Few months ago, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Omar Suleiman, and the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio, said the Ibaka deep seaport in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State would start receiving ocean liners not later than 2015, but there is nothing on ground to back the claims.
Akpabio and Suleiman at an event held to mark the handover of the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of the over 5,580 square-metre land where the seaport will be sited, said all infrastructure needed to fast -track the early completion of the port would be provided. Akpabio also pledged to dualise the access road to the port amd link it to the East –West Road.
However, when The Nation visited the site last week, there was nothing ongoing to support the statements and intentions of the NPA and the Akwa Ibom State government. The only road that leads to the seaport from Oron, was a in dilapidated state.
Following the announcement of commencement of construction, sea pirates have increased their activities in the hitherto serene area occupied by fishermen, making life unbearable for them as they don’t go fishing often for fear of attack.
Also, the Ibaka community said despite the vast area of land taken from them, no compensation has been paid, neither has an alternative site been provided for their fishing actiities.
Ibaka Youth Leader Okon Udotong said they are demanding N10 billion from the government as compensation. He noted that a naval base, Forward Operational Base (FOB) that was built there paid then N45 million as compensation.
He said politicians have turned the project into a political campaign issue to get votes from Ibaka people, adding that it would not be a surprise if theycapitalise on it in the rundown to the 2015 elections.
Udotong said: “In 2008, the Governor came to announce that there will be a seaport here, but since then, he has not come back. It is only Robinson Uwah, a member of the House of Representatives that came with some people recently and was asking of the land that was given to the government for the seaport. I took them there and he mobilised us to clear the bush.
“Government always deceive Ibaka people because during the electioneering campaign, they will come to use it to confuse our people to vote for them. During the last election, they said that a deep seaport will be built in Ibaka, because in Ikot Abasi and Ibeno, there are only small channels, which only Mobil ships go into. There is no deep sea there, but here, we have big ships that come in because we have deep sea.
“Government should also compensate us before they begin to build the seaport, so as to secure our cooperation with them, but as things are, the government is not serious with the project. If the government decides to really take our land to build something that will generate revenue for them, they ought to compensate us, as it was done when the airport was built in Okobo here in Akwa Ibom State. The land owners of the airport were paid compensation. The Navy base that was built here, we were compensated. They gave us N45 million.
“The land government wants to take for the construction of the seaport is more than 1000 hectares, therefore, they should compensate us with at least N10 billion,” he added.
Udotong also said the Ibaka community is densely populated because as the seashore is good for fishermen, it is not only Ibaka people that live here.
“We have people from Ghana, Togo, Sierra-Leone that live here as well as yoruba and Ibo speaking Nigerians.”
Also Eric Nwachi, a fisherman in Ibaka, corroborated Udotong. He said Ibaka was neglected by the government, asking: if the government is serious in developing the Ibaka deep seaport, why is it that the only road that leads to the place through Oron has not been rehabilitated since the announcement?
Besides, he said lately piracy there is on the high side and gradually turning the hitherto quiet place into a dreaded area. He said three months ago, the pirates attacked them and took his 40-horse power engine for his boat and the fish his workers caught.
Akpabio has received the architectural design of the project which was done by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).
Information from National Mirror was used in this report.