Friday, 28 February 2020

C'River Community laments abandonment of over 20 years

Ojor autonomous community in the Yala local government area of Cross River State has sent an SOS outcry to the federal government of Nigeria over what it described as abandonment and neglect. 

This is arising from an abandoned irrigation and dam project initiated in the 1970s, during the Olusegun Obasanjo-led military regime.

Briefing newsmen in Calabar yesterday, Comrade Ogar Emmanuel Oko, spokesperson of the community lamented that since then the project has abandoned, stating that an attempt by the Shehu Shagari  administration also failed to resuscitate the project in 1982. Life he said has not been easy with the villagers as they no longer have access to farmlands that were destroyed to give room for the construction of the dam and irrigation.

In his briefing, Oko claimed that the President Muhammadu Buhari's led administration is currently interested in the project and had made efforts to ensure the project is completed by making resources and money for the completion of the project, but Oko feels there seem to be some saboteurs who have ensured the monies appropriated for the project are diverted. 

According to Comrade Ogar Oko, recently, precisely on the 22nd of  January 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the sum of N497 million and another trench of the fund was approved in 2019 and 2020 for the reactivation of the project, yet no work has commenced at the site.

"On the 22nd January 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the sum of N497 million for the reconstruction of that dam and irrigation. In 2019, another money was approved. In the 2020 budget, N97 million was approved again for that dam to be constructed or rehabilitated. But as I speak to you, this whooping sum of money is either been misappropriated by somebody one does not know or it has been embezzled because nothing is happening there." He informed. 

 Oko explained that "There is a project that was carried out in the 1970s by the federal military government under Obasanjo. That project is called Ijegu/Yala Dam and Irrigation project. The dam was abandoned. In 1982, when Shagari took over, he tried to resuscitate it. After his government was toppled, subsequent governments abandoned that project.

"If you go to the site as I speak, most of the installations have been dismantled. Some of the equipment has been taken to an unknown destination. There was a time when some persons came from the Cross River Basin Development Authority to remove some tractors that were there. Youths stopped them before those tractors were taken back to the site."

"In 2017, enumeration was done; the counting of damaged properties – houses, natural fish ponds, farmlands that were destroyed to create a way for the siting of the project. One of the covenants of the agreement reached was that some of the members of the community would be employed to work there. Any food crop or economic tree that would be destroyed during the process of establishing the dam, the people would be compensated. But as I speak to you, they have never been compensated. What is stopping the federal government or the basin authority to compensate my People, that we do not know.", Oko wondered.

"Our lands have been taken from us. We no longer have lands to farm again. If you want to farm, you have to pay N25,000 to the Basin Development Authority before they will apportion a very small fraction of land for you to farm on. Is this not an act of inhumanity from man and against man? Of course, you know the answer. Why will my people suffer? Why will they cry? How long will the feverish birds tremble in silence before their keeper?

"I am using this opportunity to speak on behalf of my community to tell them (government) that we are not happy; to tell them that the youths in that community are becoming restive and they want compensation to be done immediately."