Cross River State government makes peace between Ayip Eku Oil Palm and landlords of host communities
by Amawu Cletus Albert Amawu
(Note from editor: Wingsong M-House Palm Oil Investment limited is listed as having as director Nigerian businessman Walter Wagbatsoma, who was convicted in 2018 for involvement in a multi-billion dollar fuel subsidy fraud)
The Cross River State Government through the Ministry of Crops and Irrigation Development has waded into the long- standing disagreement, and brokered peace among five landlord Communities in Akamkpa Local Government Area and Ayip Eku Oil palm company limited.
The Communities who were contending over the equity distribution of ground rent by Wing Song M house (core investment company of Ayip Eku Oil palm Estate) finally reached a mutual understanding today after series of previous engagement with the ministry.
During the presentation of bank drafts to the landlord Communities in his office, the Commissioner for Crops and Irrigation Development, Hon. Johnson Ebokpo expressed happiness over the resolutions of the Communities, noting that it was fulfilling to witness the consummation of Ayip Eku Oil palm company limited in the era of His Excellency, senator Bassey Otu.
Commissioner Ebokpo maintained that business drives development and urged the landlord Communities to create enabling environment for the Oil palm business to operate seamlessly while also charging the Investors to ensure that the Communities benefit beyond compensations.
He appreciated the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr. Ekpe Bassey for mediating and resolving the lingering disagreement among the landlord Communities.
Also speaking, the representative of Ayip Eku Oil Palm limited, Hon. John Gaul Lebo thanked all parties for the mutual understanding reached, assuring the Communities that the company will collaborate with the Cross River State Government to deliver dividends such as grants, solar lights, water supply, access road, among others.
He informed that the company in line with the new federal government plan has drawn a development model that will place Eku clan as the biggest Oil palm belt in Africa, adding that the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) to set up a licensed Oil palm radio station in the Estate.
Hon. Lebo encouraged the Communities to invest in Oil palm business through cooperative societies as the company will offer support of providing improved seedlings as well as high patronage.
In the same vein, the President of Oil palm growers association of Nigeria (OPGAN) and the Administrator of Ayip Eku Estate, Mr. Joe Onyiuke assured the Communities of a rewarding relationship with the association and the company while also sueing for sustained peace in the coming years.
In a vote of thanks, the Chairman of Ayip Eku Estate Landlords joint Committee, Ntufam Innocent Ntuyang, expressed satisfaction at the resolve of the impasse within the Communities and for witnessing the presentation of bank drafts to the Communities.
Ntufam Ntuyang averred that the presentation ceremony which would have taken place over 10 years ago , marks the beginning of the Development of Ayip Eku Oil palm Estate and the surrounding Communities as well as the beginning of small and medium scale oil palm development within the area.
He expressed thanks to God for the wisdom of the Commissioner for Crops and Irrigation Development and his Permanent Secretary in restoring peace within the Communities.
The meeting climaxed in signing of necessary documents by all the parties and presentation of bank drafts totalling 108,000,000 naira as payment for ground rent to the landlord Communities from 2008 to 2023.
The five Communities which were well represented by their Village heads, youth leaders and women are; Akor, Okarara, Iku, Abung and New Ndebiji.
Directors of the Ministry also witnessed the signing and presentation ceremony.