Tension mounts over alleged relocation of Ibom deep seaport

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Uba Group

Uba Group

BY BRISIBE HARRIMAN

Ethnic tension is heightening in oil-rich Akwa Ibom State over alleged relocation of Ibom deep seaport from the preferred location to a new area.

The name of the mouth-watering project was first changed from Ibaka deep seaport in Mbo local government area, an Oron ethnic group land, to Ibeno and rechristened Ibom deep seaport.

The people of Oron, the third ethnic group in the state, allegedly hinged the relocation of the port from their area on ethnic politics and pointedly accused the state government of marginalization.

But the Governor, Udom Emmanuel, in a radio phone-in programme to mark the 34th anniversary of the state creation recently, blamed the Oron people for writing petitions which he noted was stalling the take-off of the project.

The governor had said, “The problem we have with Ibom deep seaport is that the people of Oron wrote lots of petitions. Anybody entering the plane to Akwa Ibom says he’s going to Uyo, not Uruan or Nsit Atai where the airport is located.

“Ibom is a brand name we should enjoy brand equity from but they have written petitions and driven our investors away. If I leave office without achieving that project, hold them responsible, not me.”

But in a swift reaction, chairman of Oron Nation Technical Committee on Ibaka Deep Seaport, Okon Nkpubre, stated that no investor would want to waste his hard-earned money or borrowed funds to go and dig out a dry land equivalent to about 150 football fields to create an artificial ocean for a Deep Sea Port in Ibeno local government area when a natural harbour with undredged draft of 11meters is close by at Ibaka, only 10 kilometers away.

According to him, the Chinese and the French (Bollore) who emerged as preferred investors withheld investment even as the Federal Government withdrew both equity and investment guarantee because of the alleged policy summersault.

Nkpubre, a former managing director of Niger Dock, maintained that Oron nation is not against the change of the name of the sea port from Ibaka Deep Sea Port to Ibom Deep Sea Port, but “it is against the unjustified relocation of the Deep Sea Port based on clearly fraudulent criteria and also the ill-advised idea of a dugout port.”

He added, “It is not also true that Oron nation drove away investors as claimed by the Governor. Oron nation first wrote to the governor to express strong reservations about the plan to relocate the Deep Sea Port from the technically most preferred location and the contemplation of a Dugout Port with its environmental implications.”

For their part, the people of Ibeno where the project has been shifted to have insisted on a name change to reflect the actual location of the project as such change would not only honour the Ibeno people but also the community.

Besides, they also insisted on having a functional environmental impact assessment and memoranda of understanding with the relevant investors.

Paramount Ruler of Ibeno, Effiong Bassey Archianga, stated this when the Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Akan Okon visited him.

“Ibeno had been a victim of oil and gas exploration and production for many years now and we have learnt our lessons. To this end, before any developmental project is sited on our land, there must be proper and fictional EIA with its MoU, and the paramount ruler -in- council and other stakeholders should be respectfully consulted by the investors, subsidiaries, and contractors.”