Youths of Akwete-Ndoki, in Ukwa East LGA of Abia State, on Wednesday through a peaceful demonstration, shutdown the Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN) Sub-Station for refusing to employ their people and refusal to dialogue on the way forward.
The protests which started from the Akwete Community Square, saw the youths trooped out in their hundreds, singing and matching along the Obehie Azumini Highway.
The youths led by their leader, Chinagorom Ekeke peaceful moved into the premises of the RRIN at KM8, Obehie Azumini Highway, barricaded the whole offices with palm fronds and shutdown activities completely.
The Akwete youths carried placards with inscriptions such as “We want implementation of the old MOU”, “Rubber Research Institute enough of this wickedness”, “Akwete Youths want to see RRIN Executive Director.”
Explaining further reasons behind the protest, Ekeke said the institute established in Akwete in 1963 by the Michael Okpara government of Old Eastern Region had refused to give employment preference to Akwete youths while employing staff from other parts of the country to come work in their land.
He added that Akwete people have endured the injustice from 1963 to 2013 when Akwete Elders Council began to write to the institute’s management to dialogue with them but they only promised to come without coming.
According to Ekeke, “We are here today to tell them how aggrieved we are about their unjust treatment of Akwete sons and daughters since 1963 they have been working on our land.
“We are locking them out and saying that unless their management comes to dialogue with us, on or before Monday, the gate and offices will remain locked permanently.”
Akwete Joint Council of Chiefs secretary, Chief Christian Uwaezuoke,
who followed the youths to the RRIN premises to guide and avoid any breakdown of laws and order said that Akwete people have been pushed to the wall by the institute.
In his words, “We’ve tried our best to avoid this kind of scene, but the management of RRIN has made it absolutely impossible. Our patient has been taken for granted and we’ve been pushed to the wall.
“The Managing Director of this institute has taken us as if we’re nothing. The Akwete Joint Council of Chiefs has resolved that as from today, all the offices here shall remain under lock and key until the Managing Director comes for dialogue.
“Anything contrary to this, we shall use all our democratic rights as a people to resist it. You do not beat a child and ask the child not to cry.
“I’m aware that if the president of Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari comes here with his people oriented policies and see what we are passing through, everyone involved in shortchanging us will surely be in trouble.
“The Managing Director here and the Chief Executive are totally incompetent. They cannot manage the people’s feelings or take proactive actions to defend the government that brought them here.
Mr Chidiebere Ogbo, the institute’s Administrative Officer, addressing the youth thanked them for making their protest against the perceived institute’s attitude to them peaceful.
He said that citizens in a democracy have the right to air their grievances stressing that they can only get what they want if they pursue it peacefully in a right way.
He said the institute had received and replied the letters of the Akwete alders on some occasions but that youths protests showed they are not satisfied with the institute’s efforts.
He promised that the Executive Director and Board of Directors of the institute will hear of their visit to the institute.
Earlier, Chief Okere Eruba, and Chief Onyema Olujie, members of Akwete Council of Chiefs told reporters that since the institute came to Akwete, they have refused to show the limits of the lands they occupy with survey plan.
The Chiefs noted that following the large number of lands they acquired, they have resorted to leasing the farmlands yearly to farmers who can buy from them to farm.
They asked the institute to review the annual customary rights and royalties payable to Akwete community to ensure peace.
They asked the institute which had refused to employ their children to start giving jobs to their youths or quit to enable them use their lands for farming which would yield better results for them.
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