INHABITANTS of Ekeya community, Okobo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State are on the war path with the Community Liaison Officer, CLO, Mr. Isaac Anyin over alleged sale of community lands without financial records.
The misunderstanding is snowballing to crisis in the community but Anyin, who spoke to NDV, rebutted the charge, saying it was politically motivated and those who pointed fingers at him could not substantiate their allegations.
Why over 400 villagers invited police – Antigha, ex-lawmaker
Former lawmaker representing Okobo Constituency, Hon. Efefiong Antigha, who confirmed the disagreement, said since 2016 when the village head appointed one of his sons, Isaac, as CLO, “they went into outright sales of our community lands and Isaac has not deemed it fit to render account to the people.
“About three months ago, the youths came to me at my Uyo residence, asking me to come and rescue them, complaining the CLO had sold some community lands. When the youths came to me, I did not approach him (Isaac) myself because he is saucy.
“What I did was to link up with Ekeya Development Association in Uyo. The association said since that is the situation in the community, we should ask a lawyer to write to him. A lawyer wrote to him to come to the community and render an account to them within 14 days. The 14 days elapsed, he did not.
“Even his cousin in the United States who heard about the problem in the community, contacted me and said he pleaded with him that it is proper that he rendered an account to the community. He pleaded with me that he had talked to him and that he was ready to render account, that we should give him another one week. That one week elapsed and the young man did not come.”
Antigha who pointed out that he does not have any personal issue or hold any grudge against the CLO, said after the community had exhausted all avenues to ensure peace over the matter without any result, the villagers decided to meet their lawyer again, who advised them to officially give the CLO another seven-day reminder which also elapsed on August 30.
He said that due to failure of relevant government functionaries to look into the matter, over 400 members of the community gathered and took the decision to invite the police to investigate the matter.
“But the CLO first went and reported us to the Commissioner of Police that we had on August 30 met to sensitize the youths against the visit of the governor to Ekeya to flag off the Coconut plantation. So I was invited and questioned. Luckily we keep minute of everything we do.
“I handed the minutes over to the security agencies, they read through it and saw there was nothing inciting as the CLO claimed. It is unfortunate that government has been highly misinformed about us. Government functionaries never gave us equal opportunity to express ourselves, probably because they believed his lies.
“The Coconut plantation is a development project that will also assist the community, so we needed to welcome the governor even though he misconstrued it that we were going to cause mayhem. I think this is the best time for government to know that there is problem in Ekeya where they are putting investment and they need to come in and mediate.
“Ekeya community is made up of seven villages: Idib Enin, Nung Ukana, Ekpenekim, Anua, Esuk Inwang, Ufok-Esuk and Obok Inwang. The people are very peaceful, they support this government. It is our duty to protect the development projects government sited here, but we also want the government to be fair to us and our children yet unborn by doing away with the CLO.
“We have moved a vote of no confidence on the CLO. Since he is not open to the people, equally he cannot represent us in any capacity not even in the Coconut plantation. There is no law in our land and in fact, the whole nation, that gives community chiefs the power to sell community land and pocket the money. And it is not the idea of the community to sell their lands in perpetuity.
“We have notified the Chairman of Okobo Local Government Area, Department of State Services, DSS, Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Commissioners for Agriculture and Lands, that they should not deal with him on any land matter on our behalf. We have other very eminent sons and daughters who can do it. We do not want that man any longer,” he said.
Govt ignored complaints – Chief Eyoe
Contributing, Chief Ita Eyoe of Idib Enin village said: “I was shocked to learn that such a terrible thing, I mean such transactions are going on in this village without the knowledge of the villagers. And I am most shocked that the state government decided to completely ignore the complaints and the cry of the villagers over this matter.
“Those who feel they can use their connections and wealth to swindle Ekeya of our vast areas of land should have a rethink whether they can allow such criminality. The situation is provocative.”
A farmer, Mrs. Alice Eyudoh, told NDV that she has nowhere to farm anymore as the community lands have been sold, lamenting: “I have six children, how do we feed now that our farmland at Adu-ekom, Ukom-ndunga, Mbak-appe, Appe-eta and Uppoi have been sold? We depend on farming to survive.”
Reacting to the allegations, the CLO, Isaac Anyin who said the accusations were politically motivated, explained: “Two months ago, they petitioned the Commissioner of Police against me and the village head. When they invited me to the CP’s office, I went, they (petitioners) were called to defend their case but they could not.
“And on Thursday, September 30 when the Deputy Commissioner of Police handling that case advised that all the parties should go home so that the IPO will come and inspect the lands that I sold, the principal petitioner, Hon. Efefiong Antigha, who fixed that Thursday date by 10am did not come. He wrote two petitions and at the end of the day, he will not be around to defend his petitions.
“That Thursday when I got to the village, I met with the community and while we were waiting for the IPO to come, I received a call from him that Hon. Antigha said he was not ready to come for the inspection. I had to drive back to Ikot Akpan Abia (Police Headquarters) and told the Commissioner of Police that I have been patient enough in all the invitations, that I cannot honour another invitation, that they can transfer the case to court.
“So that Thursday as the petitioners refused to come for the inspection and show the IPO the lands that were sold, the community took a decision that they will not go to the police again, that the matter should be charged to court. So our stand now is that we will not honour any invitation again, let them go to court. The court will give final judgment on the matter and that will help end all these petitions.
“I want to tell you that what he (Antigha) is doing is politically motivated. He thought by writing the petitions, he can stop my political ambition. He is fond of doing that.
“When I contested election as vice-chairman of the local government council, he petitioned the DSS.