The people should be taken into confidence in the Badagry Deep Seaport Project

Two months ago, aggrieved youths and elders of the 10 communities hosting the Federal University of Technology, Owerri protested an alleged incursion into their over 3,000 hectares of land by unknown persons, despite being in court. About the same time, the Bayelsa State Government had to intervene in the face-off between Daewoo Engineering and Construction Company Limited and its host communities in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of the state. Several cases of this nature abound and they remain a serious threat to peace.

Unfortunately, in several instances, most of the issues that lead to fracas are caused by the negligence of the authorities. That is why we call on the Lagos State Government to avoid what could be the beginning of another needless bloodshed by fulfilling the promise it made to the people of Badagry over the Deep Seaport Project.

At a recent meeting in the United Kingdom, Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode said the Badagry Deep Seaport Project with an estimated investment of over $2.3 billion would address the infrastructure deficit and urban renewal agenda of the state. He said that when completed, the project would also generate over 500,000 direct and indirect jobs while pledging that the interests of the host communities within the location of the project would be protected.

However, going by the comments of a critical stakeholder in the Badagry Deep Seaport project, it seems the Lagos State Government has reneged on its promise. The Mobee of Badagry Kingdom, High Chief Menu Toyon, who is also the spokesman of the communities, expressed worry that APM Terminal and other stakeholders have not taken steps to address the concerns raised by the host communities regarding their equity participation. “Some peoples’ property will be used, some people will be relocated; but I will tell you that when you light a candle and put a paper on top of it, there is bound to be fire. Let the APM Terminal come and meet with the stakeholders ’’, he said.

While efforts by the Lagos authorities to create the enabling environment for investment to thrive is commendable, it is important to note that host communities are a critical factor in the peace and development of a state. Examples abound all over Nigeria where federal and state governments in a bid to please foreign investors forcefully occupy lands belonging to families for generations without any commensurate compensation.

We recognise the fact that the Land Use Act of 1978 vested on the governor or the chief executive of a state the ownership of the entire land. Therefore, the land and everything discovered beneath or above is the property of the governor or the chief executive. But the state government should also know that as the Deep Seaport becomes fully operational and their day-by-day activities begin to manifest, the various host communities will agitate for the good life and benefits in areas like education, health and other related issues.

This will often extend to other economic areas such as employment for the educated and unskilled youths and improved social amenities as pipe borne water, electricity, building of good roads and scholarship for their children, etc. It is best to carry the people along and allot an equity stake to them. The Lagos Sate Government should by all means avoid the costly mistakes in the Niger Delta. Let us learn from history.