Wednesday, 10 July 2024.

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C’River Cocoa landlord communities urge Otu to wade into looming crisis in cocoa allocation

By Solomon Azu

Cross River State governor, Senator Bassey Otu has been urged to urgently wade into the looming crisis over threats by the task force of the state Cocoa Allocation and Rehabilitation Committee to forcefully eject Cocoa farm allottees from their genuinely acquired Cocoa plots allotted to them by the previous administration to avoid breakdown of law and order.

The call was contained in a report of a six-man Crisis Management Committee set up by the traditional rulers of landlord communities of the Cocoa Estates made up of Mbume Blocs of clans comprising Abia, Bendeghe Ekiem and Etomi in Etung local government area to investigate the conflicting positions in cocoa allocation in the state government cocoa estates in Etung local government area.

Presenting the report, the chairman of the committee, Ntufam Odu Ndep Moses said findings by his committee show that the reason for encroachment into the cocoa farmlands advanced by the Allocation committee to forceful eject the allottees from the farms was false.

He said that his committee also found out that the allottees paid the required fees into the coffers of the Cross River State government before they were ushered to take possession of the allotted farms.

The chairman said the committee’s findings also revealed that the previous administration paid arrears of over N37 million to the cocoa landlord communities to settle 16 years of accrued tents and royalties which were in the thick of the Etung cocoa crisis. a claim he said is verifiable.

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He said statistics available to the committee revealed that only 1,415 out of the approximately 4,552 hectares were allocated.

The crisis management committee warned that the threat of eviction based on misinformation or ignorance is potentially explosive and therefore urged restraint and strongly advised against any measure that may result in violent clashes.

“The Traditional rulers of the Mbume Blocs of Clans can hardly overstate the fact that Etung local government area has already senselessly and mindlessly had more than enough bloodletting in a lifetime and nothing else threatens to push us again to that dreaded experience than the conceived eviction if persisted upon”, he warned.

Ntufam Moses recalled that it was because of the government’s failure to pay rents and royalties to Cocoa landlord communities in Etung that prompted them to sue government vide Suit No HE/16/2023 in 2023 and obtained Consent Judgement and secured a new lease for six years approved by the immediate past governor for the settlement of the state government’s rents/ royalties as well as their liabilities while at the same time generating revenue for the state.

The committee, therefore recommended that since the defence of the legitimacy of the six-year lease agreed upon by the immediate past administration and the Cocoa landlord communities as reflected in the Consent Judgement has been credibly established, it deserves to be progressively executed.

Speaking in separate interviews with The Guardian in Calabar, the former state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resource, Hon Oliver Orok, confirmed the findings of the committee saying that since governance is a continuum, he expects the new government in the state led by Governor Bassey Otu to respect the agreement entered into by the immediate past administration to avert any breakdown of law and order.

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