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Union threatens showdown as ALGON chairman blames Ibeno, Eket crisis on past administrations

By Anietie Akpan (Calabar), Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh and Ayoyinka Jegede (Uyo)
23 September 2022   |   3:46 am
Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Esit Eket Council, Mr. Iniobong Robson, has blamed what he termed nonchalant attitude of successive administrations since the creation of the state to the dispute on the right ownership...

Iniobong Robson

Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Esit Eket Council, Mr. Iniobong Robson, has blamed what he termed nonchalant attitude of successive administrations since the creation of the state to the dispute on the right ownership of Stubbs Creek Forest, describing it as a conspiracy of silence that created the problems ravaging host communities of Eket/EsitEket/Ibeno and ONNA councils.

He made the allegation, yesterday, during a press conference organised by Ekid Peoples Union at Eket Civic Centre in Eket.

This is as Ekid Peoples Union warned that going forward, anyone, be it government, Ibeno people or BUA, who enters the Stubbs Creek to commence operations without the express permission of the original owners will meet stiff legal battle.

Challenging the state government to release the official map of the state to finally end the 108-year-old tussle between Esit Eket and Ibeno councils, Robson said judgments by Supreme Court and the Privy Council, affirmed that the people of Ekid are the owners of the land.

According to him, the state government’s body language of consistent silence in the face of palpable conflict in the host communities, where Mr. William Mkpa, Chairman of Ibeno Council allegedly incites violence, speaks of a government concealed shared interest with the people of Ibeno Council.

Recall that Mkpa has on several occasions made claims that Ibeno Council owns the Stubbs Creek and the land housing ExxonMobil facility (QIT), and is exclusively entitled to all the severances accruable to a host community as enshrined in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), to the exclusion of Eket, Esit Eket and ONNA councils.

“Our problem is not Ibeno, neither William Mkpa. You know why? It is not within the powers of a council chairman to create or determine the map of a state. If it were so, I am the chairman of a council, I would have done it long ago. It is not within the powers of a council chairman to establish a village or delist it where it is erroneously recognised under a council it doesn’t belong to, like in the case of all the villages in the Stubbs Creek, wrongly given to Ibeno council.

“Despite the fact that A’Ibom High Court in 2004 had made an order that the map of Esit Eket be drawn to locate Ine- Akpautong of Esit Eket and the map of A’Ibom State be drawn to locate the said village in Esit Eket territory, till today, every succeeding government has blatantly refused to execute the court order, tell me why the government is not our problem,” he said.

Earlier, the President General of Eket Peoples Union (EPU), Dr. Samuel Udonsak, affirmed that the entire stretch of the land, known as Akoiyak or Stubbs Creek Forest, is an ancestral land of the Ekid people of Eket and Esit Eket council of Akwa Ibom State.

He noted that court judgments of 1916 and 1918 stated expressly that Ibeno does not own any land since they were settlers, and settlers do not carry around lands while sojourning.

Udonsak also maintained that the 1993 Judicial Commission of Enquiry, set up to look into the dispute between Ibeno and Ekid communities headed by Hon. Justice Ephraim Akpata, further confirmed the Ekid people’s ownership of Stubbs Creek Forest.

Also speaking, a former minister and two-time House of Representatives member, Chief Nduese Essien, corroborated the position of the Esit Eket Council boss and the union, promising that Ekid people would never allow their right of ownership of the Stubbs Creek forest to be trampled upon.