Communities which own the land on which Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASCO) is built say the firm cannot take off unless their angry ancestor, egbunu akoko”, is pacified.
The community leaders of Geregu and Ajaokuta, the host communities in Kogi, expressed the view in interviews with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
The Chairman, Geregu Community Association, Alhaji Idris Aliyu, attributed the non-completion of ASCO project to mystical forces arising from the neglect of the communities.
Aliyu said the ancestors were not happy over the level of neglect of the communities by the Federal Government and the operators of ASCO.
“It is not the communities that are preventing the work from being completed, it is the ancestors.
“There is a lady that had a dream two years ago and said she saw one of our ancestors, “egbunu akoko’’.
“Egbunu akoko told her that if the government wants ASCO to be completed, they should go and resettle his people in Geregu and Ajaokuta .
“My advice is that, let them come back and fulfil most of the promises they made. They should fix our roads and repair the schools.
“Also, the Egbunu Akoko’s house they demolished should be rebuilt.
“Really, our ancestors are not happy over what is happening. The agreement we reached with ASCO when they acquired our lands since 1976 has not been implemented.
“All the promises they made they did not fulfil.
“As you were coming, you saw our road just about two kilometres from the steel plant to Geregu, you saw how rough it is and that is why you used motorbike to get to our palace.
“We have been neglected but we are praying that work should continue in the company, may be they will look into the promises they made to these two communities,” he said.
The community leaders also claimed that the government and administrators of ASCO reneged on the initial agreement of providing employment and development in the communities.
At the Palace of Etsu of Geregu, Mr Suleiman Idris, on behalf of Etsu Haruna Aminu, said the communities had been left to their fate after the takeover of their land.
He said Ajaokuta community had eight families and Geregu had five families who surrendered their land to the Federal Government for the building of the company.
The Etsu said that the government, upon taking over the land promised to compensate the people and provide them basic amenities but that had not happened.
“Since the construction of ASCO, we have been left behind, nothing has been done for the communities.
“You can see the palace of the Etsu compared to other palaces. It is in a deplorable state.
“No employment for our youths. Most of them are graduates and they are at home because they are not being given priority in terms of employment.
“Also, there are no infrastructure and social development provided by the company for the communities,” he said.
The monarch said part of the land from Ajaokuta was used for the construction of the industrial component of ASCO, while Geregu community provided land for the development of residences.
He said the development of residential houses and the industrial structures on the land had denied the people access to land for farming and other communal activities.
“When you check the environment, everywhere is occupied by private houses and no chance is given to us for our own communal use.
“The Federal Government promised to compensate us but nothing was done.
“Some years ago, the communities and the company went to court. At the end, the High Court in Lokoja said it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case and struck out the case.
“As you can see, there is no physical or social development provided for us by the company,” he said.
Onu of Ajaokuta, Alhaji Kassim Ibrahim, stressed the need for the Federal Government to give recognition to the communities by resettling them and providing them amenities as promised.
According to him, the communities have cooperated with the Federal Government by handing over their lands.
However, Mr Babajide Suru, the General Manager, Engineering Works and Services Department of the company, described the position of the communities as superstitious.
Suru said such belief held by the people was no longer tenable in a civilised world.
Meanwhile, the Sole Administrator of the company, Mr Sumaila Abdul-Akaba, said the issue of compensation and resettlement of the people would be addressed when the firm became fully functional.
NAN found that the access road to Ajaokuta community is in a deplorable state and the community lacks a modern health facility resulting in the people travelling more than five kilometres to Geregu for medical care.
The plant, conceived in 1976, was aimed at establishing a metallurgical process plant/engineering complex with other facilities.
It is on 24,000 hectares of land in Ajaokuta, 38km from Lokoja.
The company is meant to generate important upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities that are critical to the industrialisation of Nigeria.
The plant, tagged “Bedrock of Nigeria’s Industrialisation’’, is also designed to produce iron and liquid steel from mines at Itakpe, in Kogi, some 52km from Ajaokuta.
The project has achieved over 90 per cent completion.