By Festus Ahon – Asaba
Delta State Government, Monday warned community leaders and youths to stop harassing business owners and property developers in the State, saying it has resolved to enforce the ‘anti-deve’ law which proscribed illegal and forceful entry into development sites across the state.
The State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu who gave the warning during a press conference in Asaba, warned violators of the State Public and Private Properties Protection Law signed into law by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in 2018.
Reacting to concerns that despite the enactment of the law, some community leaders and youths were still flouting the law by harassing business owners and property developers in the state, Aniagwu disclosed that Governor Okowa had received some alarming reports from both public and private developers on the development.
Calling on the people to report such harassment to law enforcement agencies who are empowered by law to prosecute the offenders, he said; “you will recall that two years ago, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa assented to a piece of legislation outlawing what we used to call “deve”.
“We are making it very clear that that law is still in force because we are getting reports that some persons are still harassing some individuals and that if anybody harasses you because you want to develop your plot of land or your property, you are at liberty to notify the law enforcement agencies to prosecute such persons.
“You don’t say because that law has been signed and take the law into your hands to fight anybody who wants to harass you. Take advantage of that law to invite the law enforcement agencies whose duty it is to prosecute such persons.
“We are also seizing this opportunity to warn those who think that they can harass big investors, being it local or foreign that we will not hesitate to take advantage of that law to prosecute anybody found wanting in this regard.
“This is because we have observed before coming up with that law, that the “deve” mentality impinges on development in a number of areas and that those who wanted to develop their plots of land or bring some other investments, were disturbed by this practice and that’s why we outlawed it so that we can speed up the process of development of our state.
“We are convinced that if the state develops as fast as we desire it to, that these individuals who think that development is the only true way they can survive, will even get employment gainfully and have a more legitimate job to do than attacking people and asking for deve levy.
“The state government frowns at it and will take advantage of the law to prosecute whoever is reported or arrested because we believe that such a person is an enemy of the state. We do not want people who have suffered and laboured to bring such development to our state to be disturbed on account of that.”
He said the state government in partnership with the police and other security agencies have scaled up security checks on major highways to check the incidences of kidnapping, cultism, and other violent crimes and appealed to the people to cooperate with them to protect lives and property.
On COVID-19, Aniagwu said Churches could now hold more than one service but with strict adherence to the prevention protocols.
He said: “Before now Churches were not allowed to hold more than one server at their worship centres because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But now we are going to be holding more than one service, but they must still adhere strictly to the social distancing rule, wearing of face masks, washing of hands or use of hand sanitisers before worshippers are allowed into the premises of such worship centres.
“We believe that our people have been sufficiently sensitised to understand that this protocol needs to be observed but we have also observed that there are some individuals who believe in that dream world that COVID-19 is a scam.
“To such persons, we will still take steps to sensitise them taking advantage of the traditional institution and of course the religious bodies to also help us pass the message across while also preaching the message of salvation”.
He appealed to those whose businesses have been impacted by the lockdown to be patient with the government as it will be easier to revive the economy than to revive the dead.
“We are still taking steps in collaboration with the Presidential Task Force to review some of the lockdown decisions we took earlier and we appeal to our brothers who are into businesses like entertainment to bear with us. Little by little the curve is being flattened and once we get out of this we will begin to live our normal lives,” he said.