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C/River govt in dilemma over 32 hectares Abonita cocoa plots

Cross River State – a foremost cocoa producing state in Nigeria, seems to be in a difficult situation over ownership of 32 hectares of cocoa…

Cross River State – a foremost cocoa producing state in Nigeria, seems to be in a difficult situation over ownership of 32 hectares of cocoa lands in Abonita community in Etung LGA of Cross River State.

The state government is reported to have issued a statement withdrawing the disputed cocoa plots earlier reportedly ceded to one Chief Ogar Assam’s family at Abonita, saying they earlier ceded it to them in error.

The earlier statement of the withdrawal was in a letter signed by the Director of Agricultural Services, Mr. Etta Henry Ogar, dated January 17, 2024.  It claimed government was misguided and misinformed.

The letter titled, “Re: Release of Block 7A77,7B77,7C77,8B77,8C77 Cocoa Farms At Abonita Cocoa Estate to Chief Ogar Assam’s Family”, stressed that the government has withdrawn the 32 hectares of cocoa plots it ceded earlier to the Ogar Assam’s family in its letter of December 5, 2023.

“The decision is consequent upon the misguided facts during information gathering in some of the documental evidence provided by Mac Prince Mbu Leku.

“The desire to withdraw the ceded blocks also steamed from the presentation of facts by the landlords communities in a meeting scheduled on December 12, 2023, with intention of the Attorney General of Cross River State to amicably resolve the impasse in suit NO.HE/18/2022.

But in less than a week, the government issued another press statement dated 29 January 2024 signed by the information officer of the ministry of agriculture and Irrigation, Blessing Enagu, denying that government has issued statement of ownership of the said 32 hectares.

“It is noteworthy that the ministry’s verification team set up to ascertain the various claims to the ownership of the 32 hectares has not concluded its assignment. Therefore, no individual, group or organization has the right on this matter until the verification team report is released.”

Whereas the government has claimed that the 32 hectares of cocoa plots are property of state government, the Assam family is also insisting that they are theirs but that government wants to suppress them and forcibly collect the estate from them.

A representative of Ogar Assam’s family, Mr Mac Prince Leku, claimed that the 32 hectares are his late father’s estate.

He expressed optimism that the matter will be amicably resolved by the court.

“I thank God that when we family get to court at the end of the day, justice will prevail to ascertain the true owner of the disputed hectares of cocoa plots.”

Director of planning, research and statistics, in the state Forestry Commission, Mr Akor Godwin, after inspection of the contentious 32 hectares of cocoa plots said that no portion of government cocoa plot would be ceded to any private individual without due process.

The forestry expert stressed that it is ridiculous and unusual for a single individual to claim ownership of any land in the estate without the governor’s approval.

Secretary General of Cocoa Landlords committee, Benjamin Asu Ndep, said that he was confident that the committee which visited the disputed area will resolve the dispute.

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