Andy Essiet , Calabar
Work on the N185 billion Calabar – highway project may soon be put on hold as communities in Cross River and the federal government have disagreed on the issue of compensation.
The federal government through the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola had issued a letter saying the Federal government will not pay compensation to affected communities in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states on some sections of the road.
The Minister in May this year wrote to the Akwa Ibom state government that “following the resolution of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) held on Wednesday October 2, 2019, I am advised to inform you, Your Excellency that federal government projects would be executed only on locations where the state government has provided the required land at no cost to the federal government”.
The letter went further to say, “it is pertinent to inform Your Excellency that the timely resolution of the pending compensation claims on the dualisation of Oku-Iboku-Power Plant section of the Odukpani junction – Itu -Ikot Ekpene road in Akwa Ibom state will facilitate early completion and delivery of the project with the associated diverse socioeconomic multiplier effects and benefits which would certainly place your state in good stead to attract more federal government projects” .
Worried with this development, the Clan Head of Okpokom bridge to Itu Bridge head communities, Etubom Nya Asuquo in a briefing with some newsmen yesterday said w
ork should stop and compensation paid else the community is going to court as many of them have been rendered homeless by the road dualisation, many of them have lost their means of livelihoods thus causing double loss to them since they were sacked 22 years ago by an Akwa Ibom community.
He said the federal government is using divide and rule method on the payment of compensation to the affected people on the highway and non-payment of compensation was delaying progression of work on the road and effort by the federal government to shift the payment of compensation to the state governments would not augur well for the ongoing construction of the highway.
Asuquo a former law maker in the Federal House of Representatives said, “It is pertinent to note that in the same contract of road project, particularly in the portion awarded to Julius Berger, work is progressing smoothly and the compensation was paid and handled by the federal government and not state.
Why would the same federal government hands-off compensation on the same road project in the portion awarded to other contractors,”.
He stated that ” the people of Mbiabo Ikot Offiong and others where the project traverses have been rendered homeless and their means of livelihoods destroyed without provision of an alternative since the contractor, Sematech construction had moved to site and started clearing without payment.
“We demand compensation that is due to be paid to be paid to the affected communities, particularly the Mbiabo Ikot Offiong axis from Okpokom River to Itu Bridge. This is where records are available on the level of means of livelihood that have been destroyed and the people roaming around aimlessly
“Our prayer is simply, federal government in one policy of government should not apply differently in the same country on the same citizens”.