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CSOs allege land grabbing by Akwa Ibom govt, warn communities on land use act

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The Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HoMEF, a Civil Society Organisation on the environment, has decried the level of alleged land grabbing in some Akwa Ibom communities by the state government in the guise of citing projects.

The group has now tasked communities in the state who lost their lands or are on the verge of losing them in the hands of government and multinational companies to acquaint themselves with the provisions of the Land Use Act.

During a farmers’ training on “Land right and Fight Against Land Grabbing” at Okoro-Utip, Ibeno local government area of Akwa Ibom State, Stephen Oduware, the Project Lead for HOMEF, urged the people to understand that the government is merely holding the land in trust for them, as such, should be fully consulted and paid compensation anytime government wants to take the land for developmental projects.

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Urging the people to ignore the saying that “All lands belong to the government, Oduware claimed that such a saying was a ploy to grab lands and was in negation of the Land Use Act

He regretted that such ignorance from the people had given multinational companies the impetus to come in without following due process and conducting adequate Environmental Impact Assessments, thereby leaving the negative impact of their explorative activities on the people.

His words, “You will agree with me that communities have been dispossessed, oppressed, intimidated to give up their lands, the Land Use Act of 1978 vested the land on the government to hold in trust for people but today we have the government acting as the owners of the land, while the community is acting landless.

“That is why we have corporations and companies coming without due process, consultation and participation of the community people, without even conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment, for instance, we know there are issues of oil and gas pollution in some of these communities, the question is before the oil companies came in, were these people fully consulted? were they brought into the picture? did they give their free consent? We want to bring the sense of ownership back to the people, we can’t just sacrifice the lives of the community people on phantom development projects; projects that do not directly impact on the livelihoods of the people.”

On his part, the Coordinator of Peace Point Development Foundation, Umoh Isuah-Ikoh lamented that communities in the state have lost lands to the government without compensation for projects that would not impact positively on them, citing land loss in coconut plantations and industry.

“Most times, the government takes these lands with a promise of constructing projects which, in the long run, would be abandoned. The original owners of these lands have been left with nothing and most of them cultivated those lands to train their children and care for their families but now, they are left with nothing.

“The people should know their rights and fight for them by ensuring that they are consulted, adequately compensated and EIA of the community conducted before they release their land to the government and these companies.” He said.

One of the participants, Abasiubong John, in an interview, disclosed that he had lost several hectares of land to the government without any compensation in the past, saying that the training has empowered him with the provisions of the law.

He said he would use every legal means to safeguard one of his lands on the verge of being lost to the government.

“They were giving us the impression that lands belong to the government, but this training has made me understand that the government is just holding the land in trust for us. When it wants to use the land it must consult the people. I have a land I’m about to lose again, I think I have the opportunity to exercise my rights through every legal means.”


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