By Benson Ezugwu
Calabar. -. Cross River Government has directed beneficiaries of 2016-2019 cocoa lease allocation who are yet to pay their lease fees to clear such debts before June 21, to avoid possible sanctions.
Dr Oscar Ofuka, acting Chairman, Cross River State Cocoa Board, gave the directive via a statement made available to newsmen on Sunday in Calabar.
Ofuka directed the debtors to pay the money into the cocoa project account without further delay or face possible sanctions.
He said: “Failure to comply with this directive will lead to forfeiture of farms and recovery of such indebtedness through the state government revenue court.
“Those that failed to pay their debts will not also be allocated new farms even if they are successful in the ongoing 2019 lease allocation.
“They are also expected to present evidence of such payment to the Ministry of Agriculture office in Ikom and obtain a certificate of non-indebtedness. ’’
This he said would enable them have access to their farms.
He disclosed that applications for the ongoing 2019 cocoa lease allocation were being processed; adding that list of successful applicants would be published soon.
The acting chairman appealed to successful applicants in the ongoing exercise to pay their lease fees on time to enable them take possession of their farms on Jan. 1, 2020.
According to him, the state was indebted to millions of naira by many cocoa farmers who failed to pay their lease fees since 2016.
Ofuka recently appointed acting chairman of the cocoa board by Gov. Ben Ayade, served as Special Adviser on Cocoa Development during the governor’s first tenure.