Youths of Ariam Elu-Elu village in the Ariam Osoigwe Autonomous Community of the Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State have given more clarifications on why they scuttled the inauguration of the National Agricultural Land Development Agency’s (NALDA) fish farm in the area.
According to them, one of their sons and former Chairman of Ikwuano LGA, Barr Kelvin Ugboaja, who was said to have attracted the project, allegedly manipulated the terms of agreement in his favour.
Youths of Ariam Elu-Elu village in the Ariam Osoigwe Autonomous Community of the Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State on Tuesday, it will be recalled, prevented the inauguration of the National Agricultural Land Development Agency’s fish farm in the area.
However, following the protest by the youth of the area at the project site; the event was called off because the entire community saw it as a “land grabbing exercise” that will later boomerang on them.
The youth had taken to the streets, chanting war songs and expressing reservations that the project was a land-grabbing scam which will eventually be detrimental to the interests of the community.
A indigene of the Community who wants his name out of print said the deal to site the project in Ariam Elu-Elu village was shrouded in secrecy and wondered why Ugboaja did not carry some major stakeholders, particularly the elders and the youth along during negotiation to acquire the land.
“He, Ugboaja, used his position as a lawyer and his relationship with the NALDA Executive Secretary, Prince Paul Ikonne, to hoodwink the landowners and grab their land under a mission which is not clear to us in this village”, he said.
Earlier report indicated that the youth alleged that about N3bn was released as compensation to landowners, but none of the landowners had received any money, adding that a Memorandum of Understanding signed between NALDA and the community is “a manipulated document” and has no input from the community and landowners.
However, in his swift reaction to the allegation, Ugboaja explained that NALDA did not pay compensation, but was to carry out independent development in the community, pointing out that the mode of operation was clearly spelt out to the community, including developing and handing over the project to it.
“It is a project of the Federal Government to empower communities and not to reap them off”, he asserted.
“Let me inform you that the protest was staged by people who don’t know the value of the project. The community was ready for the inauguration when miscreants came in looking for money and objecting to the banana aspect of the project”, he said.
The legal practitioner added that the first leg of the project had been completed and the fishery had 500,000 fishes and that others to be done include: completion of the hatchery, tarred road to the site, office blocks and planting of bananas on 50 hectares of land.
According to him, NALDA, under Ikonne had done well in the reduction of poverty and that the community was also happy, saying that the project was on a piece of land taken over by erosion and NALDA recovered it, adding that the community would resolve the issue.
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