By Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN—THE Iyase of Benin Kingdom in Edo State, Chief Sam Igbe, has confessed that the dreaded, now outlawed Community Development Associations, CDAs, terrified community leaders and residents of the monarchy so much that if the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, had not waded in, there would have been anarchy.
Chief Igbe, who spoke at a workshop, last week, by the state government to sensitize the public on the Task Force, established to implement the Edo State Private Property Protection Law, 201, said: “We prayed for this law that was established today.”
The task force led by the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase has Chief Osaro Idah as deputy chairman.
Four top Benin chiefs, including Chief Igbe, Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, The Eson of Benin Kingdom, Chief Amos Osunbor and the Osuma of Benin Kingdom attended the workshop to demonstrate its importance to the Oba of Benin, who first called for the law.
Reign of terror
According to Igbe, “The reason why the palace is interested in this law is that we want this land of Edo people to prosper. We were getting very much afraid about what was happening around. We were afraid to go to the communities.
“People were running away from building houses, our children abroad could not build houses because when they come to buy a plot, they found out that somebody else had bought it already. And for you to erect the foundation, you pay, when you get to German floor, you pay, when you want to roof the house, you pay, by the time you do all these; you do not have money to complete the house, so you have a lot of uncompleted buildings today.
“Worst of all, there were killings here and there. It is pleasing to see our Enigies here today. They had pests in their communities who made it impossible for them to do their jobs. The Edionwere, who works with them were not allowed to work.”
His words: “Now, this law that the governor is kind enough to institute for us is going to ensure that all these are in the past. That is why this committee was set up. CDAs are not new to our lives. These CDAs were set up at the Federal level not even in the state. The reason why it was set up was to develop the communities.”
Sigh of relief: He went on: “We thank God we have an Oba in our land, the Oba has his Enigies and the Enigie has Odionwere and other groups and they all work in concert with the palace. Now, I think the Enigie and the Odionwere now can have a sigh of relief that this law has come in today and that the Community Development Associations as used to be in the immediate past are disappearing, giving way to the real Community Associations where the members of the community will gather and decide how to develop their communities.
Shame of youths: “Who are the youths, unfortunately our youths today, most of them want money but they do not want to work hard. We have youths, who do not settle down to ask what I am going to do tomorrow? Everybody is shouting government, government. Government has a restricted set of functions and when you talk to these youths, they tell you they have their rights, they are leaders of tomorrow. What about the responsibilities?
“It is a shame that a child passes through universities, but does not know why he went to school. We thank the government for setting up this committee and we hope that our children now will ensure that we have the benefit of this law,” the Iyase said.
Making of a monster: Solicitor General of the state and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Wole Iyamu, lamented that the CDAs “became a monster that we registered for the purpose of community development, but they became brigands, war lords, thugs, terrors and destroyed the attractiveness of land to the ordinary citizens of Edo State. But this law will be decisive and will help encourage investors and make our communities great again.”
Amnesty: In his opening remarks, Arase, who explained that the state government intends to ensure that sanity prevailed on the communities so as to attract investors, declared: “Individuals or groups that choose out of their own volition or free will to test the resolve and capacity of the state by violating any section of the law will be arrested, investigated and speedily brought to desired justice.”
Giving reasons why the government gave amnesty to the former CDA members to return their arms and get some cash reward, the former IGP said: “We decided do this to remove the arms in the hands of the youths and engage the repentant youths in employment programmes like neighbourhood watch and technical training.
“It will also include the engagement of the youths within the state in agricultural projects and advancement of soft loans to aid such concerned youths. The third is the strategy of citizens’ participation. This will encompass engagement of sets of strategies that will galvanize the citizens towards understanding their rights and roles within the frame work of the law as well as towards supporting the state government and the coming team in the achievement of the objective of the law,” he disclosed.
Arase pointed out: “It will also involve the integration of the traditional institution, including encouraging the Enigies, Ohens, Odionwere, who are supposed to be the eyes and ears of the Omo N’Oba at the grassroots level to key into the implementation process. This sensitization workshop is in furtherance of this strategy.
”The Enigies, Odionwere and youths constitute the most strategic stakeholders in our implementation plan. This is because they are critical actors at the community level whose actions or inactions may have significant impact in our implementation process. The task force will collaborate with the youths and the Enigies in the enforcement of the law.
No respecter of persons
“The law takes precedence over other considerations and it will be in our common interest to respect the dictates of the law, rather than expose themselves to actions that will expose them against the law.
“It is, therefore, essential that all community development actors should not respect the provisions of this law and be absent from any acts that may be interpreted as contravening any section of the law in their activities as such will attract punishment inform of arrest and conviction to imprisonment of 10 years or a fine of N1million or both for persons who contravene the provisions of section one of the law,” he forewarned.
He stated: “It is six months imprisonment, a fine of N100, 000 or both for contravention of the provisions of section 2, 3 and 4. The enforcement task force shall never shy away from enforcing these laws should it be violated under any guise by anybody or group. Let me assure citizens that the extent they respect the law they have no reason to fear.“
But then again, for those that want to text the will of the task force, he asserted: “I can assure of our strong will to bring the full weight of the law on them. Our mandate is to advance the vision of the state government and our revered royal authority guarantying that Edo state is one state where law abiding citizens are guaranteed peace and security. We urge everybody to cooperate with us in this journey of restoring our state to the path of decency, security and development”.
Chief, others arrested
Underscoring its readiness to tackle offenders, the task force recently arrested a Benin chief, the Ohen of Amufi community in Ikpoba Okhai local government area of Edo state, Iyi Eware Aisenogua for violating the law.