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Akwa Ibom: Ekid People Seek Proper Negotiations For Land Used By BUA Petrochemical

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February 19, (THEWILL) – The Ekid people of Eket and Esit Eket Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State have called on the State Government, demanding proper negotiations for their land at Akoiyak (Stubb’s Creek Forest) allocated to BUA Petrochemical Refinery Ltd.

Ekid Peoples Union (EPU), the apex socio-cultural organisation for Ekid people, in a press conference at the weekend, frowned at the manner the State Government allocated the land to BUA without proper negotiations with the owners.

The President-General of EPU, Dr. Samuel Udonsak, hinted that Ekid people would rise against the government if it fails to recognise that Akoiyak, otherwise known as the Stubb’s Creek Forest, is in Ekid land and not Ibeno.

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“We have valid evidence and court judgements to back up our claims; we are not just claiming it. What the Ibeno people have about the land is mere magazines,” Udonsak said.

He called on BUA Petrochemical Refinery Limited to meet with the stakeholders of the host communities to address some issues before the commencement of operations.

“The manner our land was taken was wrong and oppressive. We would have gotten the compensation if the acquisition was for overriding public interest and for the development of the community.

“In the first place, the acquisition is not for overriding interest. The Government and BUA have to do the needful; they need to sit with the owners of the land and do the needful. What happens to our flora and fauna?”, he queried.

The Secretary General of EPU, Dan Abia, a lawyer, admitted that the State Government had earlier attempted to compensate them for their land, saying that was not what the Ekid people wanted.

He said all they were asking for was for the State Government to follow the prescriptions of the law for land acquisition and for them to sit on a dialogue table with the investing company to spell out their terms and conditions, especially on the preservations of their flora and fauna.

Abia lamented over what he described as “lots of illegal acquisition” in the Stubb Creeks of their forest reserves, noting that Ekid union will no longer allow such to continue under the guise that all lands belong to the government.

He observed that the Akwa Ibom State Government had in the first place flouted its ordinance by giving out a forest reserve to a company to build a permanent structure.

He said, “That place is a Forest Reserve established by ordinance and you have no right to put up a permanent structure, only rights of fishing, tapping palm wine, even the government has violated the law it put in place.

“We have a lot of illegal acquisition going on in the Stubb creeks of the forest reserves. Sometimes I hear people say government land, but there is nothing like government land; rather lands are vested in the Governor and there is a process of acquisition. The government can only acquire land for one purpose, according to section 44 of the Constitution and section 22 of the Land Use Act, which is for overriding public interest.

“It is wrong for the government to acquire public land, convert it to private land and give it to a private individual. That’s not for overriding public interest. How can a private company (BUA) come into a community without sitting down with the owners of the land?

“We sat down one day and received a memo from the State Government that they will pay compensation to us, compensation for what? The prescription of the law is that you give us notice of your intention to acquire and state the purpose of the acquisition and that purpose has to be overriding. Then upon acquisition, you give us another notice of acquisition by gazetting. Thirdly, you pay adequate and prompt compensation. Fourthly, you allow us access to the court if we disagree with the first three prescriptions.

“These were not done; the government just sat down and issued Certificates of Occupancies to a private company whose only purpose is to make money. There is no proof that the government has any percentage share in BUA company. This is a clear case of modern-day slavery and robbery. We are in court presently and cannot allow that to happen.”

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