By Philip Dzeremo/Makurdi
The Federal Government has promised to commence payment of compensation to Benue communities affected by the construction of the Abuja-Keffi-Makurdi federal highway next week.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr 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 Director of Works, Ishaq Mohammed, the minister regretted the stoppage of work around the Benue axis over issues of nonpayment of compensation to those whose lands, houses were affected by the construction.
The minister said 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 on account of threats to the lives of workers by youths in those communities, assuring that arrangements for compensation had been concluded and that payments would commence next week.
Earlier, the Tor Lobi, Chief Moses Anagende, regretted the loss of ancestral lands, including farms and houses to the construction work, blaming the stoppage of work on failed promises by the Federal Government.
He said series of meetings were held between the Federal Government and community leaders for early payment of compensation, but to no avail.
Anagende said that the youths were angered by the destruction of their livelihoods by the road project, without accompanying compensation paid to them.
In his remarks, Gov. Samuel Ortom, warned against acts of lawlessness and said his administration would never support those issuing threats to people under any guise.
Ortom charged traditional rulers to take charge of their domains and collaborate with security agencies to fish out the criminals amongst them.
” I will deal with those threatening lives and property, let me know whenever there are threats to lives and property. But at the same time, I will not allow my people to be short changed in the process,” he said.
The road construction is being handled by China Harbour Engineering company.