Ikot Ansa Community Takes Over Disputed 23 Hectares of Land At Summit Hills, Commends Gov’t’s Intervention

May 1, 2024 - 09:34
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Ikot Ansa Community Takes Over Disputed 23 Hectares of Land At Summit Hills, Commends Gov’t’s Intervention

By Ndifereke BASSEY

Ikot Ansa community in Calabar Municipality has stated it has taken over the disputed 23 hectares of land situated at Summit Hills, stating unequivocally that they have no face-off with Cross River state government in any way.

The Qua clan head, Ntol Paul Asim Ita II and the Secretary, Felix Eyo, who stated this in an exclusive chat with THE BEAGLE NEWS maintained that the acquisition of 369, 579 hectares of land belonging to Ikot Ansa community was in the interest of the community, commending the state government for abiding by the terms of agreement just as they stated that there is no breach of public peace in the as reported in a section of the media.

Recall that Cross River state government had in 2012 acquired 369, 579 hectares of land for the purpose of Calabar International Convention Centre, golf course, CICC Hotels, International Hospitals and residential estates.

Compensation was not paid the community because they were to be given a stake in the business for which the land was acquired. But the community could not be give n the stake in the business as the purpose for which the land acquired could not be achieved.

However, THE BEAGLE NEWS gathered that government subsequently released about 29 hectares of the acquired land to the Ikot Ansa, Qua clan in 2019 in lieu of its stake in the business.

On inspection of land, the community found out that the portion given to them was a swampy area and demanded for a dry upland, but the community did not get favourable response from the government, leading to litigation, division and acrimony among community leaders.

And determined to get their due, Ntoe Lawrence Nyong, Ntufam Maurice Omin Iso and Ntufam Donatus Etim (claimants) on behalf of Nkonib (Ikot Ansa Clan) instituted a case in Suit No.HC/314/2021 with government of Cross River State, the Attorney General, Commissioner For Lands, Summit Hills Estate Development Services Ltd, Faithplant Global International Services Ltd and Incorporated Trustees of Roaches Foundation as defendants and Ntoe- Elect Ntol Paul Asim Ita, Ntoe Augustine Bassey Edem, Esinjo, Francis Ekpenyong Iso, Esinjo Vincent Ansa Itu Okon Ansa and Ntufam Felix Eyo Iso as applicants/parties seeking to be joined for themselves and on behalf of Nkonib (Ikot Ansa, Qua Clan).

In one of his rulings, Hon. Justice B. Ebuta dismissed the notion filed by the applicants "seeking to join the matter claiming they're the majority neither are they records to show that the Nkonib Caln had withdrawn their representative capacity of the claimants, except they say so of the applicants."

He further ruled that there are counter affidavits that the claimants, Lawrence Nyong, Ntufam Maurice Omin Iso and Ntufam Donatus Etim, had in previous matters represented the said community.

Again, in a consent judgment, Justice Ebuta in 2022 ruled among others "that the state government shall release 23 hectares of prime dry upland and the 23 hectares is independent of the 29 hectares of swam and ravine land earlier released bringing to the total to 52,864 hectares acquired by the claimants and "that state government shall provide infrastructures on the 52.846 hectares of land released to the claimants community."

The Court further ruled that "all private allottee of any portion of the 362.715 hectares of land remaining shall be sub-tenants of the claimants’ community at the rate of N100 per square meter yearly and renewable every year from January 1, 2022, which royalty shall be reviewed 100 percent every ten years."

However, there was palpable fear and tension at Ikot Ansa community following the judgment as factions emerged over who and who should administer the over 50 hectares given to the community as their stake.

While one faction allegedly led by the Qua clan head, Ntol Paul Asim Ita II and the Secretary, Felix Eyo, insist that the land belongs to the community and, therefore, should be administered centrally from the traditional palace with him as the leader for the benefit of all, the other faction, led by Ntoe Lawrence Nyong, Ntufam Maurice Omin Iso and Ntufam Donatus Etim, are of the opinion that there were not part of the suit at some point, saying they withdrew and joined the defendants (the government and others).

Ntol Paul Asim Ita II and the Secretary, Felix Eyo, are of the opinion that even as some of their sons have put in some efforts to ensure that justice was done to the community, that should not be enough for them to take over possession of the entire community inheritance to the detriment of all, adding that the welfare of all and sundry should be paramount and how to develop the hectares allotted to them to preserve the community heritage.

The Ntoe Lawrence Nyong, Ntufam Maurice Omin Iso and Ntufam Donatus Etim, who were at the forefront of the case, argued that the Qua clan head, Ntol Paul Asim Ita II and his men abandoned the case at a point an joined forces with government to allegedly circumvent justice if not for their commitment to get justice done and seem to have been done.

Findings by THE BEAGLE NEWS revealed that both factions were laying claims to the ownership to the disputed parcel of land at Summit Hills axis of the community just as they were poised for a show down but not for the intervention of government to forestall breakdown of law and order.

In a public notice published in Nigerina Chronicle of Wednesday, April 10, 2024 on page 15 and signed by the commissioner for lands, Chief francis Ekpenyong, read in part: “This is to inform the general public, particularly the Nkonib (Ikot Ansa) Qua Clan, that the following parcels of land at the Summit Hills Estate Limited with 12.110 hectares plan no CR/C 1187 and 9.074 plan no CR/C1187 have been ceded to the Nkonib (Ikot Ansa) Qua Clan, Calabar Municipality under the leadership of His Royal Highness Ntoe Paul Asim Ita and the Ntoe-In-Council based on the agreement reached on the 4th of April 2024 between Commissioner for Lands, the Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice both representing Government of Cross River State and the Nkonib (Ikot Ansa) Qua Clan in the Attorney- General/Commissioner for Justice's Office.”

In further compliance with the court judgment, in in a letter titled “C'River State Government Complies with Land Settlement Agreement Following Court Decision” states, “the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Cross River State, Ededem C. Ani, has formally submitted survey plans to the Clan Head of Nkonib Ikot Ansa Qua Clan, in compliance with a court-mandated land settlement agreement.

“In a letter dated April 4, 2024, addressed to the Clan Head, Ani referenced a settlement reached in Suit No. HC/314/2021, involving Ntoe Lawrence Nyong Akiba & 7 Ors v. The Governor of Cross River State of Nigeria & 5 Ors. According to the terms of the settlement, the Cross River State government agreed to release 23 hectares of land to the claimants.

“The submitted survey plans, identified as CR/C/1187 with Tracing No. CRC.2881 and CR/C/1187 with Tracing No. CRC/2878, were provided for the Clan Head's information and necessary action. The letter, written in a formal tone, reflects the government's commitment to fulfilling its obligations as outlined in the legal settlement. This development marks a significant step towards resolving the land dispute and upholding the rule of law.

“The submission of the survey plans signals progress in implementing the court's decision and demonstrates the government's adherence to judicial outcomes. It underscores the importance of legal processes in resolving land disputes and ensuring equitable access to resources. The Clan Head is expected to review the survey plans and take appropriate steps as necessary, in accordance with the terms of the settlement agreement.”

Reacting to government decision, the Qua clan head Nkonib, Ntol Paul Asim Ita II, said government has done the needful and assured that peace has returned to the community, adding that all the leaders would meet and see how everybody would carried along.

He called on all the sons and daughters of Ikot Ansa to join hands in developing the community rather than dissipating energy in unnecessary litigation that would create further division among the people.

He commended the government of Sen, Bassey Otu for taking bold step in restoring peace to the community, but ensuring that what belongs to the people were returned to the people in fulfillment of his “people first” mantra.