The paramount rulers of Itu, Ibiono Ibom, Ikono and Ikot Ekpene local government Areas of Akwa Ibom State have called on the federal government to pay compensation to property owners at the right of way whose assets were destroyed for the construction of the Itu-Calabar highway.
VELOXNEWS recalls that the FG through the immediate past Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang had told the affected communities that FG had no money to pay for compensation and that rather the various state governments should pay the compensation to the affected persons.
Unsettled by the statement, the paramount rulers during an advocacy visit to the State Director of Center for Human Rights and Accountability Network (CHRAN) Otuekong Franklyn Isong at his office in Uyo on Monday said it was unlawful not to compensate property owners affected by government project.
The paramount ruler of Itu, HRH Edidem Edet Akpan Inyang who spoke on behalf of others regretted that non-payment of compensation has stalled the work on that road which he described as Trunk A and economically viable with the delay leading to an increased number of accidents on the road.
According to him: “We are not happy for such an argument to come from the federal government. They should pay the compensation. It is in the law that you cannot destroy somebody’s property on the right of way unless compensation is paid.
“It is regrettable that there is no provision for compensation on the Calabar-Itu highway. Other roads in other parts of the country also attracted compensation. Our own should not be different.
“We also want our rights to be given to us to nominate the Community Liason Officers (CLOs) for the construction companies. It is unlawful for any other person to do so for us. Senator Ita Enang had insisted on appointing the CLOs for us. This is not acceptable to us. He cannot impose people on us as the CLOs for the project. Anywhere a project is taking place, it is the responsibility of the communities where the project is located to appoint who they want as the CLO from the community for the project to liaise with the companies on behalf of the community. We insist on having our rights.”
Responding, CHRAN State Director, Franklyn Isong pledged his commitment towards assisting them in developing their communities and commended them for their peaceful disposition towards resolving the challenges confronting the Calabar-Itu road project.
He said: “We in the civil societies know that the Land Use Act 1987 made it clear that all lands are held in trust by the governors of each state for the people and whenever the government wants to use the land for purposes of public interest, the government must, first of all, pay the affected people compensation for the properties or possibly help to relocate them to another location. The government can not leave the people homeless.
“Senator Ita Enang knows that federal government has been paying compensations to people affected by other federal government projects elsewhere and the people of Akwa Ibom State should not be treated in exemption. For instance, the Abuja-Kaduna railway road passed through communities and the federal government paid compensations to the affected communities; for the East-West Road from Lagos, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom to Cross River the federal government paid compensations also.
“So the federal government should look for a way to pay compensation to the people affected. The federal government should be sincere with the Calabar-Itu highway project. We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for putting the project in the budget. But this project has lingered for too long and should be completed and commissioned by the federal government in the interest of the general public.”
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