As part of his strategies to open up Akwa Ibom for business, Governor Udom Emmanuel has decentralized the issuance of certificates of occupancy for lands in the state.
The move is upon other plans by the Governor Emmanuel administration in empowering businesses in the state through incentives in the agricultural sector and notably, cassava out growers scheme and the revival of the abandoned Akwa Palm.
The latest move towards unchaining the entrepreneurial spirit of the people of the state was disclosed by the State Commissioner for Lands, Pastor Umo Eno. According to him the scheme would unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of local investors and even attract foreign investors.
Pastor Eno, who spoke against the background of losses and other hurts to businesses arising from the COVID-19 lockdown said the decentralisaiton of the certificates of occupancy would enable businesses to again flourish.
“One of the greatest things that have happened to the state is the issue of decentralisation of Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) which has been a key factor in the lockdown of businesses,” Pastor Eno said.
Noting that the C of O would act as a catalytic instrument to attract capital including loans from banks and other financial institutions, he said:
“When you talk of opening businesses and part of it is that you want to encourage the Small Medium Enterprises to grow. Now with COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of businesses went down and there was need to stimulate the economy.”
“And what are the ways to stimulate the economy and regain businesses back? A lot of those their land documents are tied up in government, so we met with His Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel and spoke with him.
“The constitution empowers him to delegate authority to release the C of O, so he gladly delegated that authority to the Commissioner for Lands which is the first time in the state.”
“You don’t take that lightly because that is part of his duties he has delegated under Section 45 of the constitution. That delegation was done and we can now sign C of Os and we are signing to decentralise and make businesses get back on track.”
Eno who himself has investments in agriculture and hospitality in the state said the decision is bound to positively affect the investment climate in the state.
“That is wonderful because I come from a business background and I know what it is. You can take any facility in any bank now regardless of what they will like to tell you, they will always ask you for your C of O.
“The governor cannot sit down to be honest signing manually, each C of O you sign four copies and you have about almost 3,000 lying down.
“When would the governor have time in all of the executive duties not because he doesn’t want to sign but it’s almost near impossible. So that is one area we have work done and we went on to get that simplified.”
Noting the efforts of the Akwa Ibom Government in recovering lands hitherto allocated but unused for the purposes they were given, he said that it was not surprising that there has been a fight back.
“We set up Land Acquisition Recovery Committee to recover land where people just buy land and they don’t do anything with it, they just come in deceive the state government ‘give us land’, they give them land.
“There are industrial parks that are supposed to have been created, so people just come in take the land and they are not doing anything with it.
“So His Excellency approved that we should review those land and if people don’t do anything we should revoke them. We set up that committee and we have done a lot of recoveries.
“Of course from those recoveries is what you see now, they fight because people that got those land now that government have acquired and paid full compensation just because they didn’t take possession there have been a lot of encroachments.
Now that government says we want the lands back, my job as Commissioner for Lands is to recover those lands. So you find out that there will be a fight back.”
The commissioner also disclosed how government revenue has been boosted since his appointment last January.
“We have executed the Geographic Information System (GIS), we have improved revenue in our ministry. You know, revenue in our ministry used to be like N5, N6 million, N7 million a month and at N7 million everybody would clap.
“In January, it was N15 million and from there it rose. It has never gone less than N30 million since I got in and there are a lot of loopholes we have tried to block,” he disclosed.