By Harris Emanuel
UYO – Ekid Peoples’ Union (EPU) in Akwa Ibom State has protested against the just released Distribution Sharing Matrix for the implementation of Host Community Trust Fund (HCTF) of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) Akwa Ibom State.
Under the proposed Distribution Matrix, the seven local government areas of Eket, Esit Eket, Onna, Eastern Obolo, Ikot Abasi, Mkpat Enin and Mbo are given 11.39% under the ‘Access to 2 Leases’, while Ibeno has 14.89%. The additional 3.5% is said to be accounted for by ‘Designated Facility.’
Reacting to the proposed Distribution Matrix, EPU President, Dr Samuel Udonsak, speaking after the groups Stakeholders Meeting, held last weekend in Eket to appraise the proposed Distribution Matrix, noted that apart from ExxonMobil’s terminal facility which is hosted on Ekid land, its other facilities like the housing estate and the airstrip are also in Ekid land as such Ekid (Eket and Esit Eket people) should be the proper beneficiary of the 3.5% set aside for ‘Designated Facility’.
Udonsak emphasised that by virtue of the 1918 judgment, as well as the earlier ones, the Stubbs Creek Forest (Akoiyak), from the mouth of the Qua Iboe River to Childs Point belongs to Ekid people.
Referring to the said judgement of His Honour, Justice A.F.C. Weber, of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, he said the judgement “expressly stated that the Stubbs Creek Forest (Akoiyak), from the mouth of the Qua Iboe River to Childs Point belongs to Ekid people and that His Honour, Justice Weber’s judgment further stated that, “it must be understood that by this judgement, I have granted a declaration of title to the Ekets to the swamps”. Udonsak said nothing can change that position, forever.
He emphasized that the homogenous communities of Eket and Esit Eket LGAs, collectively referred to as “Ekid Nation” have had their Atlantic boarder and territory well defined by various subsisting court judgements and ExxonMobil is well aware of that.
Udonsak also used the occasion to confirm that EPU had earlier written ExxonMobil to voice its objection to the implementation of PIA Host Community Trust Fund (HCTF) especially with ExxonMobil’s recent decision to set up a separate Host Community Trust Fund for Ibeno LGA and another Host Community Trust Fund for the seven other Local Government Areas.
He noted that the decision was completely against the spirit and content of the collective decision, earlier reached on the subject matter, at the joint meeting of September 07, 2022 held at Ibom Icon Hotel in Uyo.
He said the action suspectedly intended to short change the benefits and rights due Ekid people under the PIA and transfer same to Ibeno LGA.
The EPU president however emphasized that the
protest raised on the 3.5% ‘Designated Facility by EPU must not stop the implementation of the HCTF which is already two years behind schedule.
Rather, the allocation for the contentious 3.5% percent ‘Designated Facility’ he stressed, should be placed in an escrow account pending the resolution of the contentious issues’ before distribution
Udonsak confirmed that , Ekid EPU has written to Akwa Ibom State government requesting for the correct relisting of some Ekid villages that have been wrongly listed as Ibeno villages.
He identified those villages as Ine Akpautong, Okposo i, Okposo ii, Eto Esek, Okom Ita, Itak Idim Ekpe , Atia (New Barracks), Itak Ifaha, Itak Idim Ukpa, Ndito Eka Iba Usuk Ukim Aquaha and Nta Ikang.
He said such a mistake has given the erroneous impression that Ekid territories are now part of Ibeno LGA.
He said, since this was a matter of Facts, based on all previous gazettes when Akwa Ibom State was part of Cross River State and during Eket District Administration he was hopeful that the governor would give expression to the extant provisions of Section 4 Part II of the Traditional Rulers Law Cap.134 Vol.6 Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000, and correctly re-list the age-long Ekid villages to their proper location in Esit Eket LGA in the interest of justice, fairness and communal peace.