Foremost Civil Rights Advocacy group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has raised alarm that some crooks, Land racketeering syndicate members and blackmailers with no proven means of livelihoods have lined up strategies to use some ethically porous online media and other media of mass communications with little or no editorial quality control measures in place to peddle unsubstantiated allegations on land related forfeiture crimes against the governor to seek to tarnish the well earned reputation of the government of Enugu State and that of the reform minded chief executive of Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
HURIWA also accused disgruntled political elements and those who are obviously internally displaced politicians in Enugu State operating from the nation’s capital of using such disgraced and morally disreputable online newspaper like SaharaReporters to spread fake news about the activities of the Enugu State administration under the Peoples Democratic Party’s Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi with allegations that the governor is in the business of depriving legitimate land owners of their landed and ancestral assets which is so far from the truth.
The Rights group rather stated that generations unborn ought to commend the current governor of Enugu State for putting durable and sustainable legal and institutional frameworks in place and for reorganising the land administrative structures and hierarchy in Enugu State to completely sanitize land ownership and eliminate land speculation and touting which was a major problem inhibiting industrialisation in Enugu State before the assumption of office of the current administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.
HURIWA stated that it embarked on wide ranging facts finding visitations to Enugu State without the knowledge of the Enugu State’s governor to ascertain certain insinuations of land related crimes linked to some officials in the Enugu State government and our far reaching findings show that indeed at no time in the recent history of the South East has any political office holder done as much spade works and fundamental land ownership and administrative reforms as much as the current governor of Enugu State His Excellency governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has done.
The Rights group alerted the media owners to be vigilant and be wary of their esteemed media outfits being duped and used by criminals parading about as businessmen to seek to peddle absolute falsehood against the Enugu State’s governor.
HURIWA has indicated her readiness to make her expertise available so media professors affiliated to HURIWA can offer free tutorials on media ethics and media laws freely to journalists including those identified as citizen journalists so their operations will follow prescribed ethical codes of conduct and adhere strictly to the rule of law.
HURIWA recalled regrettably that saharaReporters claimed falsely that her investigation reveals the top government officials were involved in the land racketeering in the state in order to shield the governor from public scrutiny and any culpability. Appointees and close associates of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State are involved in land racketeering which they have taken to new heights. Some of the associates and top government officials now float private companies to take over revoked landed property of residents and investors for resale. SaharaReporters’ investigation reveals the top government officials involved in the land racketeering in the state are able to shield the governor from public scrutiny and any culpability. Sources told SaharaReporters that the governor’s henchmen would have as far as stoke communal crises in communities where the landed property has become lucrative, using proxies.
The Rights group also lampooned saharaReporters for making totally unverifiable allegations built on lies, political vendetta and lack of respect for objective journalism standards to report that one of the sources said due to the increasing rate of inflation and volatility in the money market, most residents have turned to buying property instead of keeping their money in the bank. “Unfortunately, many residents and investors have lost their life savings on account of the racketeering activities of government officials. “The community will survey an estate and call for developers. After people have purchased property, the government officials will use their criminal proxies in such communities to initiate a crisis. After causing the crisis, they will write to the government, asking it to take over the layout/estate without minding investors and other Nigerians who have invested their life savings in purchasing property in those communities. Thereafter, the officials will exploit the authority of the governor in the Land Use Act and write the community through the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development that the government has taken over the property for the interest of peace and for overriding public interest,” one of the sources said.”
HURIWA dismissed these sets of lies and crude falsehoods as lies from the pits of hell that lacks veracity and therefore should be disregarded. The Rights group also stated that the comprehensive report of her findings will be published next week to show the measures and far reaching steps adopted by the Enugu State’s governor to sanitise land administration and ownership in Enugu to comply with the LAND USE ACT OF 1978 and the constitutions on the issues of Rights to property. The Rights group praised governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for applying the provisions of the extant laws in carrying out the land reforms in Enugu State.
“It is remarkable that despite the fact that the federal government, being at the top cadre of the organs of government and Nigeria practicing a quasi-unitary form of government, state governments have control over land allocation in their domain.
The 1978 Land Use Act bestowed such power to the states in a bid to standardize land ownership in the country as well as harmonize pre-existing laws on land ownership.
The Act stipulates that lands in urban centres are to be controlled by state governments while those in rural areas are vested in the local governments.
A study entitled, ‘Land Ownership in Nigeria: Historical Development, Current Issues and Future Expectations’, contended that erstwhile laws on land ownership, specifically during the colonial period, saw laws fashioned to suit colonial masters to achieve their political and economic aims thus jettisoning ownership through villages, towns, communities and families.
But after independence, “private ownership of land by individuals, families and communities were the predominant land tenure system in the Southern States of Nigeria and lands in the territory comprising the Northern States of Nigeria were regarded as owned by the state, based on the provisions of the Land Tenure Law of 1962.”
With the Act giving state governors the power to confer land to any individuals or hold it in trust for the common benefit of all Nigerians, ownership of land can be revoked with due compensation given and at the same time right of ownership under the Act allows for a maximum holding period of 99 years subject to payment of ground payment.
Section 1 of the Land Use Act, stated that all land located in the territory of each state in the Federation of Nigeria is with 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 the Act.
On its part, Section 5(1) of the Act grants state governors the statutory right of occupancy to any person whether or not in an urban area and issue a certificate of occupancy as evidence of such right of occupancy in accordance with the provisions of Section 9(1) of the Act.
Also, Section 5(2) of the Act provides that “Upon the grant of a statutory right of occupancy under the provisions of sub – section (1) of this section, all existing rights to the use and occupation of the land which is the subject of the statutory right of occupancy shall be extinguished.”
This affirmed that the right of occupancy granted by a governor as the highest right to land in Nigeria.
Land holding mineral deposit belongs to federal government
However, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act (2007) allows the federal government to claim ownership of all land endowed with mineral resources wherever it is located in the country.
Section 1(1) of the Act provided that “The entire property in and control of all mineral resources in, under or upon any land in Nigeria, its contiguous continental shelf and all rivers, streams and water courses throughout Nigeria, any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the exclusive Economic Zone is and shall be vested in the government of the Federation for and on behalf of the people of Nigeria.”
Section 1 (2) reads: “All lands in which minerals have been found in commercial quantities shall, from the commencement of this Act be acquired by the government of the federation in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act.”
Section 1 (3) provides that the property in mineral resources shall pass from the government to the person by whom the mineral resources are lawfully won, upon their recovery in accordance with this Act 1.
With both legislations giving the two-tiers of government control over what happens to land in the country, the Land Use Act empowered state governments on who to occupy lands in their states; the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007 gives the federal government control over mineral deposits found on land thereby concentrating mineral resources in the country in the hands of the federal government.”
HURIWA therefore stressed that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has the law behind him in the comprehensive land reforms that his administration has carried out.