By Victor Bassey
‘’If you tremble with indignation at every
injustice then you are a comrade of mine’’…Erneto Che Guevara.
Worried over the secrecy and manipulative tendencies of the Akwa Ibom State Government with regards to the development of Ibaka (Ibom) Deep Seaport Project (IDSP), coupled with other political issues directly being executed by the same government, against the interest of Oro people, I am constrained to observe as follows;
1. That what is supposed to be known as Ibaka Deep Seaport but overzealously hijacked by Government of Akwa Ibom State was first conceived during the late 1940s by the colonial administrators. With a natural depth of 16.5 meters, the state government in 2003 saw the need to develop the project.
2. The Victor Attah’s administration designed the seaport, paying 5 million US Dollars, out of the 10 million US Dollars cost for the design.
3. Victor Attah’s government also had negotiations with a Chinese São Tomé Company for the development of Industrial City for the Seaport.
4. The Industrial City has features like agriculture, oil and gas, petrochemicals, marine related industries, auto assembly plants, power plants, as well as real estate developments.
5. A few weeks before his eight years stay in office, the Akpabio’s administration reportedly acquired 14, 900 hectares of land for the takeoff of the Seaport and obtained approval from the Federal Executive Council for the commencement of the project.
6. Fourteen days into his administration, the Government of Deacon Udom Emmanuel inaugurated the Technical Committee for the Actualization of Ibom Deep Seaport Project. Barr. Mfon Usoro, a one-time Director-General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) still serves as chairman of that committee whose duty was to work out modalities that will serve the implementation purpose of the project. Strategically located in the South East of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria (a leading oil and gas producing state in Nigeria), the approximate coordinates of the IDSP scaled from the British Admiralty Chart No. 1387 are Latitude 4° 32’ 35’’ N; Longitude 8° 14’ 7’’ E and UTM coordinates 415,168 m E; 502,199 m N (UTM Zone 32N).
7. According to the project official website, the 2,565 hectares Greenfield port area is designed for New Panamax Class vessels with channel (18.24m); turning basin and berth depth (16.72m) and quay length of about 7.5 km. Experts equally project that the transhipment container market for the IDSP will grow from about 1.2 million TEUs in 2021 to about 4 million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) in 2040.
8. On road infrastructure, work has begun on 55.1km, 12 Lane Superhighway leading to Ibom Deep Seaport. This is precisely in Ibeno local government area, where the harbour for the port has been shifted to.
9. Bolloré Africa Logistics–Power China International Group Limited Consortium (the “Bolloré Power China Consortium”) was recently selected as the preferred bidder for the Project (IDSP): The selection followed a rigorous evaluation process conducted by the Evaluation Committee convened by the IDSP Ministerial Project Development and Steering Committee (MPDSC) on competing bids received in response to the IDSP Request for Proposal (RFP). Eventually, China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. also emerged as the reserved bidder.
10. Presently, government has said “the project is 95 per cent completed, adding that it has the capacity of employing a minimum of 5,000 workers when it becomes fully operational”, The Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Mr Akan Okon was quoted as saying this on Friday, August 16, 2019, during his first meeting with the staff of his ministry at the Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat Complex, Uyo.
11. Curious of the fact that the said project was from inception tagged “Ibaka Deep Seaport”, even by the colonial masters who saw the amazing natural depth of Ibaka high sea as very convenient, Oron people are dumbfounded to see how political players in the state could be self serving to the extent of moving the project from the original site.
12. The name, “Ibom Deep Seaport” which came to birth during the first term of the present government had long become a comfortable replacement for “Ibaka Deep Seaport”. This is not like the Airport which initially carried Uyo as its location, even without the cite being moved from Okobo with over 90 percent of the land mass. The location of the Seaport had long been moved to Ibeno. Of course, with no single road project being initiated by this administration in Oron Nation as part of required infrastructure for the seaport, it becomes even clearer that he did not only come to replace an Oro man with the right to occupy the hilltop mansion, but also to impoverish the Oro people by frustrating every meaningful project with the potentials towards elevating the economic fortunes of the people
13. Without prejudice, the entirety of right thinking sons and daughters of Oro Nation, are deeply stabbed by the action of betrayal exuded by their own people. As for the conspiratorial relocation of the Seaport to Ibeno as pioneered by this administration, we sadly surrender our desires to the Almighty God who sees the darkness in the heart of man, especially in dealing with his fellow humans. It smacks of extreme sense of hatred and the inclination to vent deep seated anger on a people who deserve nothing but love and inclusion. We lay it bare before our maker who knows the end from the beginning of all things.
14. It is no more news that Akwa Ibom State was a product of ethnic amalgamation. Prominent sons and daughters of this state could recall the circumstances that forcefully tied the Oro Nation to Akwa Ibom State. The suspicion of possible exclusion of the Oro people from the spoils of this state had long been open for discussions. This is why the tripodal proclamation had been made by the fathers of the state. Akwa Ibom State would most be unpopular, if the third leg of the tripod had been cut off.
15. Let us consider this illustration. If a man could only be wealthy because of the gifts he received from guests during the birth of his last born child, could he be adjudged as fair, if he uses the proceeds to better the lives of his first two children, without considering the welfare of the third child? Put differently, can a man whose wealth was acquired through his third child refuse to give equal training opportunity to the said child, simply because he was the last child? This is exactly what our Ibibio and Annang brothers have conspiratorially meted on us. They use our resources to develop their land and then do everything to stop us from enjoying development. Can this be accepted anywhere on earth?
16. Obong Victor Attah had started with a good template of power distribution. He made sure that our entitlements were given to us. But his successor, the then Governor Godswill Akpabio refused to accord us our due. Even at that, he appointed three (3) commissioners for the five local government areas of Oro Nation. But since Governor Udom Emmanuel came on board, he seems to be receiving ‘evil counsels’ from ‘young men of the land’. This is conspicuous in his insistence on increasing our sorrows. He had, since his first term in office, reduced the commissioner slot of Oro Nation to two (2). He also failed to appoint qualified sons and daughters of Oro Nation into first class boards and parastatals, thereby being perpetual in treating the Oro Ethnic Nationality as second class citizens.
17. In this administration thus far, Oro sees herself as being ever more than before, marginalized in the history of politics. The fact of the marginalization of Oro people at the level of state governance in particular, is a source of grave and wide spread concern.
18. My observation of the current configuration & dynamics of political power in Akwa Ibom State, if sustained, may compels us to identify our foes & our possible allies, and to forge and consolidate such alliances that are necessary for the accomplishment of the development of our people.
19. We want a fair & equitable sharing of offices, positions & the fruits of developmental strives. Oro wants Akwa Ibom State to use the already tested rations of 5:3:2 in sharing political offices and positions to the three major ethnic groups of Ibibio, Annang and Oro respectively. Doing otherwise, introduces injustice.
20. Akwa Ibom State depends largely on allocation based on mineral resources and the bulk of the oil extracted from Akwa Ibom State is taken from Oro territory. By population and landmass, Oro is the smallest of the three major ethnic nationalities, but by mineral resources it is very rich. Oro is not asking for equality, but equity.
21. In this direction, therefore, i propose that the headship of the key positions in the governor’s kitchen cabinet, legislative, executives, establishments, parastatals, commissions and different categories of boards and agencies available in the state be zoned & rotated among the associating nationalities in an equitable manner using the 5:3:2 ratios.
22. At this point, I am assured that virtually all indigenes of Akwa Ibom State are Christians. Taking us to the scriptures to remind us of the story of Esau and Jacob could be unnecessary. But one thing is sure; we all know that Jacob was a supplanter. We also know how he treated his brother to show his sense of remorse. Consequently, I am calling on the governor to reflect more on these issues and see the burden that morality will place on him. I believe that morality will remind Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, our amiable Governor, that when you become a beneficiary of one’s misfortune, you become obligatory to showing him more dose of love, knowing that the ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity.
23. Thank you and God bless.
VICTOR BASSEY EYO ABIA.