Governor Udom Emmanuel has stated that some Heads of the villages where the coconut plantation is sited went diabolic to stall the progress of the plantation.
The governor made this known on Sunday, December 20, 2020 at Four Square Gospel Church, Afaha Ube during the thanksgiving service in honour of Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Uwemedimo Nwoko who was recently elevated to the position of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Life Bencher.
The governor, while making his remarks said the village heads of the communities used ‘Mbiam’ and did incantations to stop the growth of the coconut seedlings. Mbiam is a traditional oath and injunction used in Akwa Ibom. Mbiam is believed to be in different forms, i.e. in powdered form, liquid or ayei (palm frond leaves). Though they may have physical representation, the result is believed to be spiritually manifested.
According to him, these were some of the setbacks the coconut plantation has faced which has affected the start of operations of the coconut refinery.
“Three days ago, I got a message and you can fact-check anywhere that during the convention of the Apostolic Mount Olive Church, a young man, confessed before the congregation that he and some people went to the Coconut Plantation of the state government to destroy the coconuts and stop them from yielding. I always tell people not to worry about me, because I will finish strong and all projects initiated by administration will be completed before I leave office. That is where my focus lies, not on all the blackmails you see, they don’t distract me”, the governor added.
Mr. Emmanuel also stated that he will not be distracted by blackmails and petitions by those he describe as enemies of the State, assuring that he remains focused in ensuring the completion of all projects initiated by his administration before he quits office in 2023.
“We thank the church for always praying for us, because that is our strength. Don’t be afraid for me at all because he that calls me is always there. Don’t pity me at all when you see blackmail against me, because any tree with good fruits will always attract sticks. Let me also tell people that you cannot rewrite the Bible. You cannot rewrite the Bible in the sense that you cannot disrespect your father and think it will be well with you. That is in the Bible. If you want to be a Governor, you must first respect the seat of the Governor because you cannot urinate on a seat and sit on it”, he said.
The coconut plantation sits on 11,000 hectares of land gotten from villages in Mkpat Enin and Eastern Obolo LGAs. Sources from the area told TheMail that the government did not compensate the villagers, with the locals expressing displeasure over the treatment they have received from the government over their land. TheMail also learnt that some of the village heads and youths in Mkpat Enin in particular have given the government headache, viciously resisting what they called the government’s attempt at land-grabbing. According to close government sources, the Governor sees the action of the villagers as a deliberate attempt at resisting development and is not ready to condone such.
The coconut plantation has two million coconut stands and is expected to feed the St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factor which is touted as having the capacity to process 1 million coconuts a day.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Agriculture had started applying specially blended fertilizers in the plantation to help in the growth of the coconut seedlings.
Pundits are of the opinion that the governor should contemplate buying coconuts from other states to use and run the factory while waiting for the plantation to yield.
“It’s five years since the planting of the hybrid nursery coconut palm trees at Mkpat Enin/Eastern Obolo, but yesterday when I visited the plantation, it appears the coconuts were planted 8 months ago. There are little or no improvement at all. It’s almost as if the coconut were never hybrid and were brought from my grandmother’s nursery at Ikom.
“As the Governor who initiated the project, he should witness the first harvest from the plantation but with what I saw on ground, your successor will be lucky to witness the first harvest.
“Let me advice that you (the governor) start contemplating the purchase of coconuts from markets within and outside the state so that the coconut refinery can start working if the machines are in place, because if we wait for the maturity of this very plantation, I fear the machines may all go bad like that of the Ajaokuta Steel Mill and ALSCON Aluminum”, Prince Uduak Sunday (Pedro), an entrepreneur and tourism/travel expert said in August, 2020.
Back in June 2020, the Manager of St. Gabriel’s Virgin Oil Refinery, Alper Yilmaz said all the machines needed for the project are on ground. He stated that apart from very few fittings, the major remaining part of the project is the installation of the production lines, a process which as at then was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic that hindered the arrival of the foreign experts.
The Governor is said to have delved into the project because of the dwindling fortunes of crude oil and in realization that coconut oil is the new cash cow.