By Jonathan Ugbal
Mr. Raphael Ushie, a Chief Inspector of the Nigerian Immigrations Service whose death was allegedly caused by the drama surrounding the construction of the Obudu international cargo and passenger airport was Saturday, laid to rest in his native Okambi community of that local government area amidst tears.
Ushie, 57, was a sibling to Dr. Vincent Ushie who is the Personal Physician to Governor Ben Ayade and had served as an immigration officer for 32 years.
This is even as more drama and intrigues have trailed the construction of the airport which according to the Governor, will aid the exportation of ornamentals.
As at Monday morning, CrossRiverWatch gathered that armed youths sponsored by the project manager had invaded the site and fired shots into the air to scare those who may attempt to prevent the bulldozers from working.
Some locals who spoke to CrossRiverWatch claim this has been a recurring scenario.
And, while the immediate past Special Adviser on Technical Affairs to Governor Ben Ayade, Architect Eric Akpo had told CrossRiverWatch in an interview that some youths apologetic to the airport cause had approached some government officials to aid in security, their requests fell on deaf ears as the administration was not interested in arming youths even as he accused saboteurs of the project of sponsoring gangstars to attack valuers and workers.
These, according to Mr. Akpo was the reason why Soldiers and other law enforcement officials were drafted in to aid prevent a breakdown of law and order.
“Somebody was using cultists, they were bearing arms and entering the bush to stop work. For a project that the community has accepted, the community chiefs have blessed it and given a go ahead from the village playground where they sat and accepted that the project should go ahead. But, someone carries cultists to destroy machines, beat and chase estate valuers who are inside the bush,” Akpo said, adding that: “Why there are soldiers in Obudu is because of the gangstars; sometimes they overwhelm the police and it is the army that contains them.”
CrossRiverWatch gathered that one of the site managers had used members of the Vikings confraternity as security which forced members of the Klans confraternity to meet other government officials, requesting for finances to chase the viking members.
But, some members of the communities claim they had not given assent for their lands to be taken.
In Okambi community, there are five villages, each with a head. These five are expected to discuss all issues affecting the land and currently only three are alive as the other two villages which have their lands directly affected by the airport construction yet to have certificates. These, members of those villages say has affected their chances of defending their ancestral lands.
“We are not against the airport per se, we are only saying that the right thing be done. It is unfortunate that the chiefs whom the State Government is saying gave their blessings never really consulted us because their lands are not directly affected,” said a member of the Ushaka family (names withheld as part of our editorial policy to prevent victimization).
These, including the death of Mr. Ushie, CrossRiverWatch gathered, led Mr. Ayade to invite the four communities to a meeting at the Peregrino Lodge in Calabar on the night of June 1, 2019 at the instance of his personal physician. The meeting which began at about 10PM and lasted till almost 2:30AM on June 2 is said to have been filled with bullying tactics by those apologetic to the airport cause especially from Chief Spokesman Agogo from Igwo who is said to have questioned the rationale of those even asking for due process to be followed.
The former Special Assistant to Mr. Ayade on Technical Affairs, Mr. Paul Obi whom allegedly allowed the gangstars operate as he serves as site manager is said to have accused the Ushaka’s family directly for being against the project.