From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo
The Ebonyi State Ministry of Solid Minerals Development Communities has waded into the conflict that raged between the Ezi-Akani, Ukpa and the rest of the Ukpa village in Ohaisu community of Afikpo North Local Government Area over disagreement in the sharing formula of proceeds accruing from solid minerals mined by a Chinese company in the area.
The commissioner, Chief Donatus Njoku, who addressed the parties, urged them to see the coming of solid minerals prospectors as economic fortunes for the people where these deposits were discovered and not as projects that would cause squabbles among brethren.
He took time to listen to the two parties, reviewed their cases and explained that it would be illogical to pander to other considerations negating the government-approved template that was the legal backing to whichever or whatever agreement landlord/communities might have with prospecting companies.
He commended the efforts of the Essa Traditional Council of Elders, Afikpo, in mediating in the matter, but stated that the Federal Government and the state’s laws superseded traditional and other local laws on issues like this.
Relying on the dictates of the relevant government guidelines, Njoku declared that it was not in dispute that Ezi Akani were the landowners, the Ukpa, the village group, while Ohaisu served as the host community.
Explaining further, he said the above highlighted categories should share benefits in 40, 30 and 30 per cent, respectively. Similarly, the discrepancies arising from the toll gate takings were also ironed out amicably.
President-general of Ohaisu Community Development Association, Dr. Jasper Okoro, described the mediation as timely and excellent resolution, which would help cultivate rebuilding of the age-long relationship of the parties as kinsmen, adding that a new reality had manifested.
Spokesperson for Ezi Akani had, in stating the case for the landlords, said that the Ukpa village group could not accept the judgement of the Essa Traditional Council in respect of the modalities they outlined in sharing the royalties. He revealed to the Commissioner that Ezi Akani invited the leadership of the Essa to come to testify that it was they that gave the ruling earlier presented to the ministry.
Speaker (Okabie) of the Elders Council, Chief Christopher Egwu, contended that Ukpa as a village was not the Isi Uzo owners of the land in question but rather the entire Afikpo, comprising of Nkpogoro, Ugwegu, Ohaisu, Itim and Ozizza communities, and that any benefits should not go to Ukpa but to the entire Ehugbo.
His views were countered by Fidelis Unya of Ukpa village, who affirmed that, although the area in contest was of Ezi Akani, the Isi Uzo belonged to Ukpa and Ezi Akani was one of the five compounds that made up Ukpa village in Ohaisu autonomous community, Afikpo.