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OPINION

REVOKING ILLEGALLY ACQUIRED LANDS: A WITCH-HUNT OR SERVICE TO IMO PEOPLE?

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By Collins Ughalaa KSC

One of the dominant features of the discourse in Imo State for the eight years Okorocha was Governor was land acquisition by the Government and top officials of the Government. The matter was so serious that some people dubbed that government a land grabbing government, as there was a plethora of complaints that lands belonging to individuals and the Government itself were arbitrarily acquired by top government officials. Such lands included the old IBC Quarters in Orji, where a majestic private school now sits atop the land believed to belong to the State Government; the Orlu Road Secretariat, the Old Stadium along Tetlow Road, Owerri, and the New Government House at New Owerri, etcetera.

The issue of land grabbing by the Government even featured during a Government sponsored programme. On Saturday, May 6, 2017, the media reported that Okorocha marked the 2017 edition of the Imo Freedom Day at the Freedom Square, Owerri. The Governor reportedly said the event afforded the people the opportunity to talk freely to the Government and himself as the Governor. Rising to the occasion, one Dr. Chukwujindu Felix was reported to have accused the Government of forcibly appropriating his land in Ogboko without compensation and using same as part of the Eastern Palm University. Others who spoke also reportedly accused the government of taking their lands in Owerri and re-allocating same to top government officials.

Earlier in April 2012, the people of Umuoyima Community in Owerri practically shifted their homes to Area K, close to the World Bank Housing Estate, and the former Timber Market respectively. The indigenes claimed that the land housing the former Timber Market was returned to them by the Ikedi Ohakim administration, and that the Area K land belonging to them had also been appropriated by the government without due consultation with the original owners. In a report by a veteran journalist and Vanguard newspaper correspondent, Chief Chidi Nkwopara, and published on www.vanguardngr.com on April 24, 2012, the indigenes carried placards to express their anger. Their placards read: “We need our land not compensation”; “We have given so much to Imo State”; “Rochas: A Governor or land
speculator?”; “Owelle, nakwa echeki ihe ime ga Nde Owerri”, and “Area K is our property”.

Similarly, Chief Sam Anokam, in an interview published on www.vanguardngr.com on August 11, 2019, noted that “The approach of the Okorocha administration in land acquisition was not proper. Imo people condemned it. The Land Use Act stipulates at Section 28 (1) and (4) the grounds for Revocation or Acquisition of Private Interest in the land by the State Government notwithstanding that the whole land in the territory of the State is vested in the Governor.

“Unfortunately, the immediate past Government [Okorocha’s government] misunderstood the vesting rights of the land in the Governor and interpreted it to be that the Governor enjoys absolute ownership of all lands in the state. The Government did not stop at illegally acquiring private properties without compliance with due process, Federal Government properties were also acquired with impunity. At a point, it became obvious that professionals on land matters were not consulted. The Government did not give notice, fair hearing or paid compensation to those whose lands were taken…Instead of giving direct allocations to the people, the State Government preferred to use land speculators who will buy up the lands, hoard them and resell later at very high prices to the detriment of Imo people. This practice is against the intent and purposes of the Land Use Act”.

Resolving the issues of land acquisition or land administration during the Okorocha era became an agenda set by the people for the governorship aspirants in 2019. Okorocha’s successor should look into the plethora of complaints about land acquisition by the Okorocha Government. That was what the people wanted as they could not stomach the fact the land at New Owerri mapped out by the Ikedi Ohakim administration for the New Government House was mis-appropriated, and buildings belonging to individuals and sundry associations now sit on the land. It was impunity on graphic display.

The Ihedioha administration met this awkward situation and attempted to right the wrongs. Imo people, except the land grabbers, applauded the move. Setting up the Panel of Inquiry on Lands and other Related Matters, Ihedioha, on August 14, 2019, said he was not embarking on an illegal exercise as he was exercising the powers provided in Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry (cap. 24), Laws of Eastern Nigeria, 1963. The Judicial panel, chaired by Justice Florence Duruoha Igwe, was assigned to recover all lands and properties taken by Okorocha, family and associates, revoke and recover all lands, examine and ascertain whether Government land or part of it have been converted to private use and identify the persons responsible and make recommendations for recovery and appropriate sanctions; ascertain the extent of land compulsorily acquired or forcefully wrested from the owners; and ascertain the extent of allocation and revocation of land in Imo State from June 2006 – May 2019 and determine the propriety of such allocations and revocations.

On assumption of office, Governor Hope Uzodinma in February adopted the judicial panels set up by his predecessor, Emeka Ihedioha, including the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Lands. The Governor said he acknowledged that government is a continuum, assuring that his administration will not go into witch-hunting, but continue from where the previous administration stopped, “particularly in areas that will impact positively on the living standard of Imo people.”

The Panel went to work and submitted their report to the Governor on Monday, June 1, 2020. Speaking during the event, the Chairman of the Commission noted the need “to completely restore the Owerri Master plan and the lost glory of our beautiful city”. She said that “The visual evidence shows that the distortion of Owerri Master plan was colossal and mind-boggling. It requires a man/government with a lion’s heart to restore same, bearing in mind that you cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg”.

Imo people waited until on Wednesday, November 25, when the State Government disclosed their readiness to implement the Panel’s recommendations. Addressing the press after the weekly Executive Council meeting, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Mbadiwe Emelumba, hinted that the State Government would revoke all lands illegally acquired in the state and return them to their original owners. The Commissioner said that the Council adopted the Whitepaper on the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Lands and other related matters which covered the years June 2006 to May 2019. He added that the Council agreed with the Whitepaper recommendation of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Lands and Other Related Matters on the revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) issued on the lands forcefully and illegally acquired and for the restoration of such lands to the original owners, even as he disclosed that Council also adopted other recommendations by the Panel such as the restoration of the Owerri Master Plan.

He said: “The Exco decided that all public lands wrongly allocated to Individuals will be revoked by Government and returned to the original owners. All layouts whose nomenclature were wrongly changed will be returned to their original names. The permanent site of Government House which was mapped out and designated as such but was balkanized by previous administrations will be recovered and restored fully, and any structure or building erected in the permanent site will be revoked and removed to restore the permanent site to its original design. All other illegal structures erected anywhere within Owerri Municipal and its environment that distorted the original Master Plan will be regarded as an illegal structure and will be demolished to restore the old Owerri Master Plan. This applies to Arugo-Layout, Ekwema-Layout and other such Government layout anywhere in Imo State.”

Many people in Imo State have applauded the Government’s decision to resolve the issue of land grabbing, describing it as genuine service rendered to the people. They said that the Governor has by his decision fulfilled the wishes of the people. More importantly, they said it was cheery news that the Government did not appropriate the lands to themselves but returned them to their original owners. Acknowledging Government decision, Dr. Sam Amadi, former Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), human rights activist, law lecturer and former governorship aspirant (2019), said he supported the Governor on the decision to revoke the illegally acquired lands in the state.

He said: “I support Imo Governor reviewing illegal acquisition of public land and buildings by previous Governors or public officers. Any property acquired without due process or acquired maliciously against the interest of any Imo citizen or community should be revoked. Property acquired with very low payment to the government should be reassessed according to market value and the acquirer should pay additional fees to Government or forfeit the property. Enough of criminality in the guise of governance”.

It is doubtful if any other governor, except Uche Nwosu, would not revisit the vexed issue of land grabbing during the Okorocha era. Therefore, we should realise that political leaders are elected primarily to solve problems. The faulty land administration during the Okorocha administration was one of the problems the State faced. Governor Hope Uzodimma has lived up to the expectations of the people by looking into that menace and correcting it. What we owe him is huge commendation. We should not always dance to political tunes and condemn what ordinarily we could have done anyway. What is good would be good, no matter who does it. The move to revoke the illegally acquired lands in the State is a move in the right direction. We cannot acquiesce to illegality.

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OPINION

THE SCAPEGOATING OF PROF. ARMSTRONG IDACHABA

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By Austeen Anibe Otene


Armstrong Aduku Idachaba, the recently ousted Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission of Nigeria is a professor of mass communication with deep rooted experience in broadcasting, broadcast policy and research. Appointed in February 2020 to head the commission, Prof. Idachaba worked relentlessly trying to introduce values into the Nigerian broadcasting business.
However, this dream was cut short by a presumed tribal power game of thrones which has raised sharp concerns across the country with the perception of a nepotistic reign of power by the few powers running the country’s business of governance. 
While his ouster has raised mixed reactions across every strata of the divide, many have considered the move in line with the trend of fielding people from a certain region and religion into high places of authority. 
Unfortunately back home, some of his tribesmen are seen to be jubililating his removal simply because the NBC under the watch of Mr. Idachaba had issued a suspension order to Mr. Ahmed Isah popularly known as Ordinary president who was caught on camera visibly assaulting an interviewee accused of scalding a minor’s head with kerosene and fire. An act which negates the fundamental dictates of the United Nations charter on fundamental human rights.
The celebration is biasedly steamed from the fact that Ahmed Isah shares the same tribe with Prof. Idachaba, and such, it is expected that Prof. Idachaba would have used this office to corruptly back the actions of his tribesman even in the glare of a committed crime. 
While I find these sorts of reactions absurd and an abuse of privilege, it should be noted that, these type of mindsets is the reason for the massive rot within and outside the Nigerian system of governance. Records has also shown how upright people occupying high profile positions in government have been the subject of scapegoating according to history which some person categorizes as “Use and Dump”. 
Mr. Idachaba has carved a niche for himself and I am optimistic, he is progressing to something bigger. 
Austeen Anibe Otene

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OPINION

Twitter Ban: Chairman JMPTEK Says Twitter Is A Failed Attempt To Kill Star Nation Nigeria

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Reporter: CECILIA OGEZI


Since Federal Government banned Twitter in Nigeria alot of reactions has trailed the decision of government owing to the fact that social media has become integral to how government officials and agencies interact with the public yet governments and institutions across the world have increasingly demonstrated their commitment to ending the menace of misinformation and disinformation which has had devastating consequences on governance.
In one of such reactions the national chairman, Justice Must Prevail Theocratic Eternal Kingdom, Party, Amb (Dr) Olusegun Ijagbemi-Oloruntijinde enumerated the many benefits of Twitter.
According to him, One of the biggest benefits of social media such as Twitter is that it allows governments to share critical information about its activities. It can also enable governments to control the narrative on key issues.
As social media allows governments to use experts to share health, science, and expert information. Additionally, it can allow governments to create an open channel for citizen interaction and engagement. Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) could find out quickly which message resonates best with the target audience. It also can reduce public relations and advertising costs. Additionally, it can increase trust in the government. It can also allow agencies to reach people and communities on platforms they already use. Finally, social media humanizes governments.

The chairman liken Nigerian situation to the way Herod reacted to the risen star of Bethlehem seeking to kill Him, as the same reaction of the Western world to what they saw as the star that has risen over Nigeria sponsoring ISIS and all manners of foreign agents, and now recently including social media such as TWITTER, in an attempt to destroy the nation.
He explained that at 60 years after independence on 1st October 2019, Almighty God terminated our spiritual affliction of being in the darkness of democracy.
As the process of the rebirth of a new nation started, after seven days, it was marked with the beginning of #ENDSARS protests which continues to shake the government till date with Nigeria making headlines around the world as the #EndSARS protests exposed the various forms of injustices perpetrated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force. While Nigerian youths exercised their right to protest peacefully, deliberate efforts to spread misinformation sabotaged their credibility.
Against this backdrop, the government initiated efforts to regulate social media in a bill submitted to the National Assembly, which became quickly known as the ‘antisocial media bill’. While such an approach might prevent the spread of disinformation in the short term, it would also shut down legitimate efforts to expose human rights abuses and anti-democratic behaviours.
Oloruntijinde stressed that the government that’s about to be made manifest is not about social media campaign or negotiation, neither is it about resolution as it’s going to be by violence in the realms of the supernatural! That’s what Christ described that from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven that’s about to be established on earth beginning from our great nation Nigeria shall suffer violence, and the violent take it by force.
It’s not by #ENDSARS violence or the kind of ‘taking it by force’ that’s preached in religious ministries which are mere noise of man, it’s still all about mysteries.

He stated that urging Mr. President to seek foreign help and alliances to fight the insurgency which is now widespread across the entire country, is not be solution as only God can deliver the nation because many of our nation’s so called foreign friends are the people engineering our crisis.
He added that if is towards the fulfillment of His end-time agenda for the nation has He annointed His servant from the east, His Eternal Excellency, Apostle Sunday Chukwu-Eguzolugo as President of the party in waiting; and who began his journey traveling to Lagos in the West and to Kebbi in the North, and equipped with uncommon wisdom, adequately prepared with divinely inspired balanced and perfect Theocratic Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a balanced and perfect restructuring of Governance.
He stressed that Nigeria’s salvation is not from banning or unbanning Twitter, Facebook or from an earthly institution but from above, God wants to do it in a way that the world would know that He’s the one that did it and after His judgement is made manifest, who shall not fear Him for all nations shall come to worship Him in spirit and in truth facing neither east or west but facing heaven which is located in the direction of the North the city of the Great King where God is known in His palaces for our refuge.
He further noted that Social media may wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him, purged purified and refined unto good works with zero tolerance to corruption under the covenant of Twelve Pillars of Oath of righteousness and judgement that kills if violated to do what is right and not what we like are the called and chosen and faithful and He shall hand over the Godvernment to us.
He noted that the only solution to all the problems bedeviling the nation Nigeria to be at peace roundabout in justice, equity and transformation to all. With over 125.7 million internet users, Nigerian stakeholders such as the government, media houses, the private sector and civil society organisations would be able to work together to ensure that the population is informed and insulated from online harms.
None of us is safe until all of us are safe. The victory over the fight against disinformation is from above and is sure to build a positive digital space to the benefit of all.

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OPINION

CHALLENGES OF THE NIGERIAN STATE; THE POLITICS OF 2023 INVIEW.

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Jacob Emmanuel (MCJJ) Envisaging the future


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JACOB EMMANUEL (MCJJ)
Nigeria just like other post colonial entities in Africa is ravaged with several challenges. The evolution of the Nigerian state through the precolonial, horrid colonial and present complicated post colonial stages is climaxed with multifaceted experiences,some of which are better left unsaid.

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