Joe Effiong, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State government has warned owners of property billed for demolition in the course of road construction to wake up to the realities that the days of negotiated settlement of compensation are over in the state.
The state Commissioner for Works, Mr Ephraim Inyang, who said this while speaking with our correspondent explained that the major problem his ministry encounters with property owners is the expectation that he would go down to negotiate his cut from the compensation so as to inflate the value of the property.
Inyang also frowned at the practice of people collecting compensation and turning round to erect new illegal structures on the same area that compensation had been paid, expecting to receive another round of compensation.
He said: “The story of the state government refusing to pay compensation is a blatant lie. The truth is that this administration has refused to cooperate with negotiated compensation. The only problem that I have is that they want the old system of negotiated compensation and I say no; we will not do it.”
According to him: “What people want, and I want you to look at my face, is a negotiated compensation where you will come and sit with me and say my property is worth N10 million but give me N20 million so that we can share. I won’t do that. I won’t damage my integrity; I have not done it. I will not do it. Whatever the valuer gives you is what you will get. If you like, you can go to court; the valuer will defend his work, because if I alter those values, where will I get the seal to seal the new value because every valuer has a seal.
“It used to happen; it must end. This state must have a new phase where the true values of property are paid for. That negotiated settlement can’t happen in the next eight years if God permits me to be here; because what I found out is that this massive structure can be paid N100 million and a bungalow can be paid N200 million. That won’t work again.
“Let me tell you when the chips are down, those you negotiated with are the first to petition against you because they have the facts. If you petition me today to EFCC, it won’t make any sense because there will be no truth in it because I don’t get involved; I don’t take the money.
“Like when they were petitioning on 10 percent that we keep back and say we will not pay unless there is a verification, they wrote to the EFCC and they came here, same with ICPC. They found nothing wrong. When we keep back the 10 percent, it was in the government pause. The moment we finish verification, we pay. We have just paid about N200 million and now they are silent,” Inyang explained.
He stressed that in any contract even roads, where there is any doubt, his ministry would seek a second or even a third opinion and then settle for the lowest value since the state’s money must be used for the benefit of the state instead of patronising a few people to the detriment of the communities.
“When we started Etinan-Ndon Eyo Road, just the announcement that the contract has been awarded for the road, they built over 1,000 houses from Etinan through Ikot Inyang, Efa, Mbioto and Awa. The first valuation report we had was N5.5 billion on the road. Do you know what the new value is now? N16 billion! And what was the value of the entire project? N42 billion with cable bridges. So you expected me to extract N16 billion to pay compensation and be left with just N28 billion to do the road.
“It means that the road will be abandoned or you now ask me to go for variation. I will not go for variation on any project in this state because the danger is after these houses are pulled after payment of compensation, nobody truly knows what they were worth. I will do variation on projects that are adding additional value. That is the issue and they should know that there is a paradigm shift,” commissioner said.