Local Government Area recently protested the decision of the Cross River State Government to construct an international passenger and cargo airport in their community.
The protest comes after an outrage and the decision of the community to write the State demanding that due process be followed in the process, acquisition of land and compensation of land owners for the project.
Cross River state governor, Senator Ben Ayade has explained why he is not interested in expanding and upgrading the Bebi Airstrip near the Obudu Ranch Resort to an international passenger and cargo airport, saying the strip is nestled in a magnetic mountain with high accidents rate.
The governor disclosed this while hosting the Cross River state Chairman of the Nigeria Labor Congress NLC, Comrade Ukpepi who paid him a courtesy visit at the government house recently. The governor said “even if you renovate the Ranch with gold, after five hours of a tortuous journey from Calabar to the Ranch, it will be difficult to convince you to do a second trip. So, no matter what you do, the first challenge for any professional who is looking properly into dealing with the issue is to first and foremost address access to the ranch because when you get there beautifully without stress, you will love to come back again and again.”