•Outraged Adiabo-Odupani, N-Delta host community, speaks
•Inside poverty-stricken village
By Emmanuel Una, Calabar
Adiabo-Odupani, a riverine fishing community situated on the banks of Calabar River on the outskirts of Eastern Calabar, Cross River State capital, is in the eye of the storm following the claim by Process & Industrial Development, P&ID, that it was supposed to have built a plant there to convert gas being flared in the oil-rich Niger Delta to electricity.
The bid was intended to boost electricity in a nation where power supply is erratic and, in some instances, non-existent.
The agreement between the Nigerian government and the Irish firm, which was signed in 2010 under then ailing-President Umaru Yar’Adua, is generating controversy after P&ID obtained a United Kingdom (UK) tribunal judgement requiring Nigeria to pay $9.6billion for a breach of the agreement.
$9.6billion is equivalent of a third of Nigeria’s 2019 Budget (about $29billion).
Adiabo-Odupani comprises of five contiguous villages: Adiabo Ikot Mkpa, Adiabo Okurikang, Adiabo Ikot Ekpo Otu, Adiabo Osukore, Adiabo Akanobio.
One of the villages, Adiabo Ikot Ekpo Otu, is country home of the present Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Otu the V.
The road to the place the Obong hails from is motor-able having been constructed to serve traffic going to Tinapa but the other four villages are on the other side of the Calabar River and can only be reached through Creek town which is a distance of about thirty kilometres.
One has to go round several other villages on a dilapidated road that has been unattended to for decades.
Efforts by a former Minister of Finance, Chief Anthony Ani, who is from the area, to get the government to erect a bridge across the river to link up the communities were unsuccessful as, decades after, the bridge is yet to be completed or, better still, has been abandoned.
Chief Edet Otu, the Secretary of Abiabo Mkpo Otu Council, said it has been the villagers’ long-held expectation that the bridge would one day be completed to link the riverine villages.
The Adiabo-Odupani bridge, like the Itigidi bridge in Abi Local Government Area, which was started and completed during the era of President Olusegun Obasanjo and facilitated by Senator Liyel Imoke, stretches about a kilometre and a major project that would have transformed the lives of the people if it was completed. Surrounded by water, majority of the residents are involved in fishing since the area’s few acres of land were acquired by the government of South Eastern Regional Government under Dr Michael Okpara to cultivate a rubber plantation and later Mr Donald Duke, a former governor of the state, who cut down part of the rubber plantation to build the Tinapa project.
So, left with little or no land for agricultural activity, most of the people engage in itinerant fishing even as dwindling fish stock and increase in the number of private fish farms which sell at lower costs have left the fishermen with low revenue and consigned to a life of poverty.
“We do not have land to plant crops or to sell like other Efik communities; so all we do is sit here and drink some kain”, Mr Julius Mofat, a resident told Sunday Vanguard.
The major government presence in the area is a multipurpose hall built by Imoke, as governor, to serve as a reception hall for his wife’s pet project and St Patrick’s Primary School in the area, which was adopted by Oando as a model scheme and one of its blocks renovated in 2015. Outside that, there is no secondary school in the area.
With schools on vacation, most of the children in the community were seen when Sunday Vanguard visited Odupani, last week, hovering around the single public water borehole, which, frustratingly, emitted drops of water, or were logging big kegs of water bought from private boreholes.
On both sides of the road that led to the uncompleted Adiabo-Odupani bridge was a scanty line of shops selling regular provisions like bread, buns, milk sachets, cheap alcoholic beverages, sachet water and other items of daily needs in a rural community.
Most of the houses were traditional structures made from mud and thatch. Some of them were covered with iron sheets.
However, there was a sprinkle of modern structures erected by political office holders and civil servants who stood out giddily.
Virtually everyone spoke to denied knowledge of the existence of any project by P&ID in the community.
“Go round all these villages, you will never hear of any of such company here in Adiabo”, Edet Ekpo Otu said.
He said as Secretary of the Town Council, if any such company had applied for land, he would have been among the first to know.
“I have been here since 2005 and if there was anything of such I should have known. Even if the government had allocated land to them, we would have been informed”, he stated.
Deaconess Margaret Okon, another resident whose kiosk directly overlooked the road close to the edge of the bridge, also said she was not aware of any such company in the community.
“My house is very close to the road and near the palace. If there was anything like that, at least those who came to do any work there, even clearing the place, would have come here to get provisions”, she said.
“You know youths love cigarette and sachet hot drink. And while discussing, they would have mentioned the name of the company that brought them but there was nothing of such”.
According to her, most of the time she sat in the shop to sell, visitors to the Obong would come to her to buy drinks and other consumables.
Mr Moffat, a youth leader in the community, said the only company he was aware of was the one called Petrolstar which, he said, had long been abandoned.
“They erected (Petrolstar) big tanks, about six, but after they completed erecting the tanks, they left. It is only one white man that is there now”, Moffat said.
When our reporter visited Petrolstar, a security guard ushered him inside to meet the white man.
The man gave his name as Tony from Damascus, Syria.
He said the company had run out of cash but was established to refine vegetable from palm oil.
Checks at the Calabar Export Free Zone revealed that there was no such company registered there.
The Assistant General Manager, Nura Ahmad Ibrahim, who went through the list of companies in the zone said, “We do not have any such company registered here. It would have been on our list if it was registered”.
Mr Maurice Ekong, a former aide to Governor Ben Ayade on Gas, also denied knowledge of the existence of any such company called P&ID in the area.
Villages are inside swamp – Deaconess Margaret Okon
What is your name ma?
My name is Deaconess Margaret Okon.
Where do you live?
I live here at Adiabo Ekpo Otu.
Can one access other Adiabo villages from here?
No. The bridge has not been completed. Other villages are across the river. You can only get there by canoe or you go through Odukpani junction. And the other villages are inside the swamp.
How long have you lived here?
Ha. I was born here. I attended St Patrick’s and only went to town for secondary education. Have you heard of a company called Process and Industrial Development!
Do you mean Petrolstar?
No, Process and Industrial Development, P&ID. Not at all! If there was a company like that, the workers would have come here to buy cigarette and sachet hot. You know youths like such things. But I have never seen anyone working for such a company. When they come to buy things they would have mentioned the name of the company.
Are you related to the Obong?
We are the same people. Our great grandfather started this place. He was a fisherman.
We have never heard of P&ID – Ekpo Otu
What is your name sir?
My name is Chief Edet Ekpo Otu, the Secretary of the Adiabo Ekpo Otu Town Council. My English name is Leonard but I jettisoned that since I came back from Lagos.
Are you related to the Obong because your names sound similar?
We are the same people. Ekpo Otu is our heritage.
How long have you been chief?
I have been chief since 2005 and, right from that time, I have not gone anywhere. This is my palace.
As Secretary of Town Council, what functions do you perform?
I, along with other chiefs, adjudicate on matters that affect the community including land allocation, traditional title awards, inter-family disputes among others.
Has the council allocated land to a company called P&ID, that is, Process &Industrial Development, in this community in the past to set up a project?
I have never heard of such a name. Normally if an individual, company or government approaches our council for land, we ask that they put their request in writing, then the council will deliberate but we have never received any request from such a company and if the government had given them land on our behalf, they would have informed us.
Can the Obong give out land without the council knowing?
He is the king of the entire Efik nation but he belongs to this council and, as such cannot do that. The entire council sits to deliberate.
Are you aware of the judgement debt of $9.6billion awarded to P&ID?
Yes, it is in the news.
Are you aware that the company claims to be operating here at Adiabo?
I have never heard of any such company here.