By Assam Abia, Eket
The people of Eket Nation are seriously dissatisfied with Akwa Ibom State government’s continuous silence, despite repeated protest, over a provocative action taken recently by the Chairman of Ibeno LGA, Mr William Mkpa, in which he purportedly handed over the Stubbs Creek Forest (Akoiyak Ekid) to Bua for road construction.
In a Press Statement signed by Dr Samuel Udonsak, National President and Hon (Barr) Bassey Dan-Abia, National Secretary of EPU, on behalf of Ekid Nation, the people said that the failure of government to act, may be interpreted as tacit connivance.
“Recently we were all treated to a bizarre spectacle of affront and impunity by Mr William Mkpa, Chairman of Ibeno Local Government Council, as he purportedly handed over the Stubbs Creek Forest (Akoiyak Ekid), our land, to BUA for road construction. His action apart from being provocative and infernally offensive, was clearly a breach of protocol, even to the Government of Akwa Ibom State and the person of His Excellency the Governor”, the Release stated.
“Ekid People’s Union (EPU) had protested vehemently against the aforementioned ignominy to the relevant authorities, unfortunately despite all initial assurances, the State Government has completely failed, neglected or otherwise refused to address and appropriately punish this recidivism or serve reprimand to forestall further occurrence or degeneration to self-help. The failure of government to act, may be interpreted as tacit connivance”, the Release stated further.
The Press Statement went further to state that “Ekid people will never accept this affront now, or in the future and let it be known to all that we are seriously dissatisfied by the State Government’s inertia”.
“In the absence of any response by Government to our repeated protest and request, we are compelled to state as follows:
(a) That the question of the ownership of the Stubbs Creek Forest is not in dispute howsoever, it had long been settled by the Privy Council in 1918. It belongs to the Ekid people. Indeed, the entire Stubbs Creek Forest, including the land hosting the Qua Iboe Terminal and its extension remain the bona-fide property of the Ekid Nation”
(b) In 1976, the Ibeno people desperately seeking to acquire the Stubbs Creek Forest through their son who was then Attorney General of the State cajoled and manipulated the then Military Governor to set up a panel of enquiry (Justice Olatawura Panel of Enquiry) into the ownership of Stubbs Creek Forest. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whom they retained as their Counsel, withdrew from the matter and advised his clients, the Ibenos to apologize to the Ekid people, when he became seized of the fact that the ownership of the land subject matter thereof, had already been permanently determined by the full court of the Privy Council in London in 1918″.
(c) The 1993 Justice Ephraim Akpata’s Judicial Commission of Inquiry conducted the largest public hearing on the boundary between Ibeno, Eket and Onna. The Commission stated emphatically that Ibeno is made up of 7 Villages; 3 from Eket and 4 from Onna. Those Villages had clear and defined boundaries. The 3 Villages from Eket were lands donated by our sympathetic forbears to settlers who were in need. Ibeno of today derived its name from Ibuno (stay here) and no mutilation of history can change this fact.
The Release went further to state that “on 20th January 2022, the One Stop Shop Committee led by the SSG met with Ekid Elders at the Palace of the Paramount Ruler of Eket, seeking peaceful access for BUA to construct a 10.5KM road in the Stubbs Creek Forest. Ekid leaders agreed on condition; that, the much-advertised MOU signed between BUA and Ibeno be rescinded and completely cancelled or otherwise withdrawn, Inter alia. Till date, that understanding reached with government seem to have been unilaterally jettisoned without scruples or any further recourse whatsoever”.
“Unknown to the Ekid leaders, the same Committee had visited Ibeno in the company of BUA officials, and introduced BUA officials to Ibeno, perhaps conniving but certainly, paving the way for the illigal and provocative attempt to handover our land to BUA to the utter scorn and denigration of the Ekid Nation, the owners of the land. This action, by these officials of the State government does not express good faith. We have noted same’, the Press Statement stated.
EPU however said that “for the avoidance of doubt, let us reiterate the fact that, we welcome BUA’s investment and other investors to our land and we also recognize the benefits such investment would bring to us and all. Also, we are not oblivious of the commendable efforts the government to attract investors, however, we take exception to flagrant abuse of our rights and our heritage’.
“In the light of the foregoing, Ekid People’s Union on behalf of the good people of Ekid Nation hereby dissociates and distances itself from all the concessions given at the meeting with One Stop Shop group”,
“Forthwith, it must be noted, that the Ekid people have not permitted BUA to use its land for any purpose. It would be inconceivable and outrageous for BUA or any investor to have access to our land without meeting with us, the owners of the land.
“Finally, following this, all groups and patriotic sons of Ekid Nation who wish to resist or protest this illegality, are no longer restrained from doing so by Ekid People’s Union, as long as such means are peaceful, legitimate and within the ambits of the law”.