The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HoMEF), a prominent environmental Civil Society Organization, has expressed deep concern over reported land grabbing in certain Akwa Ibom communities by the state government under the pretext of initiating development projects.
In a recent farmers’ training session on “Land Rights and the Fight Against Land Grabbing” held at Okoro-Utip, Ibeno local government area, Stephen Oduware, Project Lead for HoMEF, urged affected communities to familiarize themselves with the Land Use Act. Oduware emphasized that the government holds the land in trust for the people, and compensation should be paid when acquiring land for developmental projects.
Dismissing the notion that “All lands belong to the government,” Oduware argued that such beliefs were tactics to seize lands, contradicting the Land Use Act. He lamented the resulting ignorance enabling multinational companies to exploit the situation without adhering to due process or conducting proper Environmental Impact Assessments, causing adverse effects on communities.
Oduware stated, “We want to bring the sense of ownership back to the people; we can’t sacrifice the lives of the community people on phantom development projects.”
Umoh Isuah-Ikoh, Coordinator of Peace Point Development Foundation, added that communities often lose lands without compensation for projects that ultimately offer no positive impact. He urged communities to know their rights, demand consultation, fair compensation, and Environmental Impact Assessments before releasing land to the government and corporations.
Participants like Abasiubong John, empowered by the training, are now equipped to legally safeguard their lands and insist on due process. John stated, “I have the opportunity to exercise my rights through every legal means.”