The House of Representatives has resolved to address address alleged wrongful acquisition of community land, in Akwa Ibom state by the Nigeria Army, since 1972 without adequate compensation.
This was a sequel to a Petition signed by the Wellington Bassey Barracks Community Development Forum, the land Donors to the first Military Barrack in Akwa Ibom State, read on the floor of the House by Hon Clement Jimboh. at plenary.
The House urged the Minister of Defense to make available the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the land, which has been kept as top secret from the community to date.
“It is our right to know of what our stakeholders all in blessed memory have agreed upon on our behalf”, the Petition said.
” To pay our compensation in full with the accruing interest over the years taking into consideration the exchange rate as at then and now; To pay the accrued Royalties to the Communities from inception in 1977 till date, in the interest of justice; To construct Ibagwa – Okonn – Itung and Abak Usung Atai access road to ease transportation within the Host Communities”, the Petition said.
It also mandates the Federal Ministry of Defence should consider the provision of Social Amenities and infrastructures as part of their Corporate Social Responsibilities to the Community;
” To grant our sons and our daughters slot to be enlisted into the Nigerian Army at all cadre; The Ministry of Defense should carry routine Medical Treatment Exercise ton indigenes of the host communities”.
The community also called on the House to come to their rescue.
” We are five (5) Villages in Abak Local Government Area which make up Army Cantonment; Wellington Bassey Barracks. These are Ibagwa, Ikot Afaha, Okon, Itung and Mbarakom.The Army Cantonment, Nigerian Army, 6 Battalion, Wellington Bassey Barracks is located along kilometer (km) 4- Abak/ Ikot Abasi Road, Abak local government area, Abak Ibom State. The main entrance is at Ibagwa, which is the name after it.
” The Army team that conducted the first cognisance exercise as far back as August 1972, did see that the land where the Army Cantonment, Army Barracks situates was not previously a virgin land, nor a disputed land, but a residential area which the Army compulsorily acquires and is enjoying our God–given economic trees and crops which abound all over our land free of charge from the inception till- date to the exclusion and detriment of the rightful owners. The first economic tree and cash crop enumeration by the Ministry of defence took place on 22nd August 1977. During the exercise, there was no fighting or quarrel with our people, but as things were, we observed that there were a lot of intrigues in the conduct of the land acquisition”.
It noted that what has given rise to their observation is that the said almighty compensation which their people were promised has not been paid in full till date, forty (46) years ago after.
” This year from the date of crops enumeration exercise, part payment of #2.1m was paid in 1980 as reported by Nigerian Chronicle Newspaper of 29th October 1980 captioned “Landlord Get #2.1m Compensation” with #2.3m outstanding still in the cooler. Concerted efforts were made to get full payment in 2002, but it proved abortive. Daily Times publication of Wednesday, July 3rd, 2002 page 4 (Photocopy attached herewith for your perusal). It beats our imagination whether the full payment of the compensation will be made on the rapture day for our ancestors to have a second share if there will be a need for it come that day. The economic tree and cash crops, houses, fertile land with natural resources and ancestral shrines which our people had to forego for the establishment of Army Cantonment, Wellington Bassey’s Barracks are enough considerations to entitle the host communities a re-settlement area, respect, better compensation, and favourable treatment, rather than treat and dismiss us as cowards and fools. It should be paramount in the heart of the Army authority that whatever development the Army industry, so to say, we are entitled to the crumbs that fall off from the master’s table. Sir, it is not gain saying, apart from the small portion occupied by the men of the Nigerian Army with their family, the extra-large expanse of the land is considered a waste in every sense of responsibility, while the rightful owners are panting for where to set up farm settlement, etcetera, to ameliorate the effect of the biting economy and the prevalent naira phobia”. The petition noted.
The community also said that as peace-loving and cool-headed citizens with an unbroken record of long-suffering, they are willing and ever ready to perform their civic responsibilities each time the clarion call is made on them.
The petition added “One thing that is noteworthy in this regard is that life is a creature of reason, reflection love of justice, liberty, security, independence, peace and social happiness. When such virtues are being reflected and those entrusted with the governance are deeply committed to the promotion of these values, people are motivated to be patriotic”.