WHO OWNS THE LAND?

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By Victor Ugborgu

The Police Force headquarters in Abuja is still investigating thecircumstances surrounding the demolition of 25 buildingsundergoing construction at UmuenweneIji Nike Community in Enugu Eastcouncil area of Enugu State. The said buildings belong to JonathanEmejulu an Architect and business man.

In the past six years, the over 300 plots of land have been a subjectof controversy as claims and counter claims have been the order of theday. At the center of the dispute are officials of Enugu Stategovernment made up of commissioners and former local governmentchairmen.

Verbatim gathered that the Enugu government officials claimed that thestate government had earlier revoked the land and brought somehoodlums to demolish the 25 structures belonging to Emejulu.

The matter took a different dimension recently when a detachment ofForce Headquarters operatives of the Nigeria Police Abuja, visited thedisputed land to ascertain why the 25 buildings were cruellydemolished.  At the end of the visit, the Force headquarters invitedto Abuja the commissioners in the Ministries of Commerce and Industry,Transport, Lands and Survey; Edward Ubosi,  Speaker, Enugu State Houseof Assembly and Cornelius Nnaji, former council chairman of EnuguEast local government area. They were said to have been quizzed by theForce on June 22, 2018. They were accused of masterminding thedemolition of the said over 25 buildings in the Airport Road Layout, PhaseIV and V. Theywere also accused of selling plots of land in the area to theirfriends in government.

Few months ago, Emejulu, got a court judgment to take possession ofthe expanse of land he purchased in 2008. Following the ruling, hebrought a bulldozer into the place on April 28, with the fullprotection of police and consequently demolished buildings valuedmillions of naira belonging to mostly officials of the stategovernment for trespassing. He has threatened to sue the stategovernment for N3billion damages.

However, few days after the demolition, those affected went back tothe disputed land and started rebuilding the effected buildings.Emejulu told Verbatim that some commissioners were also involved inselling some plots of land to their friends and family members to thepoint that some got as many as five plots to support theillegality, adding that the worrisome aspect was that an AreaCommander in the state provided security for the people to continuebuilding in the area in total disregard to the rule of law.

“The area commander is saying that the judgment I got from the courtis fake. Based on the police backing, they are now threatening mylife. In fact, my life is in danger as they keep threatening to killme. I want the world to know what I am suffering in the hands ofofficials of Enugu State government”, Emejulu said. Verbatim wasreliably informed that Governor IfeanyiUgwuanyi had on many occasionscautioned his aides over the land matter.

However, when Ubosi was contacted for his reaction at the wake ofpulling down the illegal structures in the land, he said he had “nocomment.”  Nnaji, on his part, denied any involvement in the landsaga, claiming that he had no land or property in the layout andtherefore could not have had any friction with Emejulu, to warrant theaccusation.

He said, “The man is just calling my name and the Speaker’s name totarnish our image. I have no property there. I’m not in contentionwith him”.“But if he says he owns the layout, let him provide the layout plan andthe plot numbers. That place is part of Free Trade Zone which wasrecently flagged off by the government. And if you say you have courtjudgment, you serve the people concerned”,Nnaji declared.

Efforts to reach the other government officials named in the saga werenot fruitful, as their mobile phones could not go through as at thetime of filling this report.But Solomon Onah, commissioner for Lands was handy when Verbatimapproached him for his reaction. Speaking through IkechukwuEzenwukwa,a lawyer in the ministry, Onah said the man in question misconceivedthings as the commissioner had no interest in the disputed land. Healso has no single plot as an individual in the area. “It is out ofplace to accuse him of any wrongdoing inthe airport layout phase IV and V. The acquisition of the place wasdone before the commissioner assumed office and never played any rolein the exercise as an individual or as a commissioner. He has nosingle plot there. Airport layout phase IV and V was a runway acquiredfor the federal government.  Solomon Onah has never gone there for anydemolition. The man should have a way of establishing his claims”.

Ezenwukwa told this magazine that Emejulu never sued the commissionereither as a person or as a commissioner in his suit.“As government is a continuum, the present commissioner inherited theproblem and not that he instituted it. The major thing is that the manhad gone to court to challenge thefederal and state governments on the matter and has also decided tocontinue. He equally went to the federal police. When the matter wasin court the people he claimed to have bought the land from, alsowanted to be joined in the matter alleging that they never sold theland to him or he should stop parading fake judgment. The family ofG.O.D. Eneh equally joined that they are entitled to the land”, thelawyer said.

He said there were also letters by the people living there claimingcompensation and as the matter has been in court, the ministry coulddo little or nothing to settle the issue. “We wanted him toexhaust or exercise his civic responsibility. “Before 2015 there wereletters from different people making claims that the land belonged tothem. They said they have a right to be joined in the suit but the mandecided to withdraw the suit”.

Police invitation:Ezenwukwa confirmed to the magazine that the police actually invitedthe government officials mentioned in the land dispute. “The policeinvited us and we obliged as law abiding citizens and weanswered the questions put to us. The state government acquired thearea and there was enumeration where people who had properties tookinventory of what they had and it was summed up and reported to FAANfor compensation. But Jonathan Emejulu claimed that he had alreadybought the area before the acquisition”.However, Ezenwukwa said the state government never believed in makinglife difficult for the people. “It is not the desire of the stategovernment to suffer the people. Rather it is our desire to developthe state. If there is need to bring all the people together and havea commonfront to initiatecompensation, it will help us develop the state as federal allocationis not enough to develop the state”, he submitted.

Culled from Verbatim Magazine.

 

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