By Nsan Ndoma-Neji, Calabar
The governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade yesterday kickstarted the payment of rents/royalties the state government is owing Etung Cocoa Landlord communities in the last 16 years, for the parcel of land donated by the landlord communities to state government to cultivate it’s cocoa estate.
News of the payment sparked jubilation among the chiefs-in-council in the landlord communities, during a town hall meeting with stakeholders at Joranny Hotel, Ikom, the commercial nerve centre of Cross River State.
Lauding the state governor for the stride, the Special Adviser to Governor Ayade on Cocoa Development and Control, Ntufam Dr Oscar Ofuka, stated Governor Ayade is a honorable gentleman, who hardly renege on whatever promise made.
The SA maintained that the payment if royalty/rent payment has exonerated him from the gallow prepared for him by those who held grudges against him, because of the inability of state government to clear the backlogs of arrears of royalties owed the cocoa landlord communities.
Ofuka said, “I am so happy. If there is anything that has brought joy to my life as I speak right now, it is that the money has started trickling into the account of the cocoa landlord communities, managed by the committee chairman.
He averred that Cross River State, under the watch of Prof. Ayade, is ready to go the extra mile to ensure that the administration puts an end to the issue of debt owed the landlord communities.
In his remarks, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Oliver Orok, appealed for calm, and said that the smartgov strategy, introduced by state government would put an end to the issue as whatever money paid into the account as rent would automatically splits into three parts, with a percentage of the cash entering the account of the state government, and another percentage goes directly into the account of the landlords communities, and the last percent hitting the account of the Cocoa Development and Control account.
Reacting to the development, the Chairman, Cocoa Landlord Communities of Etung Local Government Area of Cross River State, AIG Njar Ngor Egbe Njom (rtd), confirmed that the committee’s account has an alert of N12.5 million.
The committee chairman, who spoke during the the town hall meeting convened yesterday said, “You can check my phone if you are in doubt, the money has hot my phone.”
The committee chairman appealed for the unity and peace of the landlord communities, stressing that they should “learn to trust people, especially when you grant someone responsibility.”
He added, “As a committee set up by our people, our mandate was to make recovery of rent/ royalties owed the cocoa landlord communities by the state government for the land it occupied.
“Many had accused us of collecting the money and embezzling it. I worked with the Federal Government for 35 years and retired after 35 years of meritorious service and never stole, is it from my community that I would steal from?
“If you look at my phone, the money is trickling in. More is still coming in. This would put to rest the allegations leveled against our committee by the ‘doubting Thomases’.”