By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The leading Civil Rights Advocacy platform in Nigeria: – HUMAN RIGHS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has challenged the Enugu state governor Mr. Ifeanyi Ugweanyi to publicly state his official position on the alleged illegal attempt by his Housing Commissioner Vitus Okechi to usurp the statutory duty of a separate sister ministry on the ownership of the ancestral land in Ugwuaji, Enugu South Local Government Area.
In a media statement made against the backdrop of the reported visit by some members of the Enugu state House of Assembly on the prompting of the Housing Commissioner to the ancestral land of Ugwuaji Community even as the Rights group expressed shock that the visit orchestrated by the commissioner happen even when a judicial inquisition over the ownership of the land is ongoing. The Rights group said the attention of the organisation was called to this alleged illegality by some of the people whose ancestral lands are on the verge of being grabbed by alleged land speculators.
The Rights group through the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Yusuf Zainab Yusuf said the inaction of governor Ifeany Ugwuanyi to checkmate the alleged reckless abuse of office by his housing Commissioner has graphically painted him as a weak leader who watches on as land grabbers attempt to deprive some Enugu people of their lands illegally.
Besides, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) wondered why Enugu state governor who inaugurated the panel on the same land has watched as the Housing Commissioner seeks to impose a fait accompli on the judicial panel even as the Rights group said the Enugu state government had in a public notice published last November overruled the illegal attempt by the Housing Commissioner to allegedly collude with land speculators to take over the ancestral lands of the Ugwuaji people of Enugu South Local Government Area Council.
Specifically, In the disclaimer, the Commissioner for lands development whose statutory powers covers the issues of land in Enugu state had stated officially thus: “RE PURPORTED NEW ENUGU CITY LAYOUT;The attention of the Enugu state Ministry of Land and Urban Development has been drawn to a purported New Enugu City layout plan, which is circulation now; The Enugu state Ministry of Land and Urban Development wishes to categorically DISCLAIM the purported layout plan/scheme in circulation as such neither emanates from nor has the approval of the Ministry other government agency; The general public is therefore put on notice and advised to ignore the purported New Enugu City Layout plan schedule; Anyone transacting or dealing on anyone based on the purported layout plan/scheme, does so at his/her own risks. Please be guided.”
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) recalled that the official disclaimer by the Enugu state government was to publicly denounce an earlier allegedly misdirected public service announcement by the Housing Commissioner who as an alleged interloper on the duties of a separate sister ministry had stated thus:
“The Ministry of housing,Enugu state, has directed all buyers of Community lands behind GOSHEN Estate and around former ESWAMA Refuse Dump Site at Independence Layout , Enugu, to summit all their genuine necessary documents related to the land transactions to the Office of the Honourable Commissioner for Housing at the State Secretariat Complex not later than one month from the date of this announcement.
Besides, in an exeecise of illegality and futility, the Ministry of Housing has set up a standing REVIEW COMMITTEE comprising the Ministry of Housing, a team lawyers and the concern communities to verify these documents for any possible resolution and compensation.
Please you are to ensure strict compliance to this directive to enable the Ministry to resolve the issues accordingly, in a notice dated 176th August 2020”.
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION (HURIWA) has therefore appealed to the Enugu state governor to put his house in order and restore stability in policy implementation because the practice of housing Commissioner encroaching on the constitutional functions of other agencies and undermining a sitting judicial review panel on the same issue is a gross disincentive to the aggressive campaign by the government to attract foreign investors.
HURIWA recalled that already Enugu indigenes resident in the Russian Federation have petitioned Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi over rising cases of land racketeering and their resultant effects.
HURIWA stated that media reports stated that In the letter signed by the president of the body, Mr. Emmanuel Moses, the Enugu indigenes in Russia complained in the entire South-East, Enugu State ranks number one in land grabbing.
“They said the practice has become a top menu for government officials. ‘This is nauseating and, to say the least, disgraceful, for individuals who have received the mandate to administer our commonwealth,’ part of the letter read.”
The Rights group said the letter further read: ‘We are dragging the focus of the international community to this dastardly act and pledge not to fold our arms and watch this devilish and wicked act by the Hon. Commissioner of Housing, go unpunished.
‘Let it be known that this parochial act of wickedness cannot be interpreted otherwise. It is a direct affront on our common sensibilities as well as a pure invitation to anarchy and does not in the slightest of ways portray any regard for the dignity of human rights and civility.
‘We are more than convinced, beyond reasonable doubt that, Your Excellency, the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, whom we have high respect and regard for, may not have been properly briefed and addressed on this ongoing saga that has culminated for months, hence this clarion call for you to urgently intervene.
‘We remain optimistic that, Your Excellency’s timely intervention will go a long way to quell the already heated tension generated as a result of the misgivings and excessive abuse of office.”
Besides, in a public service announcement, of September 2nd 2020. Government said thus:
“following the Land Dispute in Ugwuaji Community in Enugu South Local Government Area, the State Executive Council constituted a six-man administrative Panel of Inquiry into the Disputed Land. The Administrative panel was inaugurated by His Excellency, the Governor on Tuesday, 1st September, 2020 with the following terms of reference:
I. To establish the true owner(s) of the parcel of land in dispute;
II. To ascertain the entire area of Landin dispute;
III. To ascertain individual claims or title to parcels of Land in the disputed area;
IV. To make any other finding(s) that will ensure lasting peace in the area.
Consequently, the administrative panel of inquiry, hereby invites Memorandum from individuals, groups and any other person(s) directly or indirectly affected by the land dispute or that may have any claim regarding the land in dispute.
By this announcement, all claims, and/or activities on the disputed parcels of Land should cease forthwith until final submission of this Panel’s Report and State Government disposal action on the matter.
Your submission shall be in ten (10) copies on A4 paper size, double spacing and addressed to:”
The Rights group therefore has asked the Enugu State governor to restrain the commissioner for Housing from the reported alleged lawless attempt to take over the ancestral lands of the good people of Ugwuaji. The Rights group said the organisation received numerous calls, communications and complaints from ordinary people and citizens of the affected community who are afraid that they may be thrown out of their ancestral lands without any justification even against extant Land Use Act and the clear directive of the State governor to investigate all ownership claims on the same landed assets.