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IMO: How Okorocha govt’s land grabbing left 500 court cases for Ihedioha – Ankam, NIES Fellow

By Adekunle Aliyu

Chief Sam Anokam is an Owerri based Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers and a Knight of St. Christopher of the Anglican Communion. The former Chairman of Imo Water Development Authority (IWADA) bares his mind on issues of national importance.

•Chief Sam Anokam

What do you think about decamping in Nigerian politics?

Political parties in Nigeria are not ideologically based. I mean a situation where parties are set up based on ideologies or beliefs on how to offer satisfactory services to the citizenry.

In developed countries, they have their political parties tailored along party ideologies. United Kingdom has Labour Party and the Conservatives while America has Democrats, Republicans and Independent candidates, all formulated based on their beliefs on how to better the lives of their peoples. But here in Nigeria, people see political party as a vehicle boarded by people of different shades of opinion to satisfy selfish ends. So in order to achieve their selfish aim they decamp from one party to another with ease.

If our politicians collectively have the people at heart, they will not jump ship as soon as they get elected or what they are looking for through the party is not realized. They should go back to the drawing board and work harder for the next election. For this to stop, personal interest should be de-emphasized.

Another issue is co-operation with others to implement the manifesto of the party in the interest of citizens. It is appalling that the moment politicians win elections, the interest of the people becomes secondary while theirs becomes paramount. Again, everybody in politics is aiming at one appointment or the other. Members of a political party should bear in mind that they are there to serve the people through their party in different capacities; one can serve the party by being a strong mobiliser or an opinion-moulder.

Your take on the level of insecurity in Nigeria

Insecurity is a serious matter in Nigeria today but the buck stops on the table of the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. It is his duty to provide security for the citizens.

Oguta, Ihedioha, Okorocha, Imo, women
Ihedioha and Okorocha

But it is unfortunate that in this era, the security situation is getting worse and nothing seems to be done by the Presidency to resolve the problem.

I advise the Presidency to work with governors to arrest the situation by establishing state police which some governors have clamoured for. In the absence of state police, the Federal Government should give the state government right of control over security matters in their states, to strengthen their hands. After all, the killings take place in the states. The situation is critical. Again, the perpetrators reside amongst the people in our various states. The state governments in collaboration with the Police can fish them out easily. The Army should also complement the police in the quest to quell insecurity.

How do you think perpetrators of insecurity in Nigeria should be treated to serve as deterrent to others?

The perpetrators should not be treated with kid gloves, though I know that nobody should be adjudged guilty until it is proven. You do not find people guilty based on accusations. I suggest that a separate court be instituted for faster dispensation of justice and to avoid prolonged trials. The Boko Haram insurgency is worrisome. The Federal Government should see the North-East as an endangered region, and do the needful.

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The youths there should be engaged meaningfully to get them out of crime and at the same time make it hard for them to be recruited as Boko Haram fighters. Again, security operatives at the borders should be more proactive to deter mercenaries from neighbouring countries from coming in to wreak havoc on our people.

Critically assess the PDP administration in Imo State.

The PDP administration in Imo has Rt. Honourable Emeka Ihedioha at the helm of affairs. Ihedioha is quite experienced in matters that pertain to governance. He was at the National Assembly for 12 years. A man who is coming from that background is well informed. The hallmark of good governance is the observance of the rule of law. Good governance will ensure probity, accountability and due process in government business.

If Ihedioha adheres strictly to the tenets of good governance, he will do well.

As it stands now, I cannot assess his administration. It is too early; the government is not even up to 100 days. But looking at the several committees he has set up for fact-finding, he will begin to prioritize the needs of the people based on his capacity to deliver the desired services. Lets us watch him; it is too early to talk about his administration.

What is the right process for land acquisition by government?

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 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 misunderstood the vesting rights of the land in the Governor and interpreted it to be that the Governor enjoys absolute ownership of all land 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. While many states were demanding for Federal Government presence in their localities, the past administration was busy denying the Federal Government of land. I am optimistic that the present government will adopt due process in acquisition of land. During the Okorocha administration, advertisements for land allocation were hardly made (so the public was kept in the dark).

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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. Ihedioha should set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Land Acquisition and Allocation for the past eight years. Over 500 suits on land matters are pending in court in Imo.

Advice to Imolites 

Imo people should be patient. Let us give the governor at least two years; otherwise, our early criticism will lead him into adopting panic measures in government programme formulation and implementation.

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