The Edo State government has threatened to treat members of Evbuorokhuo Community as criminals, for threatening and preventing Raycon Construction Company, RCC, handling the Ikpako-Ajoki road project from carrying out its duty.
The 16.7km Ikpako-Ajoki road project that cuts across Ovia North-East and Ikpoba-Okha Local government Areas (LGA) of the State, was flagged off by the Government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) and other partners on February 9, 2022.
During the flag off Governor Godwin Obaseki, said the road project would open up the Communities to economic development activities, especially because of its proximity to the planned Benin Seaport in Gelegele.
Investigation however, revealed that some farmers said to be from Evbuorkhuo village, in Ovia North-East Local Government Area of the State are preventing the construction company from carrying out its work, over alleged encroachment and damage to their farm crops.
The action of the grieving farmers, is said to have stopped the company from continuing its stone dressing work because of their demand for compensation for the alleged damage.
Confirming the incident to Journalists in Benin, the company’s site manager, Engr. Chidubem Ikedionwu, said it took the intervention of the leadership of Obateru community before one of the armed farmers, allowed us to move one of the seized earth equipment.
“That Saturday’s intervention was a minor one. The farmers had previously prevented us from moving the earth equipment to another site which is delaying the construction work.
“And this is delaying site clearance which ought to have been completed two to three weeks ago,’’ he said.
Mr Emmanuel Uwagboe, the Odionwere (Village Head) of Obateru Community, while relaying his encounter with one of the aggrieved farmers to Journalists said, “the caterpillar was released following my intervention.
“But I spoke with the farmers to thread with caution and also appeal to state government to meet and dialogue with the farmers,’’ he said.
Contacted, the Community Liaison Officer, Mr Stanley Osayande, who also confirmed the incident, appealed to the state government to dialogue with the aggrieved farmers for the sake of humanity.
“As laudable as the Ikpako-Ajoki road project is, we don’t want anything that will jeopardise its completion on time.
“But it is my appeal that the state government should for humanity sake meet with these farmers and offer them something for their damaged crops considering the current economic hardship in the country,’’ he said.
But the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr Chris Enehikhare, said the State government would rather threat those preventing and threatening construction workers as criminals than pay compensation.
“I cannot imagine a people who should be happy that development was coming to their communities through the road project, are threatening workers sent by government and demanding for compensation.
“However, we have asked the director in the ministry of Roads and Bridges along with officials from the Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission (EDSOPADEC) to visit the site for on the spot assessment.