Some youths of host communities of Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo on Wednesday staged a protest of what they called “an age-long neglect” by the Akwa Ibom State Government.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the protest is coming about three days to the crucial FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier scheduled for the venue on Saturday.
The match is between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and the Chipolopolo of Zambia, with the Eagles looking forward to a win to book their place in next June’s World Cup finals in Russia.
The youths of the two communities, Obio Etoi and Obio Ofot, stormed the stadium’s gates to register their grievances, saying the beautiful edifice has brought nothing but suffering to them.
The placards they placed at strategic locations around the stadium read in part: “The stadium is beautiful but the communities are suffering.”
Youth leader of Obio Etoi village, Sunday Peters, who led the protesters, claimed that since 2011 when Julius Berger Plc commenced work at the stadium, the villagers have gained nothing.
Peters said: “Since 2011 when this Julius Berger construction company commenced work here, there has been nothing good this stadium has brought for us here.
“The company took over all the roads to the community with their heavy equipment and machines.
“At a point, we have had to sell our land to maintain the road.
“That is why we are crying to the state government and we will continue to cry until something is done.”
Peters said all the waste water from the stadium sent into the retention lake sometimes overflows the lake’s bank, thereby causing unnecessary flooding and breeding mosquitoes to cause discomfort.
In his comments, the Village Head of Obio Etoi, Eteidung Inyang Ekott, said the youths’ action was to draw the state government’s attention to the plight of the host communities.
Ekott said: “We want to let the state government know that the Memorandum of Understanding, entered between the host communities, Julius Berger and the state government has been breached.”
The traditional ruler said the state government has ignored several letters from his palace reminding them of the plight of the host communities.
He lamented that whenever it rained the entire village was always submerged in floods.
Ekott said the communities did not collect any compensation from the state government then in 2011 based on an understanding.
He said: “The understanding was that we will get benefits by way of providing roads and drainages around the village.”
The village head disclosed that government officials have however scheduled a meeting with the villagers on Thursday.
Ekott said: “I have prevailed on the youths to stay action because of the visitors coming for the match on Saturday.
“But, after the match, if government refuses to attend to their issue, I will not be able to prevail on them again.”
The state’s Commissioner for Works, Ephraim Inyang, who arrived at the venue of the protest with the Commissioner for Information, Charles Udo, said the road has been earmarked for construction.