Uproar in Obudu Over LG Chairman’s Allocation of Government Land to Private Individuals

In Breaking News, Politics, Reports

by crossriverwatch admin

Hon. Emmanuel Ikwen, Executive Chairman, Obudu Local Government Council
Hon. Emmanuel Ikwen, Executive Chairman, Obudu Local Government Council

A group of concerned citizens and chiefs from Obudu Local Government have petitioned the governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke over the allocation of state government land which was originally approved for the construction of the local government staff quarters to private individuals by the executive chairman of the local government, Hon. Emmanuel Ikwen.

In the petition, the group alleged that the vast expanse of land comprising forty eight plots, which was originally part of the reserved forest in Obudu was, against protest by conservationists, approved by the governor for the construction of local government staff quarters but is now being offered for sale to private individuals for five thousand Naira per plot.

They also alleged that the Chairman has reserved ten plots for himself and is selling the rest to his cronies in a bid to dispose of the land before leaving office by October.

But the local government chairman, Hon. Ikwen in his reaction told CrossRiverWatch that: “Yes, the land has forty eight plots. It was originally approved for the construction of local government quarters for senior staff. We invited a developer to come and help us develop the land and when the developer came, we could not agree on terms.

Our primary concern is how the land can be developed and not be left there the way it is. That was the intention for
inviting the developer.

“But the conditions and terms were not favorable to the local government and we could not work with the developer. So we have decided that since we do not have up to forty eight senior staff that are expected to occupy the land after development, we should allocate thirty eight of the plots to Obudu indigenes who have the capacity to develop the land. The primary concern like I said is development of the land and the land has not been allocated to outsiders. It is indigenes of Obudu.

“And having taken that position, our detractors and some chiefs who are against us are now making noise and writing petitions against us. And this is not the first time this is happening. There was a land that was approved for the construction of mechanic village here in Obudu under the tenure of the former caretaker Chairman, Chief Tony Undiandeye. When I came into power, I moved to develop the land and several persons came with allocation papers claiming the land had been allocated to them by Tony Undiandeye.

“We have invited him several times to come and explain how that happened and he has refused to come and give explanations. So what we have done is not out of place. It is in a bid to ensure that the land is developed and not left the way it is.”

When CrossRiverWatch contacted Chief Tony Undiandeye, he charged at the incumbent chairman and described him as a criminal who wants to use his name to justify an illegality.

“Tell Emmanuel Ikwen that I say he is a criminal. The land he is talking about under my tenure is not a state government land. Under the Land Use Act, local councils have right only over community lands and the land which he is referring to was duly acquired from the community by P.D. Eta who was sole administrator of the council in 1985. When I became chairman, we had to key into the urban renewal program of the state government which ear marked five major urban cities for modernization including Obudu.

“What we simply did was, since the land was meant for a mechanic village, we needed to relocate the spare parts sellers from the town to the mechanic village because of proximity to those who need their good. So we allocated some of the lands to the spare parts sellers at ten thousand Naira per plot. The reason was simply to ensure they left town to allow for the urbanization project and secondly to take them closer to the mechanics that need their products as it is done elsewhere like Gboko and other places.

“This action was also done with the approval of the community whose land was initially acquired. And those lands have even remained undeveloped till now because government has not been able to construct roads to that place. So the circumstances are different. The council has jurisdiction over community land and not over state land. The land Emma Ikwen is now allocating to people is state government land that had fully grown trees by the forestry department but the governor, due to consideration for the local government staff quarters project, approved the acquisition by the council.

“The community did not resist or quarrel with our action because there was due consultation and jurisdiction. Why is the community and every one now resisting his own action if the circumstances were the same?”

Another Chief who spoke to CrossRiverWatch on condition of anonymity wondered why the chairman is allocating the land now that his tenure is running out. He also claimed that “For the chairman to allocate ten plots of land to himself then the consideration cannot be for development, it is purely a desire to use his office to acquire the land for private use and share the rest to his cronies before leaving office and we are not going to allow this go like that.”

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