October 4, 2017

World Cup Qualifiers: Host communities protest neglect, threaten to shut down stadium

World Cup Qualifiers: Host communities protest neglect, threaten to shut down stadium

Super Eagles forward Oghenekaro Etebo (C) tries to outwit South African defence during their 2019 AFCON qualifier at Goodswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Photo: AFP

By Emmanuel Ayungbe
UYO-THE crucial world cup tie between the Super Eagles of Nigeria, and the Chipolopolo of Zambia, coming up on Saturday in Uyo at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium is threatened as the host communities Wednesday blocked the gate to the stadium.

Nigeria’s goalkeeper Vincent Ezenwa saves the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying football match between Nigeria and Cameroon at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, southern Nigeria, on September 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO

The youths who stormed the stadium at about 6.30 Vanguard learnt planned to stop the Super Eagles morning training session
but for the prompt intervention of the village head Eteidung Ezekiel Inyang Ekott.

The youths of the two host communities, Obio Etoi and Obio Ofot villages who marched to the gate of the stadium said they were there to register their grievances over long neglect by the Akwa Ibom State government.

Speaking with Vanguard, the youth leader of Obio Etoi village, Mr Sunday Peters, who led the protesters said since 2011 the state government has refused to consider the plight of communities who donated the land used for the construction of the stadium.

According to Peters, “Since the construction of this stadium 2011, nothing good has come to us here, at a point we have to sell part of our land to maintain the road. That is why we are protesting. The state government is making money from the stadium but landlords are suffering.”

He expressed disappointment that the construction of the stadium and the channeling of rainwater to the villages has made the community water logged.

The village head of the Obio Etoi, Eteidung Ezekiel Inyang Ekott, said the youth did not cause any crisis, adding that they only demonstrated at the stadium gate to draw state government attention to the plights of the host communities.

“We want to let the state government to know that the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU), entered between the host communities, the construction firm,Julius Berger and the state government has been breached”.

The traditional ruler said several letters from his palace to the state government reminding it of the plight of the host communities have never been responded to.

He complained that when it rains the entire village would be submerged yet we did not collect any compensation from the state government on the understanding that we get benefit by way of providing internal roads and drainages around the village.

Ekott disclosed that government officials have scheduled a meeting with the villagers tomorrow,(Thursday ) adding “I have prevailed on the youths to stay action because of the national and international visitors coming for the match on Saturday”

However he said after the match if government refuses to consider their plights he will no longer be to prevail on the angry youths again.

The state commissioner of works, Ephraim Inyang, who was accompanied by the Commissioner for Information Mr Charles Udo at about 11.30 to the stadium appealed to the protesting youths.

Mr Inyang , while displaying an engineering of the proposed community road said ,”the road has been earmarked for construction”,assuring the youth that after one week from now work will commence on the road.