By Udeme Utip
The people of Ikot Ukap Itam in Itu Lcal Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, the host community of the proposed Car Assembling Plant are in a state of dilemma over what becomes of the vast expanse of land acquired by the state Government in the community.
Their confusion and many questions were barred by the youths and elders of the community when members of Bureau for Investigative and Balanced Reportage (BI-BR) visited the site of the proposed plant to ascertain the level of work; considering the much popularity accorded the project at inception.
The village head of the community, Chief Ibok Udo Akpan to BI-BR lamented lost of vast expanse of farm land, plantain plantation, oil palm plantation and the only source of drinking water in the community but nothing tangible has been done on the lane apart from the initial clearing and bulldozing.
“Everybody in this village is now crying of hunger, their farm lands and other economic crops have been destroyed, they have never been a time in this village that women stayed to buy two cups of garri for one hundred naira until their farm land was taken by Government this season.
“We no longer have water; in the cause of bulldozing the only source of water which also produces very sharp building sand was blocked. We now travel to the next community to fetch water”.
The royal father explained further that; initially, five hecker of land was demanded, on which a paltry compensation was paid without a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by any party involved.
He said though it was promised verbally that if more land would be taken; it would be properly negotiated, Government ended up taking over 20 heckers of and nobody has come for further negotiations and nothing has also been done on the land.
According to the youths of the community who trooped out in their numbers to express their grievances on the attitude of Government towards the project; the assembling plant was a welcome development in the area as it would boast their economy, provide employment even as would expose the hitherto remote village to the international community.
“Our problem is the way they have abandoned this place after commissioning for almost one year now, they have not come to negotiate with the land owners since then. We even have problems with our neighboring villages of Ekim and Obong Itam whose lands were also taken. They are blaming us for giving out their land without compensation”
The youths of the community who were employed by the Israeli Company MIMSHAC Merkavim Transportation Technologies to man security on the empty vast expanse of land over grown with weeds also complain of nonpayment of the paltry salaries they were given since September 2015.
BI-BR crew which visited the site can authoritatively report that the only presence of the company at the site was the turn flag of Nigeria, the plague laid for the ground breaking ceremony and few barbed wires heaped for temporary fencing.
The village head is calling on the state Government to either use the land for the purpose it was acquired for or release it to the owners to farm on their portions of land.
“I will love to see that big company in my village in my life time but instead of keeping that land without using it for too long; I think it is better to allow the women to farm on it and get what to feed their children. I was so excited about the project but I don’t know whether to cry now that it has become like this” Chief Akpan lamented.
All attempts by the crew to speak with the commissioner of Commerce Industry and Investment, Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem proved abortive as he did not pick his calls neither did he reply to a SMS sent to his mobile phone to that effect.