Edo government on Tuesday threatened to treat farmers obstructing the execution of a road project over compensation as criminals.
Farmers at Evbuorokhuo community had allegedly seized some of the equipment of the company executing the 16.7km Ikpako-Ajoki Road project demanding for compensation on their affected crops.
Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr Chris Enehikhare, said in Benin that government would treat those preventing and threatening construction workers as criminals rather than pay compensation.
“I cannot imagine that people who should be happy that development was coming to their communities through the road project are threatening workers and demanding for compensation.
“We have asked the director in the Ministry of Roads and Bridges along with officials of the Edo Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission to visit the site for on-the-spot assessment,’’ he said.
Edo and NNPC Ltd., flagged off the 16.7km Ikpako-Ajoki Road project on Feb. 9.
The road cuts across Ovia Northeast and Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Areas of Edo.
At the flag-off, Gov. Godwin Obaseki said the project would open up the communities to economic development, especially because of its proximity to the planned Benin Seaport at Gelegele.
Investigation by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that some farmers from Evbuorkhuo village, in Ovia Northeast Local Government Area the state were preventing the construction company from executing the project.
The grieving farmers were alleged to have stopped the company from continuing its stone dressing work as they alleged encroachment and demanded compensation on damage to their crops.
The company’s site manager, Mr Chidubem Ikedionwu, said: “it took the intervention of the leadership of Obateru community before one of the armed farmers allowed us to move one of the seized earth movers.
“Saturday’s intervention was a minor one. The farmers had previously prevented us from moving the earth equipment to another site and that is delaying the construction work.
“It is delaying site clearance which ought to have been completed two to three weeks ago,’’ he said.
Mr Emmanuel Uwagboe, the Odionwere (Village Head) of Obateru community told NAN that one of the aggrieved farmers who seized the construction firm’s caterpillar released it following his intervention.
“I appeal to the farmers to tread with caution and also appeal to the state government to meet and dialogue with the farmers,’’ he said.
Community Liaison Officer at Obateru village, Mr Stanley Osayande, who also confirmed the incident, appealed to the state government to dialogue with the aggrieved farmers for the sake of humanity.
“As laudable as the Ikpako-Ajoki Road project is, we don’t want anything that will jeopardise its completion on time.
“It is my appeal that the state government should, for humanity’s sake, meet these farmers and offer them something for their damaged crops considering the current economic hardships in the country,’’ he said. (NAN)