A/Ibom: HOMEF equips farmers with knowledge to tackle land-grabbing menace
By Uko Etim, Uyo
Health of Mother Earth Foundation, (HOMEF), a Civil Society Organisation on the environment, over the weekend, equipped farmers in the Okoro-Utip community in the Ibeno Local Government Area with knowledge of how to tackle land-grabbing menaces in their locality.
This is just as the group decried the level of alleged land grabbing in some communities by the state government in the guise of citing projects.
The Project Lead for HOMEF, Stephen Oduware, disclosed this during a farmers’ training on “Land right and Fight Against Land Grabbing” at Okoro-Utip, Ibeno LGA of Akwa Ibom State.
Oduware, who noted that the government is merely holding the land in trust for the people, stressed that the people should be fully consulted and paid compensation anytime the government wants to take the land for developmental projects.
He tasked communities in the state who lost their lands or are on the verge of losing them in the hands of government and multinational companies to acquaint themselves with the provisions of the Land Use Act.
Urging the people to ignore the saying that “All lands belong to the government, Oduware claimed that such a saying was a ploy to grab lands and was in negation of the Land Use Act
He regretted that the ignorance of the people had given multinational companies the boldness to grab people’s land without following due process and conducting adequate Environmental Impact Assessments.
“You will agree with me that communities have been dispossessed, oppressed, and intimidated to give up their lands, the Land Use Act of 1978 vested the land in the government to hold in trust for people but today we have the government acting as the owners of the land, while the community is acting landless.
“That is why we have corporations and companies coming without due process, consultation, and participation of the community people, without even conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment, for instance, we know there are issues of oil and gas pollution in some of these communities, the question is before the oil companies came in, were these people fully consulted? were they brought into the picture? did they give their free consent? We want to bring the sense of ownership back to the people, we can’t just sacrifice the lives of the community people on phantom development projects; projects that do not directly impact on the livelihoods of the people.”
Also speaking, the Coordinator of Peace Point Development Foundation, Umoh Isuah-Ikoh bemoaned that communities in the state have lost several lands to the government without compensation.
He stressed that most times projects cited on these lands being taken do not impact positively on the people.
“Most times, the government takes these lands with a promise of constructing projects which, in the long run, would be abandoned. The original owners of these lands have been left with nothing and most of them cultivated those lands to train their children and care for their families but now, they are left with nothing.
One of the participants, Abasiubong John, in an interview, revealed that he had lost several hectares of land to the government without any compensation in the past, saying that the training has empowered him with the provisions of the law.
He said he would use every legal means to safeguard one of his lands on the verge of being lost to the government.
‘They made us believe that lands belong to the government, but this training has made me understand that the government is just holding the land in trust for us. When it wants to use the land it must consult the people. I have a land I’m about to lose again, I think I have the opportunity to exercise my rights through every legal means.”