The Okuni community in Ikom Local Council of Cross River State, the Olulumo/Okuni clan head, Okim Anthony Ori Ndoma and three others have sued the state government and two other defendants for N2 billion, as general damages.
The claimants, who are registered trustees of the Rainforest Resources and Development Centre (RRDC), are also seeking an injunction restraining the state government from the construction of the 275km superhighway project across their land pending the determination of an earlier suit.
In an affidavit to support their motion, Odey Oyama said: “The proposed road project would take up its entire lands, forests, river, rivulets, ponds, streams, brooks, businesses, churches, shrines, mines, minerals, ancestral artefacts, graves and other monuments.
However, in the substantive suit filed by their counsel, O. N. Agbor, the community is seeking an order for the state government to pay N2 billion as general damages for “the destruction of their cultural heritage and natural resources.”They are also seeking an order declaring government’s forceful acquisition of their land in Okuni and others as “unconstitutional, null and void in view of non-payment of compensation in accordance with section 44(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.”
In its statement of claims, the claimants said the community has a population of over 30,000 people and in spite of all anomalies, the absence of a conclusive impact study, “bulldozers and other heavy earth-moving equipment have been moved into our land and are already causing havoc, damage and devastating our ancestral land.
“Our economic trees and crops affected by bulldozers of the defendants include cocoa, oil palms, mangoes; yams, cassava and timbers. These farms span about five hectares put together valued at N100 million per hectare.”
The state government and the other defendants have so far, not filed any defence since they were served with the court process even though the court had ordered hearing notice to be served on them twice; they still failed to show up in court.
But the court fixed a hearing date for March 8, 2018. Commissioner for Lands, John Inyang, had in an interview with The Guardian, assured that the state government would pay compensations to the affected communities in the superhighway project, saying a list of the beneficiaries had been compiled.
He explained that his ministry was compiling the financials and that a final copy would be presented to Governor Ben Ayade for approval and disbursement. “So, we never said we will not pay and there was no time we said we will start work without capturing the necessary data as it affects the people. But for now, nobody has been paid yet,” he said.