A serious crisis is brewing in a sleepy-riverine Ozizza community in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State which shares boarders with Cross River State over reports that a pontoon boat which was inherited by the people from the military government of the defunct Imo State has been allegedly sold to an ‘undisclosed person’.
The alleged sale which has triggered anxiety among youths and elders of the community including a State Assembly lawmaker from the area had been made public following an announcement over the weekend on the State-owned Ebonyi Broadcasting Service through the office of the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala to the effect that the ‘State government has allegedly sold the said property.
About 45 feet in size, the boat which was handed over the people by the military administration of Amadi Ikweche under the old Imo State 1986 to help solve the transportation needs of the people of the area to ferry them across the Ozizza beach to their close neighbours in Igonigoni, Cross River State features a triangular-shaped hull with a wide beam which enabled it to accommodate more passengers.
Members of the community known and celebrated for their fishing prowess told news men that the said radio announcement purporting the sale of the boat came as a rude shock to them as they were neither informed nor consulted by anyone before the purported action was taken.
One of the villagers, Mr. Ikwor Egwu, a middle-aged man and a native of Orrah which comprises a group of about nine villages narrated that they were stunned by the presence of some strange persons in the community who were at the river bank with a claim that they had purchased and came to assess the pontoon boat.
“we had to summon an emergency meeting after asking them to leave our community immediately to avoid being confronted by angry youths before using the traditional ‘omu’ (palm frond) to tie round the boat because this is the only inheritance our fathers in our long journey from Imo to Abia before being carved into the present-day Ebonyi State.
Why would the government not think of either repairing it, procuring a new boat or at least informing us through a meeting, delegation or any form of deliberation whatsoever before coming up with the claim that it has sold our pontoon (boat) just by a mere radio announcement? Who is the said buyer by the way and why was our community not consulted?, he queried.
Mr. Ikwor added: “We feel something is fishy about the whole drama and this is unacceptable just as it is condemnable and we have met at Ogo Orrah (the community’s playground) with a strong resolve to send a letter informing the government of the dangers of such illegal action without following a due process, that it is if the government is even officially aware of the purported sale”.
Another villager, Mr. Ogbonnia Chukwu who also spoke on the matter said the youths of the community will never allow the action go unchallenged unless the government or anybody expressing interest in buying the property does the right thing.
“If they think that there are no men capable of challenging them in this our (Ozizza) community they have to think again because we have a lot of well-to-do men who can square up with anybody especially when we feel our community has been ignored or relegated to the background. We will not allow that no matter who is behind it”, he insisted.
Also speaking, a lawmaker in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Hon. Kingsley Ikoro representing Afikpo North East State constituency for the third time who was also at the meeting told the Press that he was surprised to also hear the announcement purporting the sale of the pontoon boat on air just like the rest of the villagers.
In his words, “It was after I heard the radio announcement to confirm it by myself that I launched investigations into the matter only to discover that it was even a colleague of mine in the House who is behind the purported sale obviously in connivance with some people in government. And our people are saying that even though the government has the right to decide on what to do with it but at least, courtesy demands that they should be informed and carried along in the entire process because it is the community that the pontoon had served their transportation needs and it is still there because they keep a watch over it.”
Hon. Ikoro who quickly waded in to calm the angry youths and elders of his community down reiterated that ordinarily, his people have been facing even greater challenges at the moment exporting their food crops and particularly fishes to neighbouring Cross River State for sales. “Our people even expected the government to come to their aid instead of the reverse being the case. We don’t have basic amenities in this community- not electricity, not good roads, not portable and drinkable water, not even a large market for traders to use and I have been doing my best to see how these good things of life could get to our people
Now, for somebody to just wake up from any side of the bed and think he or she can intrude into this place and transact such business without the knowledge of people of our community is a downright no and I stand with their resolve in this meeting that it will not be allowed. People have to be made to do things right and to do what is right at any point in time and that is what the democracy we are practising is all about- right to air hearing, justice and equity”, he concluded.
He, however, warned that knowing the background of his people, the said buyers should better seek for ways of approaching the community to reach a truce and broker peace with them or they might face resistance having been cautioned to steer clear till things are done right by the people, stating further that the community has his support to take all valid legal and lawful steps including writing officially to the State’s Chief Executive, Engr. David Umahi whom he described as a peace-loving father to bare their views on the matter.
“Our people know and trust the Governor as a man of honesty and a peace-lover. That is why they have always supported him and my party- the PDP. And I am very optimistic that His Excellency, the Governor Umahi I know will not betray that trust. That is why we have to first and foremost officially inform him in writing and also possibly send a delegation to meet with him on this matter. I have assured my people that I stand by them and they trust I will forever do until the right is done”, he concluded.