Indigenes of Kasuk Qua I and II in Calabar Municipality LGA of Cross River State have described as a threat to their existence, the continued encroachment on their ancestral land by the state government without proper acquisition and due process.
The angry natives recently invoked their deity and traditional injunction (Mbiam) to halt work on the vast stretch of their community land along the Goodluck Jonathan By-pass allegedly taken over by the state government for the proposed Virgin City project.
While findings by Niger-Delta Voice revealed that some influential persons are working vigorously to ensure that the natives give up the land, the clan heads of Kasuk I and II described as baseless claims that the traditional injunction (Mbiam/Ekpe) on the site had been removed.
According to the Clan Head of Kasuk II, Qua Clan, HRH Ntoe Ededem Ayito: "I was baffled when I heard that we (me and my people) collected money to remove the Ekpe injunction from the swamp buggies. Let it be made known that we did no such thing. I did not collect a dime from anyone neither did any of my subjects collect any money. And for purpose of clarity, everything we invoked on that land is still active.
"For the avoidance of doubt, we did not remove the Ekpe from the land, we only removed it from the equipment because we learned that government was paying N400,000 each on those equipment. For that reason, we considered the waste and decided as a people on our own account to remove the deity only on the swamp buggies.
"They also signed an undertaking to that affect in a letter dated 20th April 2018, signed by the Land Use Act Committee, LUAC, Secretary, Base Ekaba on behalf of the Commissioner for Lands, Dr. Inyang John, stating clearly that work will only continue after all necessary discussions have been concluded between government and the community. But it seems some elements are not telling the truth and we are appealing to His Excellency, Prof. Ben Ayade to look into the matter critically.
A dance with the gods
"If anyone is claiming that we collected money and removed the traditional injunction from the land and swamp buggies or decide to enter the land, that means the person wants to challenge the gods of the Kasuk people and our ancestors. That means the person wants to dance with the gods of our land," he warned.
The royal father added: "We as a people have already given government about 200 hectares of land in Calabar metropolis for development purposes and they want us to give up our soul and our posterity. When I am called, where will I be buried and where will my children build?
Damaged economic trees
"But we did all that because we love progress; we want our dear state to grow. If anything must be done, let government follow the appropriate channel and communicate with us, we are civilized and open to dialogue as far as the interest of the people is involved. The N629,400 some persons from the ministry of lands are claiming was paid for acquisition of our land or 150 metres on both sides was paid for damaged economic trees, and nothing of such was mentioned in the compensation letter (MLH/LD/19,961/58) of July 30, 2012.
"Even when we discovered that government was claiming they have acquired the place (150 metres to left and right of the bypass) we went to court and we got judgment in the matter as the acquisition was declared null and void by the court (HC/25/2016).
Threat to our existence
"We are on the verge of being displaced because we don't even know how many hectares of land that is needed. There are many shrines, deities and graves on that land. Where do we relocate them? Like I said, we love development but the right thing should be done."
Also speaking, the Clan Head of Kasuk I Qua Clan, HRH Ntoe Patrick Agbo Okon Edem said what the ministry of land is doing is capable of displacing the entire Kasuk nation because they have conceded much as far as land is concerned in Calabar metropolis.
He said: "We are close to been annihilated because most of the Qua communities in Calabar are tenant communities from Ikot Ansa, Ikot Ishie, Big Qua and many more are all tenant communities. This is the only place left for our children; must it also be taken away?
We have made enormous sacrifice
"We love progress, we love development but as far as the acquisition of the Virgin City Project site is concerned, we know nothing about the place. Development can be spread to other parts of the state like Akampka, Biase and Odukpani. We gave the land for NPA, Amphibious Training School (ATS) to Nigerian Army, Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Doctors Quarters; State Housing Estate which was meant for workers and now converted to residential estate. What have we gained?
Contacted on the claims of the community, the Commissioner for Lands, Elder John Inyang did not pick his call neither did he reply the text messages sent to his phone. It would be recalled that the commissioner had penultimate week declared that the clan's decision to invoke traditional injunction was not in the best interest of all concerned, adding that government would continue to negotiate with the community to forestall any breakdown of law and order.