Cross River communities at war over management of Oil Palm Estate

  Cross River communities at war over management of Oil Palm Estate

Fears and apprehension aptly describe the scene­rio in parts of Boki lo­cal govt area of Cross River state as prominent sons and daughters of the area are at daggers drawn over the con­trol and management of an oil palm estate which has been situated in the area for more than five decades . In the ensuing pandemonium, a 49 year old mother of four, Anna Etta was shot dead, while hile several others per­son sustained various degrees of bullet wound injuries.
The Intra communal clash has disrupted the socio—economic activities of the sleepy Okubushuyu com­munity following the inva­sion by suspected police of­ficers and people alleged to be hired armed thugs on the orders of one Mac Thommy Agan, an S.A. to governor Ben Ayade on Infrastructure.
The invaders, according to eye witnesses, on arrival at the community shot spo­radically into the air, causing confusion and pandemo­nium, making unsuspect­ing residents to scamper into nearby forests and neigh­bouring communities . Agan who allegedly led the invad­ers into the area was said to be pointing at their perceived enemies, ordering their ar­rest .
The crisis is said to have erupted in the wake of agi­tation over who controls the Boki Oil Palm Estate estab­lished since 1962 during the reign of Dr. Michael Opara who was then Premier of Eastern Region.
The establishment of the estate, aside from boosting the economy of the area was also, to provnide employ­ment opportunity for people of the area as well as enhance development.
Before now, it was being managed by the Accredited Landlords Committee whose membership was drawn from the four communities that own the estate includ­ing – Okubushyu, Osokom, Irruan and Borum.
The Authority gathered that , for a long time after its establishment, the estate was managed by successive management committees be­gining from Late M.T. Mbu (pioneer chairman) without any squable until recently.
The royalty from the estate was used for the develop­ment of the communities. The proceed from the earlier managers of the estate was used to establish Boki Boys Secondary School which is now changed to Compre­hensive Secondary School to accommodate girls and to boost education in the area.
Investigations revealed that the police had laid siege at the outskirts of Okubush­uyu community on Saturday 18th March before the March, 20th saga that witnessed the shooting spree, leading to the killing of a woman and sack­ing of the entire community.
According to eyewitness­es, the invaders came in sev­eral trucks into the estate to cart away palm produce and other items belonging to the current management team as mark of taking over of the estate by the new team.
Attempt by some daring youths to resist the move was said to have led to destruc­tion of properties in the community. When our cor­respondent visited the com­munity Friday , 25th March, the destruction of properties were visible. Several houses were vandalized including the house of a former com­missioner with the local govt service commission, , Mr. Fidelis Edor among others. In the ensuing controversy, some trucks containing loot­ed items were intercepted.
One of such is a dark blue truck brought by the invad­ers as it was vandalized in an attempt to escape with looted palm produce, wheelbarrows and motorcycles inside the truck .
Shells of used bullets and live ammunition beleived to have been used during the raid by the alleged invaders littered here and there were shown to the visiting jour­nalists by Oku youths.
But for the swift interven­tion of Maj. Gen. Moses Obi (rtd), who is also a promi­nent son of Okubushyu, the crisis would have degener­ated as he promptly dashed home when the news of the crisis got to him. He per­suaded the warring groups to sheathe their swords and embrace peace, after which he set up a committee to bro­ker lasting peace.
The Chairman of Acred­ited land lords Committee, which has been saddled with management of the estate be­fore the crisis , Sir. Pius Otu Bisong, 82, told journalists at his Okundi residence last Friday that when the news of the crisis reached him that some invaders stormed the community and indiscrimi­nately arrested people and were being taken to Cala­bar, he managed at his age, and headed to the police station to inform the DPO of the incidence when sud­denly, Agan emmerged and pointed at him to be arrested. He said unknown to him what his offence was, he was arrested along with his sec­retary and others and taken to Calabar and detained for days without being charged to court on trumped up charges of arming thugs to foment trouble.
Barrister Mark Obi, Spe­cial Adviser on adminis­tration to Governor Ben Ayade, and a prominent Okubushuyu son, blamed the crisis on Barrister Tina Banku Agbor, Secretary to the State Government,SSG, who is also from Boki Local Government Area.
He said Boki has not known peace since Tina was appointed SSG. He noted that the oil palm estate be­longs to Cross River State Council on Privatisation but that Tina wants to forcefully take over the estate by print­ing forms and sold to her cronies to own plots in the estate.
Barrister Obi also accused the SSG of masterminding the indiscriminate arrest and intimidation of people of Okubushuyu by the police and thugs.
On his part, Bar. Obi said he played key role in quell­ing the crisis by contacting the appropriate authorities to intervene on the matter while urging people of his community to remain calm.
When Tina was contact­ed by some journalists over these allegations, she admit­ted that there was crisis in the community but denied having anything to do with it and promised to address the media on the issue when it suits her convenience.
Earlier, Sir Otu Bisong ex­plained that when in 2012 in­vestors came into the state to invest in the oil palm estate, the communities applied for their palm estate to be priva­tized like Ibiaye and Calaro estates which have been of great benefit to the workers in the two estates.” In 2016, we reminded the govern­ment again about the priva­tization. We have been meet­ing the Deputy Governor, Prof Ivara Esu and the SSG on the issue. Both of them as­sured us that the government was interested in ensuring that the estate is privatized. - The Authority

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