17 April 2018

Nigeria: Cross River Community Invokes Deity to Stop $1Bn Virgin City Project

Indigenes of Etab Ayip in Kasuk II Qua clan, Calabar Municipality, have invoked their ancestral god, Mbiam, to stop work on the proposed $1 billion Calabar Virgin City Project over an alleged encroachment on the community by the Cross River State Government.

Niger-Delta Voice learned that the Calabar Virgin City Project sited near the Rice City and Ayade Industrial Boulevard when completed, would have a building material market, auto parts market, wood market, water world fair ground and artificial lake as well as hospital.

Other facilities include a golf course, clothing market, hotel, supermarket, residential area auxiliary, dance square, kindergarten, primary and secondary schools.

Etap Ayip Kasuk II community, the landlord community which owns extensive portion of virgin land along the MCC/Idundu Road and Jonathan By-pass in Calabar Municipality has barred the state government from accessing large portion of the land purportedly acquired by the Ayade administration for the Calabar Virgin City Project.

Several indigenes of the area, mobilised by chiefs of the villages and traditional institution, took possession of the land, stringing palm fronds round the area and preventing anybody from accessing the land.

Community grouse

Speaking with NDV, the Clan Head of Kasuk II Qua Clan, HRH Ededem Ayito said they have no issues with the Ayade- led administration as far as the Virgin City Project was concerned but urged the government to do the right thing by doing proper consultation.

He asserted: "We, as a people can categorically tell you that we are not aware of what the government is doing on our land as far as the Virgin City Project is concerned, we were not consulted by government or any of its representatives.

"In all honesty and fairness, when the government came to intimate us about the project last year, they did not give us full details of the dimension and size of land they needed, neither did they tell us the nature of the project but as a community that has respect for constituted authority, we allowed the groundbreaking ceremony to hold in December after which we thought they would come back and do the needful.

Invoke ancestral deity

"But we were surprised when we saw equipment moved into the place and excavation started without proper consultation. Since we had waited for them since last year and they did not come, we resorted to our culture and tradition. We invoked a traditional injunction, Mbiam, on the parcel of land and it will remain there until the right thing is done.

"We are not against development; contrary to rumours and speculations making the rounds that we are mobilising to stop government, they are not true. The only thing we are asking is that due process be followed. If the facilitator is a private company, they should come out plain and let us know, if the government wants to acquire the land based on overriding public interest, they should also tell us what they want to use it for before bringing in equipment.

"We, the people of Kasuk Qua Clan II are responsible and law-abiding citizens and will never take laws into our hands. The traditional injunction (Mbiam/Ekpe) we placed is our own way of making our position on the matter known. We are not against the government of Prof. Ben Ayade in any way but we want them to follow due process and do the right thing."

Govt allays community's fear

On his part, Commissioner for Lands, Elder John Inyang said the step taken by the community was not in the best interest of all concerned, adding that government will continue to negotiate with the community to forestall any breakdown of law and order.

It would be recalled that Governor Ayade had promised during the groundbreaking ceremony on the 29th of December, 2017, that he would carry the people of Etab Ayip along.

His words: "We are going to ensure that the community is a part of core function of the organ of this investment. Emphasis will be given to the host community during recruitment for labour and small contracts.

"So the host community would have a role to play. I assure you that we don't want to build an estate that the community itself will not afford to live in, they shall be carried along all the way."

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