By Timothy Ekpo
The Akwa Ibom Government has said that it would attend to all complaints raised by communities involved in land and boundary disputes, even as it charges them to remain calm to sustain the prevailing peace in the state.
The deputy governor, Mr Moses Ekpo, recently said this when he undertook a sensitization visit over the disputed boundaries between Ikot Ayan Itam village in Itu Local Government and Ikot Udo community in Uruan Local Government Area.
Represented by the permanent secretary, Office of the Deputy Governor, Mr Nkopuruk Ekaiko, Mr Ekpo said the visit was necessary as it had come at a time that various communities in the state would be involved in farming activities, especially on locations where there had been unresolved claims and counter-claims by boarder communities.
Accompanied by the state surveyor-general, Mrs EmemIsang, the deputy governor said the sensitization tour of the Akwa Ibom State Boundary Committee to Ikot Ayan Itam village in Itu and Ikot Udo community in Uruan was predicated on the fact that government believed that dialogue was the only option in resolving boundary crises.
He explained that as neighbouring communities, the people of Ikot Ayan and Ikot Udo were interrelated in marriage and other social platforms, pointing out that in these circumstances it would be very wrong for grandparents to kill their grandchildren or render their in-laws homeless all in the name of boundary disputes.
The deputy governor noted that under the present administration, government had taken a positive decision to maintain and sustain peace and was not ready to attend to boundary matters that could have been avoided if the proper methods of handling such issues were deployed.
Mr Ekpo told youths and women of the areas that while government was attending to the complaints raised by them on disputed lands and boundaries, new matters concerning those property should be made known to the village head, who if unable to handle it, should report same to clan head, before getting to the paramount ruler, the council chairman and the Office of the Deputy Governor.
The deputy governor warned them not to take laws into their hands as the consequences of such action would lead to the destruction of lives and property, stressing that if two village heads come together, they could resolve boundary problem without resorting to violence.
Mr Ekpo told the people that sometimes court judgment does not settle land and boundary issues but the acceptance of middle grounds by affected communities could promote amicable resolution of boundary matters.
At Ikot Ayan Itam, the paramount ruler of Itu, Edidem EdetAkpan Inyang; the clan head, Etebom Donald Uboh; the village head, Eteidung John Udo; and the youth leader told the deputy governor that the boundary challenge between IkotAyan Itam and Ikot Udo community in Uruan started in 1954 before they resorted to seeking redress in courts.
They said that at the Supreme Court, the case was ruled in favour of Ikot Ayan Itam and till now the state government had failed to execute the judgment of the apex court by directing the state surveyor-general to fix and declare the boundary between the two communities.
The people who pledged to remain law-abiding on the matter pleaded with the government to execute the judgment of the Supreme Court in the demarcation of the boundary between Ikot Ayan Itam and Ikot Udo in Uruan Local Government.
At Ikot Udo in Uruan, the clan head, Northern Uruan, Etebom Peter Effiong, the village head, Chief MichealAsukwo; and the supervisor for education, Mr Unwana Iwok, said the boundary dispute between Ikot Udo and Ikot AyanItam had existed for so long, leading to the destruction of lives and property in the area.
They noted that the case had been to several courts and was last heard at the Supreme Court which the community did not appear and the case was struck out. They told the deputy governor that following recurrent problem, the state government had put an injunction which the Ikot Ayan Itam had violated through constant felling of trees on the disputed land.
The Ikot Udo community appealed to government to take ownership of the disputed land for any development project to put a stop to the prevailing boundary dispute between the two villages.
In their separate remarks, the chairman of Itu Local Government, Mr. Etetim Onuk and his Uruan colleague, MrIniobong Ekpenyong, represented by the vice chairman, MrsUduak Enang, thanked the deputy governor for the sensitization and called on their subjects to maintain peace while their matter was being taken care of by the state government.
They called on youths to contribute to the development of their communities than indulging in acts capable of destroying lives and property in their communities.