In Akwa Ibom State, there is a wise saying that, he who is dancing does not know how his back is. Ordinarily, one should not bother to write a rejoinder to a publication with obvious display of presumptuous egotism by a self styled Ibibio lawyer and Human Rights Activist, but it behoves, if not for anything else, to put the record straight so that no member of the public should be beguild by the numerous misinformation so carelessly peddled by Chief Nkeruwem Akpan, the Abuja based Ibibio lawyer.
First of all, when the writer of this skewed and eminently befuddling article mentioned that he is an Ibibio man, there is a tendency that an unwary reader may mistake him for a detribalised man whose interest is to fight the cause of justice, as he has brazenly boasted. But nothing is further from the truth. Given the inordinate and desperate display by Oro nation in contesting every information and explanations emanating from the government circles concerning the location of the sea port, or the reasons thereof, one can conveniently suggest that this writer is probably a paid cannon fodder set loosed to further the chicanery and ignoble schemes aimed at forcing the hand of government to reverse its decision to site the seaport at Ibeno. It must fail!
Second of all, one would have expected that, given the insufferable and all-knowing cockiness displayed by Chief Nkereuwem Akpan, he should have supplied the details of the paperwork on Ibaka Deep Seaport, which he claims to have studied, to the general public, if not all, at least, sufficient snippets to buttress his assertions. That he failed to do so was not an oversight but a clear testament to the falsity of his claims; because, to say the truth, there is no such document in existence, and there is no contrary information which the government is suppressing regarding the Deep Seaport project that favours Ibaka.
Suffice therefore, to refute the spurious and nebulous claims of Chief Nkereuwem Akpan, by considering each of the 12 points he listed seriatim.
- The so called feasibility study which Chief Akpan claimed was conducted, was never exclusively carried out for Ibaka. Instead, Ibaka was among the five locations which a study was conducted for the possible location of the Deep Seaport. Others were Oron, Tom Shot, Okposo, West Point and Seaside. Out of these five locations the study revealed that the best area for the location of the Deep Seaport was the Seaside. Ibaka lies at the estuary of the Cross River and to locate a Deep Seaport there would have entailed a lot of expenditure as against the less tedious and far better location which the Seaside area provided. Sketch of the area is herein supplied. The question of using the feasibility study of Ibaka to apply in Ibeno is just a figment of the writer’s imagination.
- The Environmental Impact Assessment for the project is handled by a company by name Advisan while no less a company than Pricewater HouseCoopers are the project managers. As we speak, there is already a machinery in place for robust interactions with all stakeholders concerned in the project. Needless to say that during these interactions valuable information is gleened by the experts who are saddled with the responsibility of developing a thorough report that will assist the government and investors to decide on the best options to mitigate the possible environmental impacts of this laudable and economically viable project. The fears expressed by Chief Nkereuwem Akpan about using the assessment of Ibaka to apply in Ibeno, even if it were well founded, which it is not, further exposed the lawyer and his haphazard, jumpy, juncaceous predilection. Anybody with a wee level of comportment should have thought through before penning something so banal.
- The writer also asked what the hectares of land acquired from Ibaka would be used for and even ignorantly added if it would be added to Ibeno. Coming from a lawyer, one has to rather die crying than die laughing over such display of flippancy, inexperience and ignorance by the learned Chieftain. Being a lawyer myself, I must say that Chief Akpan’s reasoning here is a shame to the legal profession. By way of explanation, for those who may not know, the whole area covered by the project is about 16,500 hectares of land spanning two local governments of Mbo and Ibeno. Ibom Deep Seaport is only a fraction of an entire Industrial Complex and business hub. The Deep Seaport covers a total of 2,500 hectares in Ibeno, while the Industrial City covers 14,000 hectares of land lying in Mbo local government area. By the way, which government can successfully offer one community’s land to another without sparking off a vicious strife? Or could this be Chief Nkereuwem Akpan’s contrivance and subtle devising to create hostilities between the two brothers of Mbo and Ibeno?
- Contrary to the unfounded stories and rumours spread by Chief Nkereuwem Akpan, Ibaka was never recommended as the site for the Deep Seaport project and Governor Udom Emmanuel has not changed the location of the project. The approval for the location and construction of a Deep Seaport lies within the exclusive rights of the federal government. The project, though proposed by the government of Obong Victor Attah, only received the approval of the federal government in 2015 under the administration of Governor Godswill Akpabio, when the Outline Business Case, OBC, and Commencement of Procurement Phase were given a nod by the Federal Executive Council upon a presentation at the FEC by the then Minister of Transportation. Before the presentation by the Minister, the Ministerial Project Development Steering Committee had studied a proposal, that is, the Outline Business Case submitted to it by FELAK Concepts and Maritime & Transport Business Solutions, MTBS, two international maritime consultancy companies which were hired by the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio to develop a feasibility study of the proposed project. The OBC recommended Seaside-Ibeno- out of the five possible locations as the best and the most economically viable site for the Deep Seaport project. That is what informed the decision of the Federal Executive Council in approving Ibeno for the project. The government of Governor Udom Emmanuel only continued from where the previous administration stopped.
- It is also worrisome that Chief Nkereuwem Akpan would compare the depth of water forming the Cross River estuary, which is where Ibaka lies, to that of the Atlantic Ocean, not to mention his sweeping and completely preposterous statement that there are thousands of pipelines crisscrossing the ocean waters of Ibeno where the Deep Seaport is to be sited. Yes, there are pipelines laid mostly by ExxonMobil, but are they in the thousands? No. Factually speaking therefore, there are two pipelines owned by Exxonmobil which connect from Qua Iboe Terminal to its loading bay at Idoho platform. Yet, where these pipelines pass through are very far away from the proposed Deep Seaport location. The natural draught at Ibeno stands at 17.5 metres as against the depth of 11 metres at Ibaka. The Atlantic Ocean, which is less than 20 nautical miles to the Seaside where the Deep Seaport is to be located, cannot be described as shallow water. That description further throws a joke at the learned gentleman’s assertions in his write up. Ibaka bay lies on the Cross River estuary with a marshy channel that links it to the Atlantic Ocean. Its shallow depth and siltation is clearly visible in the satelite shot annexed to this rejoinder for everyone to see.
- Out of the five locations along Oron, Mbo and Ibeno coastline, Ibeno was considered after rigourous scientific studies by crack maritime consultancy firms based on various factors which include nearness to Deep Sea Trade Route, minimal environmental impact, ample space for variations and location within the Industrial City, minimal soil improvement, low maintenance cost, minimal social impact, low research and technical solutions, limited population, and nautical accessibility. These studies were carried out and concluded in 2014, during the administrations of former president Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Godswill Akpabio, and were completely devoid of parochial, tribal or cultural sentiments as Chief Nkereuwem Akpan inexorably attempted to whip up in his article.
- Another very laughable claim in Chief Nkereuwem Akpan’s publication is that Mrs Mfon Usoro’s panel exceeded their Terms of Reference by recommending the relocation of the port from Ibaka to Ibeno. It is pertinent here to point out to the general public that the Ministerial Project Development Steering Committee is a committee chaired by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and made up of several Federal Government Agencies. Akwa Ibom State government’s participation in that committee owes only to its position as the proponent of the Deep Seaport project. There is no way Mrs Mfon Usoro could be accused of exceeding her terms of reference when the Steering Committee already had a world class report to consider before it. Barr. Nkereuwem Akpan is not the first lawyer to have raised concerns about the Federal Government’s choice of Ibeno for locating the Deep Seaport. It could be remembered that a firm of lawyers, Ibritam & Associates, whose office is in Abuja was hired by Oro Union to send a petition with reference number IDSP/02/21/MOT, to the Federal Ministry of Transportation. After a careful study of the issues raised in the said petition, that ministry had replied the law firm in a widely publicised letter with reference number FMT/0992/S.3/VII/273, dated 22/4/2021, wherein itdismissed all allegations raised by the lawyers as “lacking in merit and unsupportive of the reality on ground”. Barr. Nkereuwem Akpan would do well to locate that letter and read for himself the response from the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
- I will fault Barr. Nkereuwem Akpan for making a what the eminent philosopher, Gilbert Ryle, called categorical mistake, which is an attempt to compare two sets of things which do not belong together. Before a port of the magnitude which the federal government has magnanimously approved for our great state can be embarked on in the the twenty first century, sufficient studies would have been conducted by the government and even the investors on the viability of such project before funds could be secured for its take off. Between Chief Nkereuwem Akpan and the expert advice by no less a reputable company than MTBS of Netherlands, whose opinion should be taken seriously? As we speak, government has already procured private equity particpation from core investors for the project. One wonders why Chief Nkereuwem Akpan would venture to compare the decision to site the Deep Seaport at Ibeno to some anachronistic and redundant theories relating to Calabar port. Ibeno lies at the Atlantic Ocean. Could that be said of Calabar which port was constructed at the Cross River canal? No sensible man should pay heed to such logical fiasco from the Abuja based lawyer and supposed activist. That attempt again fails against better reason and lies face down.
- As for the ominous certainty of change which the Abuja based lawyer and Chief attempted to paint, one can only assure him that Governor Udom Emmanuel took over from Godswill Akpabio, and he inherited this project, saw the great potential for opening up our state for economic growth which the project portends and ran assiduously with the vision. Government, they say, is a continuum. My hope is that this government would pursue not only the Seaport project but the entire industrial city to a point where another governor would have no option than to continue in it, being a long term programme.
- Finally, I would implore all right thinking citizens of Akwa Ibom State to rise up, in line with the Dakkada Creed of this administration and take a stand above small-minded and old fashioned limitations which come out of our past, look beyond tribal sentiments and encourage the government to work towards placing Akwa Ibom State on the world map of progress. This project has the potential to generate over 300,000 direct employment for Akwa Ibom citizens! Our greatest concern should be how to get ourselves and our children prepared to take up the massive opportunities which this laudable project will throw up in the very near future. The criminal, archaic and abrahamic pull down attitude which had become our identity in the past must be discouraged in its totality as we look towards a future of possibilities and opportunities which the government of Governor Udom Emmanuel is striving to entrench. People like Chief Nkereuwem Akpan need to examine themselves thoroughly to see if they fit into such a future.
Written by Diamond Akpanika Esq. Solace Chambers, 72 Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo, Akwa Ibom. 07039584422