*Says govt. had assured communities of adequate compensation
* Real Reason project site was extended- SSA

The Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Barr. Orji Uchenna Orji, has described as rented, the crowd that protested on Monday, September 16, 2019 over the siting of international airport in Ezza land.
He said those that even prote
sted were asked why they were protesting, but they couldn’t give any cogent reason for the protest, adding that the issues they raised, government had already discussed it with them and they gave their consent for the project to be sited in their community.
Orji revealed this on Tuesday September 17, while reacting to the recent protest by the people of Aguogboriga, Umuoghara in Ezza North local government area of Ebonyi state.
The community had protested the extension of the project to their area, and pleaded with government to take a vast empty land in Agu Umuoghara in the area for construction of the International Airport.
The protesters who carried their properties to the site to protest the acquisition of their lands, accused some of their stakeholders of masterminding the extension to enable them build hotels and other facilities in the area.
During the protest, Elder Aguiyi Oke, Elder Ignatius Akochi, Elder Alieze Igwe, Nwafor Toochukwu, Anyigor Innocent, Mrs. Obioma Okohu and Mrs. Cecilia Nwafor all spoke to journalists.
Noting they were not against construction of the International Airport but that their Aguogboriga community which they described as their ancestral homes should not be included as the project sites and according to them, they cant leave the area.
They claimed that their crops have been destroyed with bulldozers and that no records of the crops and land owners were taken before the bulldozers started clearing the lands in the community as a sign that they would be compensated.
The commissioner in his reaction said before the decision to site the project in Ezza land was reached, consultations were made with consideration to the issue of proximity to neighbouring and centrality and location of the airport and the lot fell on Ezza land.
Then, stakeholders of the communities were invited by the Governor, Engr. David Nweze Umahi, and after their discussions, they were satisfied and gave their consent for the construction of the international airport in the five communities.
He said the stakeholders also raised issues of displacement and destruction of crops and economic trees, and right there at the meeting, Umahi assured them that adequate compensations would be made as regards to their complains and the people left satisfied.
“Let me say that the Governor didn’t only seek consent of the land owners, the Governor met with owners of the land across the communities. You recall that it is not only one community that has the land, we have Oriuzor, Umuoghara, Umuezeoka , Umuezeokoha and Amuzu communities in Ezza South and North. These are the particular communities that own the land and consultations were made in the various communities that have that land and decisions were reached.
“I don’t want to bore you on the importance of the airport but if you take a look at what is happening in Ethiopia, that is their major source of revenue so we also know that Ebonyi never had Airport. We have been patronizing Enugu Airport all these while just like now we are patronizing Owerri to take a flight to other parts of the world.
“What we saw yesterday by a handful of people is not what we should give attention to, this is because the Governor has met severally with the people over the issue of the land and the issue of compensation was also resolved. It was agreed that enumeration be made so that where there is existing buildings and economic trees, cost be made so that adequate compensation be made.
“The Governor has shown a lot of love to Ezza North. Before this administration, the people were somehow neglected but the Governor feel is not going to be so in his time. I think we should treat it with a wave of hand. Is coming from people who in one way or the other blackmail a responsible government like this one. It is a handful of people who were sent to come and demonstrate and I can tell you, they didn’t know why they came there. They were not properly informed” he reiterated.
The commissioner noted that if the airport is constructed in this present regime, there will be economic boom in the state, adding, “If we have airport, land will appreciate in that area. So this airport is worthwhile and should be embraced by everyone. The issue is that our governor can never be distracted for any reason. The issue of land for siting of the project has been approved by the communities and the issue of establishment has been approved by the federal government and work is ongoing and compensation will be made to those who have buildings there and economic trees. The Governor also gave directive that no building should be demolished until enumeration and cost is made, Orji stated”.
He averred that the government of any given state has the right to acquire any land for public use especially those lands which have not been developed according to land use act In line with the rules. And that the essence of siting the project is to give Ezza people employment, “when the youths are employed, insecurity will come down” he added.
On his part, the Senior Special Assistant on Airport Project, Hon. Joseph Nwaobashi, revealed the real reason the project was expanded.
He said that during the visit of the Ministry of Aviation staff that came on inspection to the project site before it’s approval, they discovered that the wind driven wave went further as such, instructed that the project site should be expanded to where the wind driven wave gets to.
He said after receiving the report from the Ministry, they went back and briefed the communities affected on the new development, and even engaged the stakeholders that went from community to community telling them about the new development.
His words: “When those from the federal Ministry of Aviation came for inspection of the project site, it was discovered that the wave driven wind shifted inside, so, that was what led to the extension of the airport location, which cuts across five communities.
“The five communities are, Amuzu community in Ezza South LGA, Oriuzor, Umuoghara, Umezokoha, Umuezeoka all Ezza North LGA.
“But the part of Ezza South which is Amuzu community that is affected is only the entrance. So we now started by first of all having meetings with the Ezeogos to let them know of the new development.
“We also had a meeting where all the stakeholders in the affected areas went from community to community and addressed them. We told them about the new development.
“We told them it’s not that government wants to displace them and collect their land by force. We explained to them and they all accepted. After the meeting they said they have actually understood, that initially nobody informed them properly.
“Before the extension, when we got to a certain stage, the Governor heard of their complains and invited them to government house, which all stakeholders in the communities, youths and even women came. He now asked them what they actually need, is it that they don’t want the airport to be sited in Ezza land, they said no, that they want it but that the people that are directly affected where will they go to?.
“So right there all the Ezeogos agreed that the people affected, each community will look for empty land where those people will be relocated. That his Excellency will do anything humanly possible to compensate them, possibly build house where they will be relocated to.
“They also complained that their crops were being destroyed, His Excellency now ordered that they should not touch their crops anymore.
“Since then, we don’t touch any farmland, any place there is farmland we work round it and leave the crops. His Excellency said after sometime now, that the people will come and enumerate those crops and the economic trees then they will be compensated.
“So I was surprised to hear that the people were protesting.
Nwaobashi maintained that the protesters were sponsored by the opposition that doesn’t want good thing to be in Ezza land.
“Any claim that the extension of the project site was for stakeholders to use it for their hotel businesses, or any other private business is a total lie.
“I have never had any private meeting with any of them and all the deliberations made were in the open and it was group meetings. If anybody said I told them that the extension was for stakeholders’ private businesses, that person should say such to my face.
“The project is a welcome development, even the stakeholders of Ezza land welcomed this project, and we cannot just fold our hands watching those that don’t like good things disrupt this work that have started. We know too well that his Excellency will do anything humanly possible to complete the project before the end of his tenure”.
“We have identified the people that protested yesterday. Immediately I got the information, I drove straight to the site, I met with some of them who were still there. Even some of them agreed that they were members of the committee inaugurated to see to the welfare of the those that will be displaced and ensure that the project go on smoothly.
“So I asked them what they want, they even told me that it was one of their stakeholders that came back and had a meeting with them a day before the protest. I reminded them that they met with stakeholders of their community, and that his Excellency also met with them on this issue and they accepted all the project. I asked them what do you really want, they said they were being pushed to protest, and the reason, they don’t know.
He maintained that those that protested were some from Umuoghara community, adding, “and this is a project that cuts across five communities.
“They said the airport site should be taken to another place, where will you take it to that people will not be affected? And there is expansion because people from the Ministry of Aviation came and stated that the wave driven wind actually fall at that place.
“The people that will be displaced from there will be adequately compensated.
“I’m from Umuezeokoha, and in Ezza land, our ancestral home is Onueke, so they are now claiming that that place is their ancestral home, what of us living at Oshiegbe, is Oshiegbe not our ancestral home? What of government projects sited in other local governments like In Izzi land. There is stadium in Izzi land, construction of another one is ongoing. They also have the University. Then when you go to Ikwo, you talk of federal University, College of Education, and some other projects located there which also displaced some people.
“In Ezza land we don’t have any other institution or project located there, this is the first so we cannot fold our hands and watch people disrupt it. There is no way development will come and it won’t affect people and the project cannot be sited on the air” he stated.
Also a stakeholder from one of the communities, Chief Chukwuma Usulor, spoke to newsmen.
He pleaded with his people to welcome the project as it will create a lot of opportunities for them and remove Ezza from backwardness.
Usuolr said other local governments are benefiting from such project and that Ezza land shouldn’t miss this opportunity, while urging the government to ensure that the affected communities are adequately compensated.

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