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C’River Seaport host community rumbles over compensation

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By Joseph Kingston, Calabar

There is tension in Idua Inwang Esighi community in Bakassi local government area of Cross River state, hosting the proposed Bakassi deep seaport project, as the village council said it would not guarantee security of personnel and machines for the project due to issues surrounding payment of compensation.

In a letter addressed to Governor Ben Ayade, dated November 23, 2020, signed by solicitor to the village council, Ozinko O. Ozinko, the village council expressed anger that the state government was negotiating with and paying compensation to a former village caretaker committee chairman, Mr. Ankot Bassey Antigha, who they said had since been removed from that position over alleged fraud.

The community lawyer explained that the former caretaker committee chairman, who he said has been stripped of all rights and privileges had allegedly collected “monies meant for the compensation of the people directly affected by the deep seaport and embezzled same, thereby, frustrating government efforts, giving rise to security challenges and insurrections.”

He frowned at the payment of monies to an individual instead of the people affected by the project and noted that “compensation has never been known to be paid to people, who are not directly affected, but to individuals who own properties, economic trees, land, pond, assets etc on the chosen location.

“It is quite essential that the security of the project be guaranteed by doing the proper thing at the onset to forestall any unseen incident like insurrections, community uprising, and insurgency in the already volatile area of Bakassi. Idua Inwang, which is the main host community (of the seaport project) has been cheated and sidelined in the whole compensation arrangement.”

The letter warned government against having any further dealing with the said former caretaker committee chairman to avoid “conducts inimical to the security of the already volatile area.

“We believe that the conduct of this culprit is highly reprehensible and amounts to a violent assault on our clients’ communal family, property and fundamental human rights, which are not only constitutionally guaranteed but also inalienable, inviolable and inherent,” Ozonko’s letter stated.

Our reporter also sighted a handwritten document, dated 30th September, 2020, titled ‘vote of no confidence and removal of the caretaker village head of Idua Inwang Esighi,’ and signed by 71 family heads of the community, in which the said former caretaker head was allegedly removed. Another document, dated October 22, 2020, indicated that a new 9-man caretaker committee, headed by Chief Ene Adim Okon, had been constituted.

Efforts to contact Mr. Antigha for his reactions did not sail through as at press time.

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