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Crown Point resident Solomon Lovell looks on as a NIDCO crew puts back up his fencing which they tore down to gain access to the property yesterday. The crew initially broke down the fence for access to demolish the property but after a confrontation with Lovell they packed up and left.

Loyse Vincent

A Crown Point resident yesterday engaged in a stand-off with a crew of workmen representing the National Infrastructure Development Company (NIDCO), after they turned up on his property and started demolishing the outer fencing. Solomon Lovell stood his ground and eventually got the crew to leave his property, although not before some of his animals got away.

Lovell currently owns a dwelling house and a farm at Gaskin Bay Road but the property belongs to a close relative whom he said was a partner on the farm.

“I have been operating this farm for almost 30 years. I have sheep, goat and chickens. My partner, who owns the land, got down in age so he is not as active in the day-to-day operations but he is a partner,” Lovell told Tobago Today.

However, Lovell said a few days ago a representative from NIDCO visited the property and instructed him to remove the animals from the farm.

“When I asked the lady if NIDCO paid any money for the property she said no. I then instructed her to leave because as far as I understood, the owner is still in negotiations with NIDCO,” he said.

He said he was therefore stunned yesterday when a group of workmen came with heavy equipment and broke down his fence and began clearing trees on one end of the property.

“I came out I asked them what they were doing. They said they were instructed to clear the property. I began to argue with them – an Asian guy came and asked me to talk, I said you can talk but do so on the road. We argued and I had to get aggressive and demand that they leave my farm,” Lovell said.

He said they subsequently came off the property and repaired his fence.

According to Lovell, he has since contacted the property owner, who again confirmed that he was still in negotiations with NIDCO, as he was not satisfied with the compensation being offered.

Lovell said he was angry, as this was the second attempt made by NIDCO in recent weeks to come onto the compound to demolish the structure.

“Just two weeks ago they tried to evict another gentleman from his property that he has the deed for, claiming that he was paid for it, now this. Again, we are seeing that none of the promises made by government officials are being kept.”

Lovell is one of the 150 residents who will have to be relocated for the new ANR Robinson International Airport Terminal. NIDCO is seeking to acquire 126 properties to secure the land needed for the project. At last count, 78 agreements were reached between NIDCO and residents.

Guardian Media tried contacting NIDCO chairman Herbert George for a comment on the latest development yesterday but all to his cellphone went unanswered.

This is the second incident in recent weeks in which there has been an incident involving NIDCO representatives and landowners.

On December 10, nine residents were served section five notices instructing them to vacate state land within seven days. One of the residents, Wolvin Lovell, who claims to be the legal owner of the parcel of land he occupies, said his letter stated that he received compensation for his property, which was not the case. He presented legal paperwork to support his claim.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, however, repealed the notices the following day stating, “The service of those notices in that specific area known as Block D was premature and violated an undertaking given to affected residents that during a 2-3 week period after December 1, 2020 further discussions will be held with affected persons before the acquisition process continued.”