What’s the outcome of the commission of inquiry set up by government into the alleged takeover of your community land by the BPE?
The outcome was not published; it was not made public. We don’t know the outcome. But the agitation is still where it is. We have reversionary interest in the land; we need to own it. And if there is anything the government wants to do on the land, they have to talk to us and it is for us to agree with the government on any further step. By fruition of time, we are supposed to get into the land again and, moreover, the purpose clause is for mining of coal and things related to it. Since they are not mining coal, they cannot use it for other purposes that was not anticipated by the time the agreement was signed.
We learnt that some portions of the land have been sold.
At the fullness of time, we will be asking for restitution. But we are human beings; we can still talk it over with them and find a middle course. But nobody sells what does not belong to him. That is the major principle. Since nobody sells what does not belong to them, that would be the basis of our discussion, that they have sold what does not belong to them. They used to have the right of occupation or possession but now that has ceased by fruition of time and by the fact that the purpose clause is dead or defeated. They don’t mine coal anymore; it was coal that we recognized. We didn’t say coal or allied minerals. Since there is no more coal, we expect them to go and leave the land for us.
It was learnt that you experience landslide. What’s the situation?
That is the worst. By the time they drafted the so-called agreement, none of our own representatives was lettered enough to do much. It meant that they dictated it, prepared it, interpreted it and got our people to thumbprint. So, it was their document all through. In fact, they were magnanimous enough to have allowed us a leeway: that after a period of time they will vacate and the purpose clause. They might as well have said that they have taken it over entirely. But be that as it may, such things were supposed to have incorporated things like the withdrawal procedure.
What is your plea?
Our plea is that government should consider our position. We know that government has enough resources, capability and capacity to take us round litigation and every other thing. But we are pleading that they understand that we are even part of government too. Part of us that is government and the land that holds should be respected. They should find a way of understanding the peculiarities of our situation, what has been done to our people. They should turn over our land to us. Promises of scholarship, employment and environmental protection were not met. The thing has left our people destitute. No job, no good environment, no life even. We’ve paid the price of providing the hen that laid the golden egg for the country. The money from coal helped develop Eastern Region and powered our electricity project in times past. Even the railway used coal. A lot of things were done with coal but there is nothing to show for it. If you go to London and elsewhere, you see what coal did for them, including human capital development.