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A-Ibom Fire Disaster: Two Cans At Daggers-Drawn Over Compensation


Trouble is currently brewing between Efiat and Ukong clans in Mbo local government area of Akwa Ibom State following a fire disaster in the area. At the root of the looming showdown is James Town community in Efiat clan accusing its neighbouring Ibaka community in Ukong clan of misinforming and misleading the state government on the fire incident which they insisted actually occurred in two villages of Efak Okodi and Edak Edat popularly known as ‘James Town’ in Efiat Clan and not Ibaka community as claimed by Ibaka residents and widely reported in both the state electronic and print media.

Vanguard Metro learnt that community leaders from Ibaka had immediately notified relevant national and state government authorities of the incident. The visit of the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo, to the Clan head of Ukong, His Royal Highness Edet Okon Isemin and the subsequent distribution of relief materials and disbursement of funds to the victims in Ibaka days after by the state government appeared to have stoked up the anger of the Efiat residents who have risen to condemn the development. Matter of urgency Deputy Youth President of Ibaka community, Ini Bassey, who spoke to newsmen few days at the scene of the incident said that the inferno happened in his community. Leaders of James Town community in Efiat clan are insisting that the state government should look into the issue and treat it as a matter of urgency by making sure that the right thing was done. Etubom Ekpo Bassey Ekpo (v), in a statement by his solicitor, Chief Antigha Williams Andem, dated February 24, 2016, had in Uyo said that it was wrong for the state government to have acknowledged Ibaka instead of James Town where, according to him, the fire incident actually occurred.
He was of the opinion that the Deputy Governor was misled to visit the clan head of Ukong in Ibaka, instead of that of Efiat, HRH Asuquo Okpo in James Town where he claimed that the fire incident actually occurred, a development which he perceived as a well calculated plot to deny the real victims who come from his own community from getting government assistance. Etubom Ekpo stressed: “The scene of the fire incident which is James Town was surprisingly manipulated and aired in Akwa Ibom State Radio as Ibaka. Ordinarily the unfortunate incident should not be a subject of politics but we are reliably informed that the people of Ibaka, a neighbouring community, have been acknowledged as the victims of the fire incident and compensated leaving out the real victims who are indigenes of James Town. Regrettably the Deputy Governor was misled to pay a visit over the incident to the head of Ukong Clan in the person of HRH Hon Edet Okon Isemin, instead of HRH Asuquo Okon Okpo of Efiat Clan who is in charge of James Town”.
Serious tension He, therefore, appealed to the Governor to use his good office to correct this anomaly by ensuring that James Town victims were the proper persons entitled to the relief materials and compensation, even as he noted that the anomaly has started generating serious tension in James Town. Reacting to the allegations the lawmaker representing Mbo constituency, Samuel Ufuo, who had raised the matter on the floor of the house, refuted the claims that the incident occurred in James Town and manipulated in favour of his people of Ibaka. Ufuo said: “It is not true that the fire incident occurred in Efiat. We went there with the Deputy Governor to the spot, so that place is Ibaka and not Efiat. Efiat is when you cross the water to the other side”. He said that he had, however, never received any complaint from Efiat about their people being affected in the inferno, noting that the state government followed due process in the disbursement of relief materials to the victims. The lawmaker, an indigene of Ibaka, noted that there was actually a dispute over which of the two clans owned the said land where the fire occurred. “Sometimes ago, that particular area was in dispute between Efiat and Ibaka, so the matter went to court and I believe it was resolved in favour of Ibaka people. Along the line, it was very difficult for them to cross to the other side to come and have land. So that whole area has been managed and controlled by Ibaka for some years now,” he informed.
On allegations by Efiat people that the whole thing was a plot to deny victims of the fire incident from their place of compensation, Ufuo said: “The thing is that in that area you have people from Ghana, Yoruba and other places living there; so we did not discriminate against anybody. “What we did is that we gathered names of those who were affected, and the direct beneficiaries were only those given the relief materials and not to the village. So we touched those who were affected, real victims, irrespective of where they come from”. Ownership of the land But an aggrieved elder of James Town who did not want his name mentioned was quick to fault the lawmaker on the ownership of the land. He recalled that the land where the fire occurred now known as James Town was sold to the people of Efiat Clan by Ibaka people during the colonial era. According to him: “Efiat people surveyed the area and documented it.
That land was where Ibaka people used to dump their dead bodies”. He added that an indigene of Efiat known as King James who was enlightened and well traveled merchant dealing with the then colonial authorities decided to acquire that portion of land for his business. “That was how the land got its name James Town. It was when an oil company came and discovered oil in that portion of land that Ibaka people started agitating that they are the original owners of that land. It was the battle of the ownership of that portion of land that caused the communal crisis between the two communities in 1994. The matter was taken to court and the court is yet to give a ruling on the matter. The boundary between Efiat and Ibaka is just a walking distance.
They forgot that they sold that portion of land to an Efiat man and I want to tell you that it is Efiat people that have been collecting compensation and benefit from the oil company there. So that is the true story about James Town,” he explained. Some Government House sources who spoke on the ground of anonymity, however, blamed the James Town people for not bringing the matter to government notice immediately like the Ibaka community did. “I think that the best thing they can do now is to go through the proper channel of informing government so that they can be included when the bigger relief materials come, instead of going to say all sorts of things in the media,” one of them said. The Deputy Governor flagged off the state disbursement of relief material and financial packages to the victims of the fire disaster in Ibaka as well as in other communities of Nton in Iwouchang in Ibeno LGAs based on earlier evaluation and verification by officials of State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA. (Culled from Vanguard).


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