Nigeria: In its avowed determination to launch Akwa Ibom State into the league of states with increased palm oil production, the State Government has resumed the management of the Dakkada Global Oil Palm Limited, formerly known as Akwa Palms Estate.
Hence, trespassers have been warned to stay off the farms or risk the full wrath of the law. It was the hallmark of the State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno’s visitation Monday to the palm farm, which is situated in six communities in Esit Eket, Urueffong Oruko and Mbo Local Government Areas.
The six villages, namely Etebi Idung Asan, Etebi Akwa Ata, Unyanga, Udung Uko, Ntak Inyang and Orukem, through their village heads and youth leaders also affirmed they’re resolved to surrender the oil palm plantation to the state government to track fast it enhances productivity and development.
Addressing the communities, Governor Umo Eno said that he led the state delegation on a fact-finding mission to monitor the progress recorded at the farm for a full takeover by the government.
He the former Governor, Udom Emmanuel, for the investments made so far, explaining that he was appointed Executive Director of Agriculture Investment with a mandate to revive the plantation by the immediate past administration, a responsibility he said he carried out with diligence until his exit from office and commended Governor Udom Emmanuel for his foresight in resuscitating the Oil palm farm.
“We came here today to ensure that we continue with the work on this facility, to inspect and know what has happened so far. “I was appointed the Executive Director of Agric Investment by the Administration of Deacon Udom Emmanuel, and his mandate on me was to revive this plantation.
“It is not my administration that revived it but the Administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel. We must give credit to whom credit is due. If he did not give me money to put here, we wouldn’t be here today,” he stated.
Governor Eno informed the people that he brought the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, into the project to pave the way for the state to benefit from the Bank’s Oil Palm Development Initiatives. This move prompted Governor Emmanuel to release the sum of two hundred million nairas to facilitate the resuscitation.
“So we thanked him for his foresight and gave us the lead way to start this work. We graded all the roads leading to this plantation and met with the chiefs, community and youth leaders before we started. We brought the CBN here because we wanted and still want to key into the CBN Oil Palm Development initiatives.”
“Other states are benefiting, so Akwa Ibom have to benefit. We know we had an asset that if we develop properly, we can benefit from this facility with the then Governor giving us that right.”
“I remember I told Governor Udom Emmanuel that we could revamp this place. He asked me how much I considered would be enough for a start. I told him that if he gave us two hundred million nairas, we would start something that could attract the interest of the CBN. His Excellency asked at that retreat what he would do to me if he gave me two hundred million and I could not deliver on the promise. I asked him to sack me if I can not deliver.”
“First, he brought out his pen and said he has found a committed and serious person and signed the money for the project”, Governor Eno explained.
He expressed satisfaction that despite his absence, the money had been used judiciously by the directorate with the provision of a perimeter fence, construction of buildings within the plantation, opening up and grading of roads within the farm, procurement of seedlings, payment of staff entitlements and retirement benefits, among other things and commended the Acting Director Agricultural Investment, Ofonmbuk Nelson, for living up to his assigned task of managing the farm.
Governor Eno used the occasion to debunk the notion that billions of naira have been sunk into the project, noting that two hundred million nairas was put into the project in addition to the approval granted for payment of staff claims, emphasizing that he would not approve proposals with no details of expenditure.
He affirmed that retrenched staff of the plantation had been duly remunerated except those with issues on their account details, assuring that they would be paid when the issues were rectified.
The state Chief Executive frowned at the actions of some youths of the host communities who molest workers in the plantation, saying that he came to seek the consent of the six host communities on the takeover of the Estate and advised them to desist from such embarrassment, insisting that government will invoke its powers to checkmate the incursion.
He told the community that oil palm investment is money-spinning and that they should encourage such venture, and assured the youths of gainful employment in the plantation, which he said would be upgraded to standard with facilities and security gadgets, thanking the host communities for their decision to hand over the farm to government.
The Governor charged the Police commissioner and other security agencies to make their services available, assuring him to build a security post and provide two patrol vehicles at the farm.
Welcoming the guests to the event, the Chairman Esit Eket Local Government Council, Rt Hon Iniobong Robinson, applauded the Governor’s interest in the project, saying that his visit to the plantation has rekindled hope of the host communities that the project would receive priority government attention.
He said that the plantation had been abandoned for upwards of thirty years, causing the host community to feast on the palm fruits, with some people developing a sense of entitlement to the detriment of the government and likened the decision to resuscitate the oil palm plantation to the biblical miracle of turning off water to wine, noting that the host community is happy with his visit.
Also, the Acting Director of Agricultural Investment, Ofonmbuk Nelson, in his review of the project, said that resuscitation of the Estate dates back to May 2020 when the Governor, Pastor Umo Eno, then the Director of Agricultural Investment, took it upon himself to fence a section of the plantation, provide security post, Administrative Block, Nursery, procured forty-seven thousand seedlings from NIFO and install a Mill in the farm.
He, however, requested government intervention in the challenges confronting the farm, which he mentioned to include a lack of electricity and safety of staff who have been serially molested and prevented from harvesting the palm fruits.
On his part, the State Police Commissioner, Mr Olatoye Durosinmi, described the taking over of the plantation as a dawn of a new era, warning the youths to desist from trespassing on the farm.
He said culprits will be arrested and dealt with as the law permits and thanked the Governor for providing modern security gadgets and patrol vehicles to assist the police in their duties on the farm.
In his goodwill message, Professor Bassey Etang particularly expressed appreciation to Governor Eno for his decision to visit the Estate barely one month after his assumption of office.
This was affirmed by Dr Esio Oquong Udo, a former House of Representatives member, who said his decision to touch the lives of the people is noble and commendable and expressed optimism that with his visit, the farm will reckon with its founding days when people from far and near used to procure palm oil in commercial quantities from the farm.
Governor Umo Eno was accompanied on the tour by his Deputy, Sen Akon Eyakenyi, Secretary to the State Government Prince Enobong Uwah and other top government functionaries.