Widows numbering over hundred in Okambi, Igwo, Atiekpe and Ikwomikwu communities in Obudu Local Government Area of Cross River State have protested over the alleged seizure of their farm lands for construction of International Passenger and Cargo Airport in the area.
Protesting at the site of the project on Tuesday, the leader of the group, Mrs. Agness Agba, alleged that the contractors destroyed their farm lands, houses and took over their ancestral homes without compensation.
Regretting the action of the state government, the protesters said that the mostly affected were widows from the four communities, who have raised the alarm over the destruction of their palm plantations and farms worth hundreds of millions of naira.
Mrs. Agba lamented their living condition and the untold hardship the proposed International Passenger and Cargo Airport has brought on them.
“We regret voting Governor Ben Ayade for the second time because of the kind of hardship we are now facing. Our farms including palm estate have been destroyed. For me, the palm estate was my pension and retirement plan as well as only major source of income for and my children
“It seems we have voted ourselves into hell fire with the kind of treatment we are now getting. I am over 60 years, I retired as a teacher and I have lost my husband. I have eight children some are grown up and married but the ones with me I have to train.
“All my hope is on the palm estate that has been destroyed. I have no other means to survive with my children; it’s my major source of income.
“The authorities should please take the Cargo Airport project to somewhere else because they have taken all our land and have no way to farm. I can’t start planting new ones now. I feel pained in my soul,” she said.
Another widow, Mrs. Georgina Okwang, said her farm was not only destroyed but that her house was attacked and some part vandalized because she protested against the railing over of her farm as well as destruction of her crops.
She said: “I was sleeping that faithful night when a group of armed youths broke my windows and glasses and they tried to gain access into my house if not for the iron doors and window protectors.
“They are using thugs and armed men to terrorize us because we said we don’t want airport. They have destroyed my farm and crops, I mainly plant rice, and cocoa, groundnut and other things and I do this every year
“Since I lost my husband I am like a father and mother at the same time. I now beg for food, even cassava because the ones in my farm have been destroyed because of airport,” she decried.
When newsmen contacted the former Special Adviser to Governor Ben Ayade on Technical, Mr Eric Akpo said “It is not true that widows, youths or anybody for that matter are being attacked in Obudu over the proposed Obudu International Passenger and Cargo Airport. It is totally false.”
Eric, who is the Task Force Chairman on the Airport project said, “Why will they protest when we have paid over 70% of the compensation for the lands acquired to the host communities? Neighbouring communities are also appealing that we include them even though we have not acquired their lands,” he stated.
It would be recalled that Cross River State has an Airport named Bebi situated at about twenty minutes drives to Obudu local government area which has been abandoned and the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar.