13 A/Ibom Villages Petition Gov Eno over N13.8B Judgment debt for Acquired lands

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Seek SP Akpabio’s intervention

By Emeka Uyo

13 Villages and Property Owners of St. Gabriel Plantation lands in Akwa Ibom state have petitioned the state Governor, Pastor Umo Eno to pay a total
of N13, 843, 848, 949.00 being judgement sum for the forceful acquisition of their lands in 2016.

The Villagers, through its group, The St Gabriel Coconut Plantation and Oil Refinery Land Owners also known as Host Communities Forum, in the petition and copies of the Court judgement made available to Daybreak Newspaper appealed to a former Governor of the State and current Senate President, Godswill Akpabio to intervene and save them from their plight.

According to the Petition signed by Chairman of the Forum, His Highness, Obong Raymod Udia, the 13 Village Heads and Secretary of the Forum, Chief Cletus Inyang, at about 2016, the Government of Akwa Ibom State under former Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel had initiated an Industrialization Policy and acquired the communal, family and private lands running into thousands of hectares belonging to the 13 Villages/Land Owners of St. Gabriel Plantation.

The land owners initiated several legitimate avenues to appeal to the government to pay compensation in line with the Land Use Act and constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria all to no avail.

Frustrated with failed promises, the aggrieved villagers filed a matter at The High Court of Akwa Ibom State in 2020 in the Mkpat Enin Judicial Division claiming payment of compensation for their lands compulsorily acquired in what they described as Gestapo manner by Deacon Udom Emmanuel.

On the 19th August, 2021, Hon. Justice Iniabasi Udobong gave judgment in favour of the claimants/land owners and ordered the Government of Akwa Ibom State to pay the Judgment Sum of N13, 843, 848, 949.00(Thirteen Billion, Eight Hundred and Forty Three Million, Eight Hundred and Forty Eight Thousand, Nine Hundred and Forty-Nine Thousand,) to the claimants.

The Judgment was granted as claimed jointly and severally against St. Gabriel Coconut Plantation and Oil Refinery Limited fully owned by the Government of Akwa Ibom State.

Since the judgment was given, the Villagers said they have made several efforts to resolve the matter amicably and alleged that the former administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel brazenly frustrated all the enforcement processes.

The petitioners also claimed that “about 2017, a local tabloid in the state published a story of the government spending N3.5 billion Naira to import coconut seedlings from Cote d’ Ivoire which has not been challenged by the government till date”.

They took further steps with the election of Pastor Umo Eno as Governor of the state and initiated amicable settlement processes as according to them, “he is in-law of Mkpat Enin LGA his compassionate leadership style and Arise Agenda are relevant and acceptable by us where he almost got bloc votes during his elections, but our efforts have not yielded results”.

The petitioners further explained that “we decided to organize a peaceful protest to press home our demands and to urge the government to obey the court judgment. We have applied to the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State for Police Permit and Protection for our upcoming protest on 28/5/2024 and 29/5/2024 tagged’ Governor Umo Eno. “Let the poor breath”. Following Senator Godswill Akpabio’s footsteps. Pay compensation now!

The Commissioner of Police has invited the Chairman of the Forum, His Highness, Obong Raymod Udia and Village Heads of the 13 villages/ host communities of the Coconut plantation for a meeting on Monday 21, May, 2024. The Secretary of the Forum, Chief Cletus Inyang , journalists and legal Practitioners from the community are also part of the meeting.

The Transition Chairman of Mkpat Enin Local Government Council, Hon. Mercy Bassey hails from Ikot Obio Ndoho, one of the victims and beneficiaries of the compensation has issued subtle threats to deal with the village heads, the aged and the elderly, women and children, should they embark on the planned protest.

According to her, the Governor is an in-law and has only spent one year in office and not the one that dispossessed us of our lands.

The petition disclosed that security agencies have been duly notified of the threat by the Transition Chairman who they said that rather than lead or champion the struggle, she has chosen to be the oppressor.

We are sad that St. Gabriel Coconut Plantation and Oil Refinery Limited with 200 Million Share Capital fully allotted and owned by the Government of Akwa Ibom State has zero allotment to the land owners , yet, the government has failed, refused and blatantly neglected to obey the Court Judgment by payment of compensation.

Our prayers amongst others is principally to call on the Government of Akwa Ibom State under His Excellency Pastor Umo Eno to pay the judgment sum of N13, 843, 848, 949.00 to the 13 villages and owners of the communal, family and private lands for economic trees in compliance with the Judgment of The High Cout of Akwa Ibom State, Constitution of Nigeria, Land Use Act, EIA Recommendations and other extant laws. We want justice on the platform of peace and are ready to discuss with our government.

We also call on Her Excellency, Distinguished Senator Akon Eyakenyi, the Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, former Senator representing Akwa Ibom South covering Mkpat Enin Lga as her Senatorial District and constituents, former Minister of Lands and Housing, Federal Republic of Nigeria who is vast and experienced in compensation matters to put a word across to His Excellency, the Governor.

We also appeal to the Senate President, Distinguished Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State to put a word across to our Governor and guide him to follow in his footsteps as a good leader in order to succeed and progress in his political career.

According to them, under Akpabio’s administration as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, compensation was called empowerment because he paid adequate compensation promptly. The records are there as proofs.

The petitioners insisted that after their meeting with the Police Commissioner, they will proceed with the protests and called on all security agencies to prevent infiltration of the peaceful protest from being hijacked by hoodlums.

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