Cocoa landlord communities in Etung Local Government Area of Cross River were in a joyous mood on Friday, as the state government commenced payment of royalties to them.
The traditional rulers, stakeholders and indigenes of the communities were excited with the development during a stakeholders’ Town Hall Meeting in Ikom.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the rents/royalties being paid to Etung cocoa landlord communities were for the parcels of land donated to the state government by the communities to raise cocoa plantations.
Speaking at the meeting, Special Adviser to Gov. Ben Ayade on Cocoa Development, Dr Oscar Ofuka, said that the governor was passionate about paying the rents/ royalties owed the landlords as he had promised earlier.
He debunked the rumours making the rounds in some quarters that government had refused to defray the debts owed the cocoa landlord communities.
According to him, the Ayade-led administration is ready to go the extra mile to ensure that the administration puts an end to the issue of debts owed the landlord communities.
In his remarks, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Oliver Orok, appealed for calm, stressing that the strategy used to defray the debts remained the best.
Orok maintained that the strategy provided an opportunity for the beneficiaries to decide whatever formula to be used in sharing their monies to them.
On his part, Chairman of Cocoa Landlord Communities in Etung council area, Mr Njar Ngor, confirmed receiving an alert of N12.5 million from the state government.
Ngor, while calling for unity and peaceful co-existence among members of the landlord communities, said that they must learn to trust one another, especially those saddled with specific responsibilities.
“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 they occupied.
“Many had accused us falsely of collecting money and embezzling it.
“I worked with the Federal Government for 35 years and retired meritoriously, without stealing. Is it from my community that I will now steal?” he queried.
Ngor noted that the money was trickling into his account and more was still expected, saying that it would put to rest the allegations leveled against the committee by some members of the communities.