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EPZ protest: Koko elders, leaders apologise to Uduaghan

KOKO—Leaders of Koko community, with Chief Victor Nana at the head, have apologised to Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, over what they conceded as misguided protest over the development of Koko Export Free Zone, EPZ.

The community in the last few days, had organized protests over what they claimed was lack of due process by the state government in acquisition of land for the project, award of contract for Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, and neglect in appointment into the management board of the EPZ.
However, leaders of the community were yesterday invited by Governor Uduaghan to a meeting to brief them and clear up any misunderstanding.

Leading the community,  Chief Nana repeated the charges that they were not being carried along and that parcels of land were being acquired without knowledge of people in the community. According to Chief Nana, “The cause of the protest was the manner of the acquisition of the land. We tried to contact His Excellency about it but nothing happened and we were worried about how things were moving, and we were worried that we might be left high and dry.”

Responding, Governor Uduaghan debunked the suggestion that his government did not carry the community along, insisting that on the contrary, every effort had been made to involve the community and its leaders.
Tracing the efforts to set up the EPZ, Governor Uduaghan displayed documents and explained that land for the project had been acquired since 2002, following publications in the newspapers by the previous administration for the community to come forward and make claims for compensation, but added that nobody did until a government gazette was published in 2003. He also dismissed  allegation that an EIA contract had been awarded.
Governor Uduaghan explained that an EIA was done since February last year and that leaders of the community knew about it and even took photographs with the consultant that handled the project. Photographs were displayed before them for confirmation, and they did confirm.

On the claim that a board had been inaugurated, Governor Uduaghan explained that no such board had been put in place and that if such a board were to be put in place, the community would have been notified, because as part of the plans of his government, 10% equity holding had been set aside for the community.

Governor Uduaghan said because leaders of the community were factionalised, the state government was keeping the equity, pending when they were able to settle their differences and form a special purpose vehicle through which they would be recognized when the board was eventually constituted.

Uduaghan later directed that the community met with the commissioners for Lands and Commerce to discuss compensation and business opportunities.

Overwhelmed by Governor Uduaghan’s explanation, Chief Nana lamented the turn of events, saying, “I regret what has happened and I am sorry. I want you to know that I will not do anything to scandalize your name.”


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