The federal government has promised to commence payment of compensation next week to Benue communities affected by the construction of the Abuja-Keffi-Makurdi highway.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, gave the assurance on Wednesday at the Government House, Makurdi, in a meeting with contractors handling the project and representatives of the Benue government.
Represented by the director of works, Ishaq Mohammed, the minister regretted the stoppage of work around the Benue axis over issues of non-payment of compensation to those whose lands and houses were affected.
The minister noted that it was important for work to resume because the project was financed through a bank credit facility and had a time limit.
He regretted that the contractors had to stop work because of threats to workers’ lives by youths in the communities, assuring that compensation arrangements had been concluded and that payments would commence next week.
The Tor Lobi, Moses Anagende, regretted losing ancestral lands, including farms and houses, to the construction, blaming the government for the crisis.
He explained community leaders held series of meetings with the federal government over early payment of compensation but to no avail.
Mr. Anagende further noted that the youths were angered by the “destruction” of their livelihoods due to the road project. He pointed out that the government did not compensate them for the demolition.
Governor Samuel Ortom warned against lawlessness and said his administration would not support those issuing threats under any guise.
Mr. Ortom charged traditional rulers to take charge of their domains and collaborate with security agencies to fish out the criminals.
”I will deal with those threatening lives and property. Let me know whenever there are threats to lives and property,” said Mr. Ortom. “But at the same time, I will not allow my people to be short-changed in the process.”
China Harbour Engineering is handling the construction.