….As indigenes demand individual payment
By Ike Uchechukwu
Calabar indigenes of Idua Iwang community in Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River State have called on the authorities to intervene in the crisis in the area following the renewed call for compensation on the multi-billion naira Deep Seaport project by the state government to be paid to individual beneficiaries and not third parties.
The state government was said to have paid some compensation through the paramount ruler of Bakassi, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet who accordingly shared the money to the benefiting communities with the main host community of Idua Inwang allegedly receiving N4 million through its caretaker Chairman, Chief Ankot Antigha.
This, however, did not go down well with some of the locals who have since petitioned the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade insisting that subsequent payments should be to individuals.
In a petition dated November 23, 2020, signed by their counsel, Mr Ozinko Ozinko and backed by the new nine-man standing caretaker committee headed by Chief Ene Adim Okon, the aggrieved locals, insisted that any compensation by government or subsequent payment should be paid to the individual beneficiaries and not intermediaries like the paramount ruler, clan heads, village heads, caretaker committee and others.
NDV learned that following the advanced age of the then Village Head of Idua Inwang village, Chief Effiong Ene Iman, the indigenes of Idua Iwang and government officials met on June 8, 2012, and resolved to constitute a 10 man caretaker committee headed by Chief Antigha “to wholly assist him in the full-time traditional function and responsibilities of the Idua Inwang village in order to bring in the much-needed peace, stability and all-time progress of the villagers.”
However, the natives later met and resolved to remove Antigha as the caretaker chairman following the purported poor handling of issues affecting the community such as the Deep Seaport compensation from government, the village water pumping machines, village palm fruits and lands among others.
Niger Delta Voice further learned that the Idua Inwang Esighi Village council members also met and passed a vote of no confidence on Antigha on September 30, 2020, and constituted a new nine-man standing Caretaker Committee with Chief Ene Adim Okon as Chairman on October 22, 2020.
Accordingly, they notified the governor, security agencies and others to stop engaging and dealing with the former caretaker committee chairman on the community behalf and instead deal with the legitimate and properly constituted new caretaker committee of Idua Inwang Esighi Village pending the selection, appointment and presentation of a new Village Head by the Idua Inwang Esighi Village Council.
“Compensation has never been known to be paid to people who are not directly affected; it should be paid to the affected individuals who own properties, economic trees, land, ponds, assets etc.
“It is quite essential that the security of the project be guaranteed by doing the proper thing at the onset to forestall any unforeseen incident like insurrections and community uprising in the already volatile area of Bakassi,” they stated.
Compensation fairly disbursed
Though the embattled chairman who is a civil servant declined to speak on the matter, one of his close associates who spoke anonymously said, “He (Antigha) is still the caretaker committee chairman and as far as we know, the Deep Seaport compensation fund was shared accordingly to beneficiaries in all communities.”
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr Christian Ita declined to comment on the matter but a source close to the government said, a quarter of the compensation has been paid while the balance will be settled as the finances of the state improve.
The source assured that affected persons who were captured and properly documented in the enumeration exercise will be adequately compensated adding “there is no threat to the Deep Seaport project.