* Onofiok Luke, Speaker, AKHA
Lasting solutions to the lingering feud between the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, and their Udung Okung and Ukpatak Afaha Eduok host communities is underway, as members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Public Petitions visited the restricted portion of the Marina Road, yesterday, on a fact finding mission.
The visit was sequel to a motion brought before House by the member representing Oron/Udung Uko state constituency, Mr. Effiong Bassey, seeking the resolution of the legislature urging the state government’s intervention in the arbitrary and contentious closure of the access road to the two communities, which he noted has grounded economic activities in both communities.
Rector of the Maritime ACADEMY of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Duja Effedua, was said to have closed the road with a built-up wall without providing an alternative road to the institution’s host communities, thereby denying natives of the affected communities access to their kith and kin
While frowning at the failure of Mr. Effedua to honour an earlier invitation to appear before the assembly committee, the chairman, Mr Aniefiok Dennis, who represented by his deputy, Mr. Otobong Jonathan, restated the need to amicably resolve the impasse before it degenerates to hostilities.
Mr. Jonathan, at the inspection the of the blocked portion of the road, noted that defiance to the outcry by the communities could aggravate tension, querying a newly built-up wall behind what was hitherto a see-through gate.
He assured that the Assembly would find workable solution to the impasse so as to ameliorating the plight of people of the affected communities.
Jonathan stressed the need for a harmonious relationship between both parties, even as he expressed concern over the situation which he described as worrisome.
On his part, the Oron/Udung Uko lawmaker, Effiong Bassey, who quarried why the area’s socio-economic nerve should be walled-off without explanation, narrated the shabby treatment dealt him by the Academy’s Rector following the clamour by the Oron people to reverse the action, calling to mind that the closed road pre-dates the establishment of the institution.
Another member of the committee and member representing Abak State Constituency, Mr. Friday Iwok, while lauding the evolution of the academy, advocated for a peaceful co-existence, as no meaningful development can occur in an atmosphere of rancour, noting that the situation should not degenerate to where the host communities would view their magnanimity in donating lands for the institution as a curse.
In his account, the MAN Rector, Mr. Effedua, who earlier denied closing down the access road, blamed the former Rector of the institution for allowing the thoroughfare without federal government’s APPROVAL.
Effedua argued that the road constituted a security risk to the school, saying that the host communities have rejected several gestures aimed at a peaceful resolution.
Flanked by some Management Staff of the academy, Mr. Effedua whose explanations were punctuated by rebuttals from some members of the host communities made a case for the creation of alternative routes, listing he has graded three roads, to ease access to the communities among other palliatives he has extended them.
Speaking on behalf of the communities, an elder, Mr. Stanley Ating, in company of the Clan Head of Afaha, Francis Eyo, hinted that the road, until Effedua’s appointment as Rector eight months ago, had existed for over fifty years.
Ating appealed to the State government to open the road as its closure has made life unbearable for people of both communities.
Elder Ating who was flanked by leaders from both communities lamented that the closure apart from denying them access to their farmlands and the river, which is the mainstay of their survival, has also affected school enrolments in the area, as some of their children have had to discontinue their education due to the inaccessibility.
The committee promised the commitment of the sixth Assembly and the current state administration to the welfare of citizens, assuring that a date for both parties to appear before the House committee would soon be communicated.