• Friday, April 12, 2024
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Unless Oron is developed, Akwa Ibom will remain undeveloped – Bassey

Unless Oro is developed, Akwa Ibom will remain undeveloped – Bassey

Against the background of alleged marginalisation of the people of Oron Nation in Akwa Ibom South Senatorial district, Esang Nsa Bassey, president-general of Oro Development Union, a socio-political group in this interview with a select group of journalists including Aniefiok Udonquak, said the development of the entire Akwa Ibom State would be dependent on the development of the Oro Nation. He also spoke against the menace of sea pirates threatening the maritime activities as well as the delay in the completion of several projects located in the area. Excerpts:

The Federal Government awarded contract for the construction of a bridge from Oron in Akwa Ibom to Calabar in Cross River, what has happened since then?

Actually, the contract for the construction of the bridge was awarded in 2013 under the leadership of former President Goodluck Jonathan without funding the project. We hope that the present Federal Government will mobilise contractors to complete the bridge. It’s about 13.5km. The bridge when completed will ease movement from the South-South region to the North East region of the country and boost the economy. Even the people of Northern Cross River will equally benefit. We urge the federal government to make funding arrangements immediately. Oron remains a coastal town and a Nigeria window to other countries such as Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, among others.

So, we want the federal government to reactivate that project, resolve what held it back. They would have signed the funding agreement but there came the issue of alignment where the bridge should start and where it should stop, so we want them to speedily resolve what was the problem. Also, we have the issue of our seashores being constantly washed away; the Federal Government, since it is their duty, should protect our shorelines so that it will not go beyond what we are having at the moment.

There is also the delay in the construction of Nsit Atai-Okobo Road which was to provide an alternative route following the closure of the Uyo-Oron Road as a result of the airport project?

The five local governments in Oro nation have been supporting the state government even up to this moment but I can’t understand why we’ve been marginalised and our road remains like that up till this moment. I will say the present administration is trying to do something about it, until they do it, it is what it is. The truth is that unless you develop Oro, the whole Akwa Ibom State remains undeveloped. Thank God that the state government is trying to do something on parts of the roads. While the state government is doing that, we call on the federal government to work on trunk A road-Oron-Uyo Ikot-Ekpene-Aba. The portion between Aba-Ikot Ekpene is under construction but Uyo-Oron, Ikot Ekpene Axis of trunk A road should be awarded to good contractors and the project completed as soon as possible, it is something that will boost the economy of the area.

How worried are you about the issues surrounding the Ibom deep seaport which is sited in Mbo LGA?

Honestly, Ibaka deep seaport has been embroiled in politics over the years, the Federal government set up an implementation committee to deliver the port within two years, what happened thereafter we cannot comprehend. Till today, the state government has not told us why the federal government had to leave, why the name has to change from Ibaka deep seaport to Ibom deep seaport and where the new location of the seaport is.

I think one day the seaport will be constructed at Ibaka because it has a natural bay; as I said earlier, unless you develop Oron, the rest of the Akwa Ibom State will remain undeveloped, because if you can’t develop a seaport there, I don’t see how this state can develop economically and benefit from blue sea economy that the present federal government is championing. Go to Lagos State, they have Tin Can Island, Apapa wharf, then Lekki seaport and they are building another one in Badagry and we are here struggling to get one seaport. I think we should understand that when the port is constructed, it’s not only Oro people that will benefit from it, everybody will benefit from that. So, nobody should try to stifle the project thinking to stop Oro people from benefiting from it. Also, if the state government allows the proposed solution hub of the oil industry to come up, it will also bring development to the state.

It was reported that the Maritime Academy of Nigeria has been upgraded to a university but nothing seems to have happened since then?

We are worried that Maritime Academy is yet to function as a university after the law establishing it received assent by the then President Muhammadu Buhari in 2022. What is remaining now is for the Federal Government to constitute the governing council and appoint a Vice Chancellor. We hope that the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio will look into it as he promised and ensure its full implementation.

The menace of sea pirates seems to be increasing with maritime businesses at risk, how should this be resolved?

Insecurity has become a problem all over the country. We know that it is getting high in Oron, a once-bubbling community and market in Oron is now a ghost town due to the activities of these people.

When I assumed office, I had a meeting with the ex-militants in this area, they paid me a courtesy visit and issues of insecurity, sea piracy and kidnapping were raised and they (ex-militants) assured me that they would work with me to ensure that insecurity is addressed. If you look at other parts of the country, the governments are using them (ex-militants) to maintain peace by giving them contracts to protect the area as well as pipelines.

So, why is our state government not adopting that? Why is our state government refusing to speak with these ex-militants who agreed to stop militancy and incessant kidnapping in Oron? They said they need the government to assist them in terms of funding and engage them. I use the opportunity to call on the Akwa Ibom State government to address the issues of ex-militants in Oron so as to curb the insecurity issues bedevilling the area.

What are the prospects of the people of Oro nation producing the governor soon?

I have great hope that one day we will have a governor of Oron extraction; we are standing on a three tripod, the other two have had their turns and Oron will one day occupy the hilltop mansion. Irrespective of the marginalisation of Oron people, we will get there. All I know is that political power is not given, it is worked for, we shall raise our sons and daughters who will have the will to work for the power, grab it and run with it.