By Chioma Onuegbu
NTO-ADUA – EIGHT host communities to the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, NIFOR, Sub-Station, Oruk Anam and Abak Local Government Areas, Akwa Ibom State, have lashed out at the Federal Government over suspected insensitivity to development of infrastructure in the towns and abandonment of the palm plantation.
The communities- Nto Adua Ibesit, Uruk Okong Ibesit, Idim Ibesit, Uruk Eno Ibesit, Ikot Ntuen Ibesit, Ikot Okpong Edem, Ata Obio Akpa, Itung and ldonor complained that efforts to draw the attention of the federal government to provide basic services, especially road, over the years were unsuccessful, stressing that quite worrisome was the casualization of workers, mostly indigenes for many years.
All the buildings dilapidated
Clan head of Ibesit, His Highness Idorenyin Ebong, who spoke to NDV, penultimate week, said:”For some years now, we have been having series of discussion with them, inviting them to come and see what they can do for the community that donated 286 hectares of land to them. For over 60 years, we donated that land to the federal government, but they have not done anything in that place to benefit these communities.”
“You cannot see any good road in our community. In fact, there is nothing in that place that shows that that a federal government establishment existing there. All the buildings at that facility are dilapidated. They promised sometime ago to do the road and also construct some new structures there, but till today, we have not seen anything.
Casual workers paid N2, 500 monthly
“Another thing that worries us is that our indigenes working there as casual workers and still collecting N2,500 monthly even under the present economic condition in the country. Some have worked there for more than 15 years as casual workers. Before, there used to be over 120 workers there, but today, I do not think they are up to 50 because of bad system.”
Continuing, the royal father asserted: “If you go to NIFOR and ask, they will tell you that our community does not give them trouble. This is because we believe that peace brings development. On our part, we have maintained the needed peace, but we have not seen any development coming into our communities. So we are not happy over what is happening in that place.”
A resident, Mr. Inyang, who corroborated the monarch’s assertion, said: “We are unhappy with the decayed structures at the substation. When you go there, you will think nothing is going on there because it looks abandoned; and we are not happy that government took over 286 hectares of our land and it is not using it well to help the communities.”
No access road to substation– Activist
Human rights activist, Mr. Saviour Akpan, told NDV that he was dazed when he recently discovered there was no access road leading to such massive Federal Government project, adding: “The environment does not befit where there is Federal Government presence. In fact, the living condition of the people is capable of creating tension. But we are calling on the community not to antagonise NIFOR, but rather, they should partner it for proper development, especially in the area of agriculture.
“Federal Government on its part should, as a matter of urgency, revamp all the moribund structures in the place and also create employment for the members of the community. It should ensure they absorb all the casual staff because casualisation of labour is illegal in Nigeria. They should stop casualisation of labour in NIFOR.”
We can’t act without authorisation– Silas
Speaking with NDV, head of the NIFOR sub-station, Mr. Ubong Silas, said: We have regular interaction with the community – village heads, youth leaders and other stakeholders. It is during such interactions that we tell them our challenges.
“The community leaders have been helpful even when we have security issue. We allocate lands under the palm plantation to farmers from our host communities. Issue of employment is one of the agitations by the community, but it is not handled by NIFOR, unless we get approval from the Federal Government.”
Appeal to Gov Emmanuel
Mr. Silas asserted: “I am appealing to Governor Udom Emmanuel to extend his benevolence to help us fix the inaccessible roads. And I believe that if the state government partners NIFOR to make the palm wine bottling unit functional, it will create massive job opportunities for members of the community.”
Bottling unit redundant, mill tumble down
During our visit to the substation, NDV observed that the completed palm wine bottling unit was lying waste, while the only oil mill set up inside the plantation had been moribund for many years with no noticeable plan to give it the kiss of life.