By Clifford Christopher Solomon
Lubriks Construction Company, the contractors for the Trans-KalAbari road project awarded by the Governor of Rivers State Chief Barr. Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike is said to have breached the terms of the lease agreement it had with the people of Degema town, the host community for the project. Degema is one of the Non-Kalabari speaking aboriginal community in the area.
In an exclusive interview in Port Harcourt with National Point Newspaper on Wednesday November 10,2021,a concerned indigene of Degema community, Dr. Miyante Agi, picked holes and observed with dismay breaches in the terms of agreement.
He said, though he is not one of those who make decisions for the land, as an interested stakeholder, he was privy to some of the loose terms of the agreement which were largely shrouded in utmost secrecy because perhaps, in the typical Nigerian style, the ground was sufficiently doused.
He said if it were in his power, he wouldn’t because Degema is the only community in Nigeria that has had to pay bitterly to date for a part of her land she leased to the British colonialists. No Degema man, especially those of us in the diaspora can sufficiently tell what the terms truly are. The real terms against the standard practice of the community are only known to their authors because there was no openness in the manner in which it was carried out. Ordinarily, the final terms of this agreement and its signatories ought to be read out at Ogbolo (town square) to the hearing of all Degema people present.
The property in question is not a private one. It belongs to the entire community and so every single member of the community is a stakeholder and has the right to know because as result of past experiences, there are grounds for serious concern. While no one is against progress in any facet, no one would want to wake up one morning a find a total stranger armed with a purported lease agreement, gather lawyers to claim part of his land because he has the wherewithal.
The Degema people had been criminally made to suffer untold injustices. Given our antecedents and pedigree, Degema people are the most misjudged and marginalised tribe in the area, and Rivers State at large. That this is the handy work of the authors of this lease is an open secret known especially to all Rivers people fifty years and above.
We have been made political refugees in our own land and that lease agreement if not nipped at the bud could become a ploy to further entangle us. The company has since added to the original land allotted to it by virtue of the said agreement. It broken down the only tarred road in the community hauling her heavy-duty machines with no plans of repair. In an unbridled and unabated manner, it has been pumping sand from our unprotected seashore with no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) whatsoever
We are really concerned that in a 21st century the people of Degema community are not able to know the full content of a lease agreement on their property entered into on their behalf. We are not in the dark ages for crying out loud. It is really surprising that this is happening in our very eyes. The documents containing the said agreement could be tampered with in favour of those who had not loved us as a people. It appears mild on the surface, but this could snowball into a very big problem for our people.
In a country where justice is often a commodity available to the highest bidder, our people do not stand a chance especially when the clothes of Joseph are in the hands of Potiphar’s wife – the money bags. We don’t have the financial war chest to face legal battles that will emanate from this.
A visibly worried Pastor Agi, further noted that the company never gave any meaningful employment to any of his people as it is the common practice wherever such projects are being carried out. This has punitively continued with a telling arrogance he added. Dr. Miyante Agi, further explain that, before the commencement of the project, efforts made to get the government look into issues raised here and a number of others were futile.
All things being equal, no right-thinking person will be against civilized development. After all, I pass through other people’s land to get to wherever am bound. It is just that as that old saying goes, when one is eating with the devil, he will require the services of a blacksmith if his spoon is not long enough, the renowned scholar added. He therefore pleaded passionately with the Rivers State Governor Barr. Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike, to prevail on Lubriks construction company to do the needful by at least sticking to the terms of agreement it had with his people and save them from the impending danger her extra activities portend.