• en

Host Community Barricades Port Harcourt International Airport Over ‘Years of Neglect’

Women of a Port Harcourt community with mourning attire and placards, disrupted activities at the airport.

Host community of Port Harcourt International Airport in Ikwerre local government area of Rivers, on Wednesday disrupted activities at the airport over alleged years of neglect by the airport authority.

The protesters who were mostly women of Ipo community with their various placards appeared in a mourning attire, insisting that activities will not go on in the airport if their plight was not settled. 

The situation THISDAY observed caused a gridlock from the Omagwa junction down to the Airport road and stretched into link roads within the facility as many motorist and travellers were stranded for hours. It was also noted that the an

The protesting women said they are facing challenge of noise pollution coming from the Airport, yet they lack basic amenities including power supply, absence of telecommunications network, despite hosting the federal government facility.

The women in their various placards to express their demands, said ‘No compensation for noise pollution’, ‘No federal government empowerment, no employment for our people’ among others.

The women also decried the absence of markets and good schools, saying they send their children to other communities because of the lack of good schools in the community.

One of the protesters said, “We are going back home but we don’t have joy. We only obey and respect out father Chief Awuse who spoke to us. But we will come back to this Airport and we will sleep here.

“Imagine that the Airport is just stone throw to our community, no light, no school, we have been suffering. Please they should do something and come to our aid.”

One of the leaders of the protest who gave her name as Emmanuella, decried lack of employment and empowerment for youths of the community by the Airport Authority, saying the women have written several letters to the Airport Authorities but were yet to get any response.

She stated, “The Airport is making use of our land for several years and they are not even seeing us. Some of our children are graduates. Many mothers sold their land, wrappers and other things to train their children in the University.

“After we have trained them they will not give them good employment at the Airport. When they give them jobs, it is only cleaners and security.

“Again we don’t have good network from this communication company, we don’t have light (electricity) and hospitals. We don’t have access to the Airport, but they allow cows to go in and destroy our farms that are on the other side.”

After hours of protest, an elder statesman and the Chairman, Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, Sergeant Chidi Awuse, intervened and addressed the protesters who immediately obeyed and opened up the barricades they had mounted.

The women said they will resume the protest at a later date if the Airport Authority fails to adhere to their demands.

Reacting on the development, the Chairman of Ikwerre LGA, Dr Samuel Nwanosike, said the action of the protesters was illegal and condemnable.

He said “The Local Government is not aware of such protest. So we consider the protest illegal because I spoke to the Councillor of the Ward when it was brought to my notice and the Councillor said there was no decision taken by the Ipo community.

“The Community Development Committee as we speak has also said they are not part of such decision. They are in a meeting right now including the elders and chiefs are in a meeting with the Councillor of the Ward. No such decision was taken.

“What happened was that some individuals hiding under the cover of Ipo landlord association took the laws into their hands to carry out that illegal action. Before you carry out any protest the laws of Nigeria requires you to inform the relevant security agencies”.

Nwanosike argued that the protesters were supposed to inform the local government authority before on such action, “you are supposed to inform the security agencies, the Area Commander, the Commissioner of Police, having in mind that the facility you are going to barricade is a federal government facility and a lot of activities are going on there.”

The LG boss further noted that “thie action taken this morning has caused a lot of inconveniences to Nigerians. A lot of people missed their flights; some people became agitated; some have health issues. So as far as I’m concerned it is not an action taken by the people of Ikwerre local government.

“Ipo is one of our communities, especially Ward 9 which I govern. I can say to the public that that action is illegal and that is why I gave the security agencies a charge to ask the women to go back home. And they obeyed. But we are not stopping at that the persons behind the protest will face the wrath of the law because they have breached the laws of Nigeria. So they will face the consequences of their action.”

He however said though the council did not authorize the protest, the demands of the protesters was genuine, saying, “Yes Ipo people are facing hardship. I am aware that before Ipo land was acquired to extend the Airport construction in 1974, Omagwa and Ipo lands were acquired to build the International Airport.

“Statements and MoU were signed. The federal government agreed that these host communities would be treated like a special area, amenities, roads, Hospitals, relocation of families ancestral compounds who were affected by the construction will be done.

“Those issues are not done yet we agree, but you cannot take a wrong step in trying to achieve a proper decision. We believe that we have been in touch with the Airport Authority and we have been discussing and the federal government has been doing their part.”

He added that, “In 2005 the federal government came with a political solution where it paid N200 million as compensation to Ipo and Omagwa communities. And they promised that in the nearest future they will come and carry out those developmental activities they promised in the gazzette before they were allowed to access that place”.

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt 

Follow us on: