Cocoa farmers in Cross River State are raising their voices against what they perceive as an unfair exclusion from the recently constituted cocoa allocation committee by the state government.
According to businessday.ng, expressing their discontent, the farmers, organized under the Cocoa Landlords Communities Committee, conveyed their objections through a statement issued by Chief Asu Ndep, the committee’s Secretary, in Calabar on Sunday.
The core of their dissatisfaction revolves around the perceived lopsided composition of the committee and reservations about its terms of reference. Ndep highlighted concerns that the current setup, if left unchanged, could undermine the progress made in previous years.
The committee, inaugurated by the state government on Thursday, was tasked with overseeing the cocoa value chain throughout the state. However, according to Ndep, the terms of reference and the absence of representation for the Cocoa Landlords Communities Committee are troubling.
One major point of contention is the decision to abandon the “Smart-Gov. Platform,” a tool utilized by the immediate past administration to settle a 16-year debt owed to the committee. Ndep argued that the exclusion of their representatives from the cocoa allocation committee and the shift from the established payment platform are misguided.
“We took the previous administration to the High Court, and the court granted us a ruling that forced the government to defray the debt,” Ndep asserted, emphasizing the significance of the Smart-Gov platform in ensuring the remittance of their rightful percentage payments.
The statement underscored that the landlords communities had contributed their lands for cocoa cultivation, and their primary mode of payment preference is the Smart-Gov platform, which had been effective in the past.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Crop, and Irrigation, Mr. Johnson Ebokpo, had, during the committee’s inauguration, mentioned that the funds generated would be directed into a designated government account. However, the cocoa farmers are adamant about the need for their representation and the retention of the payment system that has proven successful in the past.
As the debate unfolds, it remains to be seen how the state government will address the concerns raised by the Cocoa Landlords Communities Committee and whether a resolution can be reached to ensure the continued progress of the cocoa industry in Cross River State