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Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel has accused youths of Eastern Obolo Local Government Area of the state of destroying a multi-million dollar Coconut Plantation in the state. The governor described the destruction as an “extremely unfair” action against the state government’s investment drive.
Mr Emmanuel who said the incident occurred at a time the state government was about concluding negotiations with foreign investors on the coconut plantation and its refinery urged youth leaders in the state to rise up and condemned the action.
The governor stated this Tuesday while commissioning a 16.71km Abak Ifia – Ikpe Mbak Eyop Road which traversed two local government areas – Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara in the state.
“Today even with all these developments we’re trying to put on ground, people are trying to destroy it. We woke up this morning and the entire coconut plantation that we did that has been fruiting already with fruits.
“The youths of Eastern Obolo went and destroyed all those coconut plantations. A multi-million dollar project is all gone and we have a refinery. So when I tell people how difficult it is to develop Africa you now understand what it means.
“Each of those seedlings, if you go and price them how much in dollars, tell me what the government would do to provide employment and uplift the economic well-being of the people.
“If you can have such a fantastic idea and over 350 people are working in that farm, not even one is from my village. They are all from the three local government areas – Eastern Obolo, Ikot Abasi and Mkpat Enin,” Mr Emmanuel said.
The police spokesperson in Akwa Ibom, Odiko Macdon confirmed the incident on Tuesday, but said no arrest had been made. He said the police were investigating the incident.
An indigene of Eastern Obolo, who requested that his name should not be mentioned in the report because of concern for his safety and security, admitted that part of the plantation had been destroyed but not the entire coconut plantation as claimed by the governor.
He said indigenes of the area were protesting the ongoing remapping in the state, a development he claimed had seen some oil producing communities in the area being ceded to its three neighbouring local government areas including Onna, where Governor Emmanuel hails from.
A staffer of the plantation also confirmed the destruction of parts of the plantation, particularly the one in the Eastern Obolo. He confirmed that the destruction had to do with the ongoing remapping of the area.
Governor Emmanuel as part of his industrialisation drive, inaugurated in 2017 the St. Gabriel Coconut Factory in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area.
The governor while inspecting the project in May 2021 said it would create 1, 300 direct and over 3, 000 indirect jobs when completed. During the commissioning of the project in May 2022, Mr Emmanuel said the revenue base of the state would rise, describing it as a major foreign exchange earner, Vanguard newspaper reported. The state government had earlier in 2020 began the distribution of thousands of coconut seedlings to schools and organisations in the state in its effort to ensure sufficient supply of coconut to the refinery.
Speaking during the Tuesday road commissioning, Mr Emmanuel wondered what he would do with the refinery when the coconut plantation is destroyed. “What am I going to do with the refinery, am I going to carry it on my head?” he said the crowd which came out to witness the commissioning.
He told the people that he was not meant to dampen their spirit and urged them to protect government assets in their areas. “This week we will also be commissioning some power projects. Please protect those assets. Let the people living within those areas know that if you remove one cable you’ve rendered the whole community in darkness. It will not only affect you, now they are going to render thousands of people unemployed. I don’t know how that benefits people,” the governor said.