The management of a restaurant, Food Affairs Limited, located at No 1, Uyo/ Ekpene Road, in Ikot Ekpene government area of Akwa Ibom State has demanded adequate compensation for its building demolished by the state government.
The building was demolished on June 27, 2019, allegedly under the directive of a former Commissioner for Works and Fire Service in the state, Mr. Ephraim Inyangeyin.
The Managing Director of the eatery, Mr. Isidore Ebong, in a statement on Sunday titled “Ephraim Inyangeyin and his Atrocious Trespass and Malicious Destruction of Food Affairs Building,” described the demolition as inhuman.
The statement reads in part, “It is more than two years since the unlawful, ridiculous, ferocious and excruciating demolition of the Food Affairs business premises in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area, without due process and payment of compensation, about which the staff and management of the business are still traumatised while counting their losses.
“The former Commissioner for Works in Governor Udom (Emmanuel’s} first administration (2015-2019) on June 27, 2019, maliciously demolished a business building belonging to Food Affairs Limited at No.1, Uyo – Ekpene Road, Ikot Ekpene during business hours without any prior notice and/or payment of appropriate compensation.
“It was a terrible and pitiable scene as staff and customers scampered for safety, and some regrettably left their personal belongings behind as the madness continued.
“Production staff in their aprons, who never knew what happened, narrowly escaped death, almost trapped, eventually came out through the broken back fence to a neighbour’s compound as the building caved in.
“The extension of the edifice used as a bar with assorted drinks and furniture was not spared. Looters had a field day as they packed anything and everything they could lay their hands on as Ephraim gave orders to ground everything.
“To ensure the prompt destruction of first-hand evidence of the demolition, the manager of the facility who tried to take pictures of the demolition exercise was manhandled and his phone ceased on the instruction of Mr Ephraim Inyangeyen.
“Properties worth millions of naira ranging from furniture, electronics, refrigerating and air conditioning equipment, raw, semi-finished and finished food products, fittings, toys, generators, staff personal effects as well as cash were smashed by the two bulldozers that abruptly entered the premises on the command and supervision of Ephraim Inyangeyen.
“To attract public justification for this inhuman act, Inyangeyen publicly lied that former Governor, Godswill Obot Akpabio paid the sum of 150 million naira, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel paid 100 million naira and he paid 30 million naira as compensation for the same property which was marked for demolition to give way for construction of the Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, yet they refused to pack out of the property to enable the contractors handling the road project continue with their work.”
Ebong challenged the former commissioner to show any proof to substantiate his claims that the management of the restaurant had been compensated by the government for the demolition.
“Those who did not understand passed judgment because Mr Ephraim as a former commissioner had publicly and categorically stated how a total amount of Two Hundred and Eighty Million (N280,000,000.00) was paid while they refused to pack out.
“We, therefore, call on the federal and state governments to carry out thorough investigations into this matter and pay adequate compensation for the loss (building, materials, and business time),” he said.
Inyangeyin had reportedly questioned why the issue was being brought up about three years after the incident.
Inyangeyin described the allegation of trespass by the company as preposterous and unsubstantiated, saying the state works ministry carried out the demolition of the property and not him.
He said the road that was constructed on the site was still being enjoyed by the people of the state.
He said, “Don’t you think if Food Affairs has any complaint to make, they should have made the complaint since 2019 against the Akwa Ibom state government that did the demolition?
“Inyangeyin did not demolish their site to take the land. Why the dramatization because I am going for an election? Three years after the demolition even when I was not reappointed commissioner, what have they been doing+ They were supposed to have taken the Akwa Ibom state government to court. Inyangeyin did not do the demolition, Akwa Ibom state ministry of works did.
“I told the manager since you have refused to take your compensation to court, but if you take me to court as a person it wouldn’t hold water. So, why the drama in the media, is it going to be media judgement.
“Why did he not do this in 2019 when I was the commissioner for works? In 2020 I left the ministry of works and in 2021 I was appointed the Chief of Staff till 2022. Why is it in May because I was vying for an election that they brought the falsehood?
“They had gone to Premium Times and now SaharaReporters. The state government is sponsoring him and they think with the media, they will tarnish my name. They (government) demolished the place and constructed a road used by Akwa Ibom people.”
He asked the company whether they saw him building a house on the land, adding that when he was not reappointed after the 2019 elections, a consultant firm after evaluation of the property paid him but he refused to take their money.
“They wanted the payment in a phase that is not in my hand, I don’t make payment, I supervise road construction. When we have that kind of issue based on valuation, a payment consultant has to pay.”
He added, “The same government that owes them is now blackmailing somebody that did the demolition. One simple question the company should answer is: did Inyangeyin demolish the property to use it for himself? Did I demolish the property as Inyangeyin or as the Ministry of Works?
“Did the state government use that place to construct roads that Akwa Ibom people are using? Why did Inyangeyin demolish a property that has no value to him as a person? Is Inyangeyin the Akwa Ibom state government?”
However, all efforts to speak with the present commissioner, Professor Eno Ibanga, were unsuccessful as he did not answer his calls nor reply to text messages sent to him.