The struggle by the people of Oron Nation, in righting the wrongs of the Akwa Ibom State government, regarding the planned relocation of Ibaka Deep Seaport is gaining hope as a Federal High Court sitting in Uyo has granted a leave for judicial review of the Deep Sea Port implementation.
In Suit No: FHC/UY/37/2021, presided over by Hon. Justice A. A. Okeke, the Court issued an order, granting the applicants to apply for a judicial review of the proceedings and decisions of the Technical Committee on the Actualization of Ibom Deep Seaport.
The Order followed a Motion Ex-parte filed by counsels to the applicants, Chief Victor Iyanam and Ubong Offiong.
The Order reads in parts: “After hearing Chief Victor Iyanam with Ubong Offiong move in terms of the motion paper and urged the court to grant same, the Honourable Court, having carefully considered the application attached with verifying affidavit, exhibits and written address filed at the Court’s registry, it is therefore ordered as follows:
“Order is made granting leave to the applicants to apply for judicial review of the proceedings and decisions of a body of persons known as the Technical Committee on the Actualization of Ibom Deep Seaport for acting in excess of their powers.”
According to the Court papers sighted by Newstrack, applicants on the matter include Dr Celsus Ukpong, Mr Osborn Ntekim and Comrade Henry Asuquo Johnson, for and on behalf of the Ibaka Community and Oro Nation.
The defendants on the matter are the: Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Ports Authority, Akwa Ibom State Government, Mrs Mfon Usoro, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, Dr Akon Eyakenyi and unknown persons.
It would be recalled that Òrò Nation, the third largest ethnic nationality in Akwa Ibom State has sustained her resistance against all attempts by the state government to relocate the Deep Sea Port from the location selected as the best location during Due Diligence Studies ordered by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
They rely on the Initial Due Diligence Report of January 2013 and the final Outline Business Case of April 2013 produced by a consultancy firm, Felak Concepts Ltd and both submitted to the federal government of Nigeria.
Both reports had stated that a site tagged “Okposo” near Ibaka Bay was chosen as the preferred location for the Deep Sea Port.
But throughout the over six-year duration of the present administration led by Governor Udom Emmanuel, the project has been shrouded in controversies, following activities of the Technical Committee on the Actualization of Ibom Deep Seaport, which was set up by the governor just few days after resuming office in 2015.
The Committee abandoned without reason, the report of the Due Diligence Studies and went on planning to dig an artificial ocean for a dugout port in a location rejected during Due Diligence Studies.
Reacting to the development, a legal practitioner, Cyprian Afahanam Esq stated that the Oron people have the right to seek redress in Court, considering the outrage against the activities of the Technical Committee, especially that of contemplating a dugout port in an artificial ocean when a natural harbour is close by.
Another lawyer who did not want his name on print, stated that, “In law, the Order of leave granted by the court operates essentially as stay for further activities on the deep sea port until conclusion of the matter in court.
“In other words, it would be illegal for the defendants or Akwa Ibom State government to do any further activities on the project, until final conclusion of matter in court”, he said.
Meanwhile, the matter was adjourned for service of motion on notice to the defendants.
Newstrack also learnt that the government of Akwa Ibom State has been served the court papers and the order but that they are yet to enter appearance in court.
However, the matter would be set for hearing after the annual vacation of the court.