Stakeholders of Oron Nation, the third largest ethnic nationality in Akwa Ibom State have disagreed with the government of Akwa Ibom State over the name-change and relocation of the age-long Ibaka Deep Seaport.
The people have insisted that they won’t concede to positions averse to their interest, especially as it relates to the Seaport.
Speaking at the Oron Civic Centre on Saturday, during a stakeholders’ engagement with the state government’s technical committee on the implementation of the Seaport, the President-General of Oron Union, Bishop Etim Ante stated that the enduring history of Ibaka seaport cannot be dismissed.
He stated that the government of Architect Obong Victor Attah in recent history, initiated the project with site and name favouring Ibaka which prompted a lot of Oro natives and beyond to purchase landed properties in Ibaka, in preparation for business opportunities at the Port.
Etim Ante disclosed that Oro will not accept a seaport which does not properly accommodate and integrate the interest of the Oron people, whom he said have suffered undue marginalization, even with being the “goose that lays the golden egg”.
Presenting a copy of the petition of the Oron people to the Chairperson of the Implementation Committee, Barr Mfon Usoro, the President-General told the Committee to take time and study the petition because discussion must be done line-by-line in the next meeting.
The PG who thanked the Governor for his commitment and passion in making sure the seaport comes alive, added that the said petition was recently sent to the State Governor on the matter, to afford Oro the opportunity to interface with government to ensure that their agitations are addressed.
In his address, the Chairman of Oro Think Tank (OTT), CrownPrince Chris Abasi Eyo reiterated the resolve of the Oron people to resist every plot to remove the seaport from its long known site.
He traced the history of Ibaka Bay and its popularity to 600BC, revealing how the first European female explorer, Mary Henrietta Kingsley had since 1897, recommended to the British Colonial masters to site a replica of the Port of Liverpool in Ibaka.
The OTT Chairman believed the water transportation by Elder Dempster in 1920 and the emergence of Oron Terminal “as a major hub and one of the busiest in the country with highest tonnages”, during the establishment of the Inland Waterways Department in the 1950s, also made Ibaka standout as the site for the seaport in the 1970s which was rather taken to Calabar for political reasons.
Chris Abasi Eyo recalled how the Governor of the then South-Eastern State, Brig. Gen. U. J. Esuene, Late, denied Ibaka the natural right of hosting the operational base of Mobil and how “politics played out in the early 1980s, when Ibaka was chosen out of the lots, as the best location for the first export oriented refinery in Nigeria.”
“History won’t repeat itself in this instant case. Ibaka Bay is the most suitable natural harbour for Nigeria. Obong Victor Attah, knew this very well, which is why he renewed the vision to have Ibaka Bay, host a modern deep seaport in its truest sense in Nigeria.
“Notwithstanding the skimble-scamble to deprive Oro of the benefits of its attractive location on the Gulf of Guinea, as long as God is the one who led our ancestors here, it is not over yet.
“Despite being treated as political pariahs, we are a happy people; not even the broken political dreams nor the noisy confusion of this life, can put out the Oro man’s light and happiness, because even those who betray her, mourn for her in their closet-reflections.
“Enough is enough, we are determined to give this one, a fight”, Chris Abasi Eyo said.
Speaking via Zoom, the Oron Nation Technical Committee Chairman for the Seaport, Engr Nkpubre Nkpubre (retd) queried the relocation of the Seaport from Ibaka Bay.
The visibly furious Oro statesman and former MD of NIGERDOCK PLC disagreed with the Secretary to Government saying Oro cannot accept the relocation of the seaport to anywhere outside Ibaka Bay.
On his part, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, who is also a member of the Technical Committee on Ibom Deep Seaport, noted that Governor Udom Emmanuel was poised to actualizing the project.
He stated that government has neither changed the name nor the location of the Seaport, calling on relevant stakeholders and communities in Oro Nation to “bury their differences as their interests have been duly accommodated.
“Akwa Ibom State under the able leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel has become the investor’s destination and is developing nationally and globally as a brand, therefore the name Akwa Ibom or the name Ibom is gaining popular currency in our country in Africa, and globally. The examples are Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Akwa Ibom State University, Ibom Air, thinking out of the amplification of the brand, Ibom.
“So let us come out of this tiny mind set; the seaport is off the coast of Unyenghe/Ibeno axis”, Ekuwem stated.
Again, the Chairperson, Technical Committee on Ibom Deep Seaport, Barr. Mfon Usoro presented an overview of the project to stakeholders and explained that, the Deep Seaport occupying 14,500 hectares, comprises an Industrial City and a free trade zone that will foster economic development and create massive employment for the teeming youths in the state and country at large.
Mfon Usoro added that the Seaport with over 18 metres depth and capacity for 600 tonning vessels, would have 10 terminals, even as the investor, Bollore Consortium will have 50 years concession to manage it.
She said, “The outline business case submitted by the outgoing Administration of Godswill Akpabio handed over the name, Ibom Deep Seaport to us.
“The impact of this port will go as far as Senegal, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Congo DRC. If that is the case, just imagine us the immediate recipients of the port”.
Barr. Usoro stated that the project will be actualized through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with Bollore, Power China Consortium being the preferred bidder.
Meanwhile, Commissioner, Ministry of Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Mr. Akan Okon, also a member of the Technical Committee (IDSP), disclosed that Governor Emmanuel has made adequate arrangements for Akwa Ibom people especially the youths to acquire necessary skills in maritime.
Saying discussions were ongoing with the Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU) to get a Maritime Faculty in the Universty, the commissioner revealed that the project, when fully actualized, would create no fewer than 200,000 jobs.
Speaking on the Environmental and Social Impacts Assessment, another member of the committee, Mr. Aniekan Ukpanah said the procurement process for the IDSP has been one of the best by international standards, adding that the first phase of the project, which is to last for five years, would employ at least 16,000 workforce.
Part of the delegation of the Technical Committee as member was the Senator, Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District, Dr Akon Eyakenyi.
The meeting had in attendance five members of Obio Ifong Isong Òrò, including the Chairman and Paramount Ruler elect of Urue Offong Oruko, HRM Offong Effiong Unanaowo; the Secretary, HH Offong Etim Oquong. Others were Chief Paul Ulo Uye, Offong Effiong Uye and Barr Ikwo Obiosio.
Also in attendance was the Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG Asuquo Amba (retd); the OTT Secretary, Barr Omen Bassey and other members of the Oron Nation Technical Committee: Surv. Ndehedehe Uno, Dr Emmanuel Atting and Captain Effiong Eyo.
Over 40 illustrious sons and daughters of Oro across the globe stayed through the event on Zoom. A quick visit to the room showed Chief Nkpubre Okon Nkpubre and Wife, Joy Nkpubre, accessing the gathering from different locations.
Our reporter sited the President-General Emeritus of Oron Union, Sir Engr Asuquo Inuikim Obon, Akpaha Oro, himself the General Manager, Marine Logistics of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); his second successor, Chief (Mrs) Janet Amba; Former Executive Director of the Nigerian Ekport-Import (NEXIM) Bank, Engr E. J. Ekwere, Barr Abang Mkpandiok, Barr Alex Asuquo, Prof. Etim Nyong Bassey, Engr Koko Bassey, Solomon Aduak, Celcius Ukpong, and many others.