Traditional rulers, the political class, youths, and other stakeholders of Eket, Esit-Eket and Ibeno Local Government Areas, recently, echoed their readiness to join hands with the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, in ensuring that his Completion Agenda, specifically his efforts at industrialising the state continues to enjoy the support of stakeholders, over any form of parochial interests.
This decision was separately conveyed to the state government, through the secretary to the state government (SSG) and chairman, One-Stop Shop Committee on Investment, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, Thursday, when he led members of his committee on a peace building meeting to the paramount rulers of Ibeno and Eket Local Government Areas.
While speaking at his palace, the paramount ruler of Ibeno,Owong Bassey Archianga, maintained that Ibeno people and their Eket counterpart share a lot of similarities in terms of culture and common heritage, thus there was the need for both communities to continue to work together for the common good of the people.
Similarly, the paramount ruler of Eket, Obong E. C. D. Abia,described Ibeno people as neighbours whom the Eket people have always embraced and worked together from time immemorial, adding that both communities have more to gain if they could bury their differences and continue to work together for the development of the areas.
On the issue of the establishment of a refinery in the area by BUA Group of Companies, the elders and other stakeholders of the three local government areas maintained that they were not averse to the establishment of the refinery.
They, however, appealed to the state government delegation to take into consideration the plights of the indigenous people, especially on the need to treat all parties fairly and equally.
They also advocated for employment opportunities for youths in the host communities and proper compensation to members of the affected communities as one of the ways of addressing foreseeable inconveniences that may arise from the establishment of the oil facility.
On his part, the secretary to the state government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, explained that his conciliatory visit to the areas was at the behest of the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, with the mandate to allay perceivable fears, and to also reassure members of the proposed host communities that their interests were well captured in the setting up of the company.
While listing the benefits that the state and the people would stand to gain from the establishment of the refinery, Ekuwem restated that, “Governor Emmanuel, is fast attracting investments to the state, and top on the list of investors that have indicated interest to come and invest in the state is BUA Group, which they have agreed to start a refinery here.
“In order for them to rapidly access the site to the facility, they decided to commence the construction of a 10.5 Km road and as a result of that, there were knotty areas to be resolved with the host communities, and that had affected the movement of equipment to site by the construction company.
“So the governor directed the One-Stop Shop on Investment, where I also serve as the chairman, to intervene and address the matter, and that is why we embarked on today’s visit to the affected communities. And, I can say that everyone is on the same page having agreed to continue to resolve the matter in order to support the governor in his drive to rapidly industrialise the state,” Ekuwem added.
Team members during the visit included the commissioner of lands and water resources, Pastor Umoh Eno; the commissioner for special duties, Mr Okpolupm Ette; commissioner for trade and investment, Prince Ukpong Akpabio; representatives of BUA Group and the state surveyor general, Mrs Emem Isang.
Others were the member representing Ibeno and Esit Eket State Constituency, Mr Usoro Akpanusoh, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Russia, Chief Asam Asam, SAN; the political leader of Esit Eket, Elder Benjamin Udobia; the chairman of Eket Local Government Area, Hon. Akan Tommie; the chairman of Esit Eket Local Government, Mr Iniobong Robson, his Ibeno counterpart, and the divisional police officer in charge of Ibeno, CSP Edwin Egobueze.
Meanwhile, the state government has said that the proposed BUA Petrochemical Project to be located in Ibeno Local Government of the state will add value to the economy of the state.
The state commissioner for information and strategy, comrade Ini Ememobong, who gave the assurance while fielding questions from journalists in Uyo said BUA petrochemical “is coming with a road project, ” and it will open up the coastal areas of the state.
Ememobong said with the more than 10-20 km of road the company has promised to build in the state, there was the urgent need to support investment in the state
The commissioner who spoke against the background of how adverse media report could discourage investment, said the state government was eager to attract more investment to the state.
“The governor is struggling to bring investment and people are writing to scare away investors, threatening already existing companies. No matter where your pendulum will swing to, you will create a counter report,” he said.
“An investment is coming to your side and this is when you are choosing to start a fight. As enlightened as you are, don’t help them in the fight because they want to be heard. Reasoning will come to them that investment is coming here.”
According to him, the Ibom deep seaport project in Mbo Local Government which is being promoted by the state government would also boost the economy of the state.