Huriwa Drags Enugu Commissioner To Buhari, National Assembly Over Alleged Vandalization:
Determined to ensure that the mantra of respect for the principles of rule of law is upheld in all facets, A civil rights advocacy platform-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked president Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly’s leadership to investigate Enugu state housing commissioner Mr Vitus Okechi over alleged abuse of power, vandalization of private properties and criminal trespass. Already the Rights group said it has drafted a written petitions to President Muhammadu Buhari; Senate President Ahmed Lawan; Deputy Senate President; Speaker of Federal House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila and his Deputy just as the Rights group said it will approach the leader of the minority party in the Senate Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and the Chief Whip of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Senator Orji Uzor Kalu to urge them to compel the Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who is a former House of Representatives long time member to stop the Enugu State Commissioner for Housing from carrying on with the alleged gross violation of the property rights of the citizens of Enugu State who petitioned HURIWA TO SPEAK FOR them.
The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) stressed that the alleged activities of the said commissioner could spark off a civil strife in Enugu state unless president Buhari and the National Assembly intervene immediately just as the Rights group disclosed that it has just received a petition from the distressed indigenous peoples of Enugu South Local Government Area Council of Enugu State.
HURIWA stated thus: "Our attention has been called through a petition titled: "FOR YOUR INTERVENTION / ADVOCACY ON INCESSANT CASES OF CONSPIRACY, VANDALIZATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTIES, DISPLACEMENT, FLAGRANT ABUSE OF POWER/ OFFICE, RECURRING THREAT TO LIFE, MALICIOUS DAMAGE, CRIMINAL TRESPASS, ACTS OF INTIMIDATION, OPPRESSION AND ACTS CAPABLE OF INCITING COMMUNAL WAR BY THE HONOURABLE COMMISSIONER FOR HOUSING, ENUGU STATE- HON. VITUS OKECHI."
HURIWA disclosed that the details of the petition sent to them are as follow: "We are a firm of Legal Practitioners and Solicitors acting for and on behalf of the Coalition of Ugwuaji Progressives and for other aggrieved land owners in Ugwuaji Awkunanaw, Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria, both of whom shall, in this context be referred to as “Our Clients”. Upon their express mandate and instructions, we make and forward this letter.
For the purposes of emphasis Sir, the Coalition of Ugwuaji Progressives is drawn from all the four villages in Ugwuaji Awkunanaw to wit: Umunnugwu, Ndiaga, Isiagu and Umunnajingene and are represented herein by Chizoba Stanley Eneh, Elder Sunday Ani and Okey Omaba. The aggrieved land owners are also herein represented by Anayo Mbaeze, Uwakwe Jeremiah E. and Obichere Franka.
Based on our Clients’ brief, the essence of this letter is to kindly bring to your knowledge the ongoing ALLEGED dastardly acts of Forceful seizure and attempt at compulsory acquisition of lands of the citizens of Ugwuaji Community, vandalization of private properties, ALLEGED conspiracy, threat to life being meted out on our Clients occasioned ALLEGEDLY by the Honorable Commissioner for Housing - Hon Vitus Okechi and his ALLEGED syndicate of land grabbers, requesting that you, in your magnanimity, assist in reaching out to all the security agencies in Nigeria which includes but is not limited to; The office of the Inspector General of Police, the Department of State Services (DSS), The Code of Conduct Bureau, The Public Complaints Commission, The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), amongst others.
The Ministry of Housing of every State in Nigeria is a very delicate and sensitive position and an integral part of the government of that state which, in all honesty, should be manned by a very transparent and diplomatic fellow whose probity ought to stand out unscathed at all times."
" It is quite unfortunate that this is not the case in the Enugu State Ministry of Housing where Hon. Vitus Okechi is the sitting Commissioner. Since his attainment of office, there have been recurring cases of ALLEGATIONS OF land grabbing and compulsory acquisition of the lands of several communities in Enugu, with the latest and most gruesome in Ugwuaji, irrespective of the fact that these lands had been sold to different individuals by the original owners before the forceful attempt at compulsory acquisition of the same property by the Hon.. Commissioner for Housing without reason or purpose, as the law implies or any form of compensations paid to these aggrieved and now displaced persons.
The right to own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria is a fundamental right guaranteed to every citizen of Nigeria under Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Section 1 of Land Use Act states “subject to the provisions of this Act, all land comprised in the territory of each state in the Federation are hereby vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be HELD IN TRUST and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act”. This section of the law implies that the Governor owes every indigene of the State a duty of accountability especially as concerning any land in the state.
The Governor in revoking a Statutory Right of Occupancy or a Customary Right of Occupancy for overriding public interest is required to give notice to the Occupier of the land stating the public purpose(s) for which the land is to be compulsorily acquired in order to enable the Occupier challenge the acquisition. A notice must therefore be issued by the Governor to be served personally on the Occupier of such land. Failure to serve notice in the manner prescribed by the Land Use Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria CAP LS (LFN) 2004, renders such acquisition bad and a nullity.
Section 44 of the Land Use Act further stipulates that, Compensation is based on the inalienable right of an individual to acquire and own property. This means that no private or communal property may be compulsorily acquired by any entity without payment of compensation to assuage the loss to the owner of the property. Brown D, in the third edition of his Land Acquisition published in 1991, by Butterworths, Sydney, averred that, Compensation, when used in the context of deprivation of land, refers to recompense or amends. He surmises that, it is the sum of money which the owner would have gotten had the land been sold on the open market, plus other losses which results from the acquisition process."
The petition continues thus: "As part of the process of acquisition, the acquiring party is required by law to compensate the holders of the customary right of occupancy, especially where the acquisition is initiated for “over-riding public interest”.
It is then a rather unfortunate claptrack to be presented with the flapdoodle, that the supposed custodians of the people’s common resources, instead of manage these resources with a sense of responsibility and for the common good of humanity, would begin to usurp the very privileges of their offices to amass the commonwealth of the many, to satisfy their selfish selves and a few others.
In reality, land is one of the resources given by God for the benefit of man.
to hold a depth of mysteries to man, hence we call her ‘mother earth’, the final resting
place of all living things and the secret of many cures, a world of history and discovery
while providing access to its massive wealth of numerous minerals, stones and metals such
as limestone, diamonds and gold, many deemed precious. This same land, beyond
providing a platform for the balance of the ecosystem, facilitates the inalienable basic
need of a people to exist..
Our Clients’ appeal is especially essential, as these ALLEGED Syndicated actors of State have brazenly infringed on their fundamental human rights including their rights to life, their rights to own moveable and immovable property and their rights to simply exist.
One early should-have-been great Monday morning in July 2020, the Hon. Commissioner of Housing, in the guise of some government acquisition, ALLEGEDLY criminally trespassed upon our Clients’ land with heavy earth-moving machinery, desecrating and demolishing everything in their wake, destroyed properties worth over a billion naira and has continued to threaten our clients with the aid of their syndicate and thugs who boast that they are above the law.
Every single individual who has dared to question the rationale behind the vandalization of private property on the duly registered layouts, has been victimized, threatened, harassed and intimidated through and through. The goons of the Hon. Commissioner have even allegedly sponsored the incarceration in Prison of different individuals who raise a dissenting opinion to their hatchet conspiracy, including the seasoned Surveyor, Surveyor R. C. Chukwu, who incidentally and legitimately surveyed and registered the Umunnugwu / Ndiaga Layout with the Enugu State, sometime in 2013, and who has since, been thrown into prison for the sake of the attempt at forceful acquisition by the Hon. Commissioner for Housing.
Our Clients’ have successfully resisted the urge to resort to self-help but no one is sure of the extent that other victims of this dastardly act would be ready to go to, to seek redress. Before there is a total breakdown of law and order and before a full-blown communal war emanates in Ugwuaji, our clients humbly pray you to use your good offices to: Advocate on our Clients’ behalf to the office of the Inspector General of Police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and other relevant Security agencies on the imminent possibility of the breakdown of law and order and the likelihood that the situation could degenerate into communal war.
Advocate on our Clients’ behalf to the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on concerns of fraudulent conversion of private property
Advocate on our Clients’ behalf to the PublicComplaintsCommission,theNational Human Rights Commission and other Civil Liberty organizations on bordering on infringements on the fundamental human rights.
Our Clients’, as we are, are confident of the impact of your advocacy on their S.O.S. plea and believe that there may yet be one last bastion of hope for the common man.
On their behalf, we look forward to a positive consideration of this cogent appeal."
HURIWA is also planning advocacy interventions through working visits to top federal government officials next week.