Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The Edo State Government has declared that it would treat members of Evbuorokhuo community as criminals for preventing Raycon Construction Company (RCC) handling the Ikpako-Ajoki Road project from carrying out its duty.
On February 9, 2022, the state government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC), Sahara Group and other partners, flagged off the 16.7 kilometre Ikpako-Ajoki Road project that cut across Ovia North-East and Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Areas of the state.
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, said that the road project would open up the communities to economic development because of its proximity to the planned Benin Seaport in Gelegele.
Investigation, however, revealed that some farmers said to be from Evbuorkhuo village, in Ovia North-East LGA of the state, are preventing the construction company from carrying out its work over alleged encroachment and damage to their farm crops.
The action of the aggrieved farmers reportedly stopped the construction company from continuing its stone dressing work because of their demand for compensation for the alleged damage.
Confirming the incident to journalists in Benin City, the RCC’s Site Manager, Mr. Chidubem Ikedionwu, said that it took the intervention of the leadership of Obateru community before one of the armed farmers, allowed them to move one of their seized earth equipment.
Ikedionwu said: “That Saturday’s intervention was a minor one. The farmers had previously prevented us from moving the earth equipment to another site which is delaying the construction work.
“And this is delaying site clearance which ought to have been completed two to three weeks ago,’’
The Odionwere of Obateru Community, Mr. Emmanuel Uwagboe, while relaying his encounter with one of the aggrieved farmers to newsmen, said that “the caterpillar was released following my intervention.
He said: “But I spoke with the farmers to thread with caution and also appeal to state government to meet and dialogue with the farmers.
When contacted, the Community Liaison Officer, Mr. Stanly Osayande, also confirmed the incident and appealed to the state government to dialogue with the aggrieved farmers.
He said: “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 sake meet with these farmers and offer them something for their damaged crops considering the current economic hardship in the country,’’ he said.
However, the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, said that the state government would rather threat those preventing and threatening construction workers as criminals than pay compensation.
Nehikhare said: “I cannot imagine a people who should be happy that development was coming to their communities through the road project, are threatening workers sent by government and demanding for compensation.
“However, we have asked the director in the Ministry of Roads and Bridges along with officials from the Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission (EDSOPADEC) to visit the site for on the spot assessment.”