Friday, 1 November 2019

What Citizen Agba Jalingo Would Have Said (PART 3) BY JONATHAN ABANG UGBAL

BAKASSI AGRO DEEP SEAPORT: Understanding The Rhetoric Behind Land Donation

On Monday, Cross Riverians and Nigerians learnt of the decision of the people of Bakassi local government area to donate 36,000 hectares of land to the Cross River State government for the construction of the Bakassi agro deep seaport, a signature project of the Benedict Ayade led administration - at least, that is what his aides told us.

As expected, there were mixed reactions to this donation with some praising the Bakassi people whom exactly 17 years and 5 days ago, lost their ancestral land to Cameroon following a ruling of the International Court of Justice. I will not delve into that here.

The news flash as shared by Mr. Emmanuel Ulayi, an aide of the Governor; read, "Bakassi people donates 36,000 hectares of land for the development of  bakassi deep seaport project, as CRSG pays N200 million naira compensation."

The one on the page of the Governor which was shared by another of his aide, Egbelo Edward read; "Today I received in audience the Paramount Ruler of Bakassi Local Government Area HRH Etinyin Etim Okon Edet  and Traditional Rulers from Bakassi Local Government. 

"I very much appreciate their kind donation of 35,000 hectares of land for the development of the Bakassi Deep Seaport Project.

"Unbehalf(sic) of the Government of Cross River State, I paid the sum of 200 million naira as compensation to the people of Bakassi for the hectares of land."

And, the one shared by Ekeng Inyang, another aide of the Governor read: "Cross River State Government pays N200 million to Bakassi indigenes as compensation for 35,000 hectares for the development of the Deep Seaport."

The links are attached for proof and reference purposes.

While there's some form of discrepancy in the land donated as the one in the Governor's page is 1,000 hectares short of what his aides shared, I will, for reasons of ease of reference, use the 36,000 hectares shared by Mr. Ulayi and Mr. Inyang who can be easily accessed by those reading this piece.

In case you may have missed it, Bakassi local government area is actually situated in a land formerly belonging to Akpabuyo local government area. Three wards, Ikang north, central and south were carved out to become the new Bakassi with an imaginary dayspring island to compliment.

According to information at my disposal, the current size of Bakassi is 665 square kilometers or 257 square miles. I stand to be corrected though. However, I will stick with this for purposes of clarity and ease of reference. This is because the area known as Bakassi is largely riverine and what may constitute land could be lesser than the figure stated above.

Now, let us do some calculations and conversions. 36,000 hectares means 88,958 acres of land, 360 square kilometers or 139 square miles. 

The above figure means that the people of Bakassi as the State will like us to believe, received 200 million Naira to sell 54.09 percent of their land to the Cross River State government.

Are the Bakassi people telling us that the total value of land in that local government area is less than half a billion? 

This means someone who has four plots of land in Banana island in Lagos could have comfortably bought off Bakassi a long time ago! It also means the cost of the Cross River State garment factory would have compensated for the entirety of what is today known as Bakassi.

But, when did the consultation happen to "donate" this amount of land? 

Was there any preliminary objection? When and where were the meetings held? Who attended? Was there a vote? Where are the minutes of the meetings? Or was the decision unilaterally taken by His Royal Majesty, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet (who is the paramount ruler of that local government area and the chairman of the Cross River State traditional rulers council) and his council?

What happens to the people residing in the part of Bakassi the people are reportedly willing to cede to the State? With the lingering displacement crisis of the returnees occasioned by the ceding of the Peninsula to Cameroon, will this not further subject the people to want in body, mind and soul? It will take about three years for construction to be completed.

Besides, why 36,000 hectares? The Lekki deep seaport project in Lagos State which began in December 2017 and is expected to be delivered in 2020 and costs 1.5 billion dollars will be sited on just 90 hectares of land. That is 0.25 percent of the land mass the Cross River State government received as a 'donation.' 

Want to know more? Using the Lekki deep seaport which is a multipurpose deep seaport projected to have a nine kilometer long and 19 meter deep navigation channel;  a 600 meter wide turning basin which will allow vessels to approach or leave the port; a 1,500 meter breakwater structure; a 300 meter secondary breakwater structure for safe handling of vessels; a six kilometer long and 14.5 meter deep approach channel, quay wall, cargo handling cranes; three 19 meter deep liquid jetties as example, this means the size of land to be utilized by the Cross River State government can build 400 of the Lekki deep seaports.

Did I forget to mention that the container terminal of the Lekki deep seaport will be able to handle 2.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) a year while the dry bulk terminal which will be enough to accommodate one berth to handle a Panamax size vessel with a 75,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT) also has a four million metric tonne capacity that will handle different products as well as three berths will be located at the liquid bulk terminal, serving vessels up to 45,000DWT in the initial phase of operation which can be expanded up to 160,000DWT in the future.

All these information about the Lekki deep seaport is available in the public but none of such projected statistics is available in the public dormain for the Bakassi Agro Deep Seaport. Maybe, I did not search hard enough. Maybe, It is still being computed and will form part of the Full Business Case. But, these comparative facts beg more questions about the land donated for that project.

Besides, the images shared from Government House Calabar do not show a happy Etinyin. Was there some form of coercion behind the scenes especially as the State faces a race against time to utilize its outline business case certificate which runs out in about 11 months time?

In the part 2 of these series, I queried why it took so long to get an OBC certificate from the ICRC. Could this be a move to ensure a Full Business Case is ready and approved on time? After all, the federal government is supposed to gather information about location, data and feasibility among other things.

200 million Naira of course means an average of 1,438,848 Naira per square mile, 555,555 Naira per square kilometer, a paltry 5,555 Naira per hectare or an even measly 2,248 Naira per acre! Are you getting the picture? 

Let's take the fact that in this part of the world, between 4 and 5 plots of land make up one acre, that means the Cross River State government paid an average of 562 Naira per plot if four plots equals one acre and 450 Naira per plot if five plots equals one acre. Incredible isn't it?

One may argue that it is compensation and not an outright sale. Let us speak truth to ourselves and not just to power; if it were trees and crops as well heaps, would it not be more than that?

Well, then again, the compensation package is not the gamut of the discourse. Questions still beg for answers on the viability, feasibility among other issues on the signature projects and others. It goes beyond the rhetoric of intellectual money, other people's money and Agro dollars! 

The Governor has played the victim card on issues raised about his projects and I dare say that work stopped on most of these projects as soon as the pressure on them stopped. You doubt me? as at Friday, October 11, 2019, the stretch of the superhighway at Ikom just before the new bridge being constructed which the Governor had driven on during his re-election is now overgrown with weeds!

Also, there has been so much reportage of ongoing work at the port. Where exactly was the work ongoing? The recent media outing only lends credence to my earlier position that there is a lot the Cross River State government is yet to say about these projects. To say it is time the State comes clean is to allude to postulations that there are shady activities ongoing and a hidden agenda. Therefore, I call on the State to embark on a rather aggressive awareness and sensitization campaign on these projects and others.

My name is Jonathan OA Abang-Ugbal. I rest my case for now and this is what Citizen Agba Jalingo would have said.

NB: Citizen Agba Jalingo was arrested in his Lagos residence on August 22, 2019, ten days to his rescheduled police invitation slated for September 3, 2019. The invitation bordered on his article where he demanded the whereabouts of 500 million Naira approved and released by the Cross River State government to float a Microfinance bank. He endured a tortuous journey by road to Calabar, the Cross River State capital where after 34 in Police custody, he was arraigned on charges of terrorism, treasonable felony and attempt to topple the Cross River State government. The Court refused admitting him to bail and he was remanded at the Afokang Prisons Center in Calabar where he has spent 13 days. His actual trial will commence tomorrow, October 16, 2019.