May 26, 2024

Ijaw leaders urge FG to halt Obolo settlements remapping

Ijaw leaders urge FG to halt Obolo settlements remapping

Nathan Tamarapreye, Yenagoa

Ijaw National Congress (INC), on Friday, appealed to the Federal Government to wade into the boundary crisis occasioned by the ongoing moves by the Akwa Ibom government to adjust the boundaries of Ijaw communities in the state.

The group appealed to the Chief of Defense Staff to check the ongoing invasion of Easter Obollo communities by the Army and Navy troops at the instance of the Akwa Ibom State government and to ensure their operations conform to the military’s rule of engagement.

INC, the pan Ijaw socio-cultural pressure group noted that the call followed reports of massive deployment of armed security operatives to intimidate defenceless Ijaw communities who are opposed to redrawing the map of Akwa Ibom.

Prof Benjamin Okaba, President of INC who spoke in an interview session in Yenagoa, said that mapping and boundary adjustment and mapping are on the exclusive legislative list and therefore not the responsibility of the Akwa Ibom government.

He said that there were already reports of avoidable communal clashes orchestrated due to operations of Sterling Oil, a firm the governor has an interest in, to justify the use of crude force to readjust boundaries of Ijaw communities adding that the prompt intervention of the Federal Government would nip the crisis in the bud

Okaba said that Ijaw leadership frowns at the usurpation of the roles of the Surveyor-General of the Federation and National Boundary Commission saddled with mapping and boundary adjournments, respectively by the Akwa Ibom government.

He said that the plan to redraw the map to give Onna Local Government where the governor hails access to the Atlantic coastline to be eligible as a host community under the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) will fail.

“It beats our imagination that the government of Akwa Ibom will act in breach of the decision of a State High Court which halted the mapping exercise to go on this unconstitutional and illegal project, which is against the economic interests of Ijaws in Akwa Ibom.

“The Ijaw community leaders in the state as recently as last week at a meeting with Gov Udom Emmanuel Akwa Ibom made it clear that they would not cede any part of their ancestral land and urged the government to drop the idea.

“The desperate move to include his own local government to benefit as host community under the PIA as a parting gift at the expense of Obollo communities cannot stand because there is no oil facility at Onna to confer the status to them in the PIA.

“The INC, therefore, calls on the Federal Government and the Chief of Defence Staff to step in, call Akwa Ibom government to order and protect the rights of Ijaw who are minorities to their ancestral lands,” Okaba said.

He explained that Ijaws in Eastern Obollo, Ibeno and Oron communities as peaceful, law-abiding citizens had sought and got regal redress in their favour but regretted that Ijaws were being provoked to violence to pave the way to the occupation of Ijaw settlements in Akwa Ibom.

Mr Ini Ememobong, the Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom, said in a telephone chat that he was not aware of the court judgement on the re-mapping.

“We are aware that the matter in question is surrounded by a lot of sentiment, but when sentiments are put aside, the issues become a lot simpler.

“The matter was passed through the State Assembly where representatives of the communities passed a bill to back the mapping and anyone who feels aggrieved can approach the court to seek redress

“The state has powers to do what it is doing and, please take note, that we are talking about internal boundaries within that state; we are not tampering with interstate boundaries here,” Ememobong said.

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