Edo Govt, APC Trade Words over Land Grabbing

Adibe Emenyonu

The Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the State Government yesterday engaged in verbal war over the latter’s summoning of church leaders to a meeting at the Government House, Benin City, where Governor Godwin Obaseki told them that he has declared a war on land grabbing.

The governor reportedly told the clergymen that the war against land grabbing was his government’s move to ensure a safe and conducive environment for Edo people to live and do business without harassment and extortion.

A statement by the Governor’s Special Adviser on Media Project, Crusoe Osagie said: The attention of the Edo State Government has been drawn to a statement by the APC in Edo State, condemning the state’s aggressive effort against land-grabbers and other non-state actors responsible for disrupting land administration in the state.

“The tirade is not unexpected from the APC in the state, which thrives in lawlessness and disorder and sees nothing gainful in cleaning up a defective and unlawful system that empowered thugs and miscreants, who had hitherto intimidated and fleeced unsuspecting citizens in land and related transactions.

“The APC had been in bed with elements in communities particularly the now defunct Community Development Associations (CDAs) who trade in terror to intimidate, cow and dispossess people of their landed property, fermenting trouble that had scared investors from our state and discouraged many Edo sons and daughters especially in diaspora from investing in the state until recently.”

The statement added: “Given their peculiar mode of operation, these non-state actors were also known as ‘lions and tigers’ and were as vicious as they were deadly. They amassed a lot of money and influence from their activities, spreading terror and fear. It is these set of persons that the APC is making a case for in their infantile media release.

“Where was Edo APC when the state government increased the minimum wage in Edo State from N30,000 to N40,000 and harmonised the pay of pensioners in the state? Is the impact of this landmark initiative not felt by a lot more people in the state? Why didn’t they speak up at the time this feat was recorded?

“On the charge for the state government to deploy its assets to check banditry and herdsmen attacks, the Edo APC is obviously playing the ostrich. In case they have forgotten, I would like to remind them that the federal government – which is controlled by their party, the APC – is constitutionally empowered to address issues of national security.

“The APC-controlled federal government is in charge of the machinery of state to fight off banditry and herdsmen/farmer clashes. They control the Civil Defense, Nigerian Army, Department of State Services, Nigeria Intelligence Agency and the Nigeria Police Force. Hence, the criticism should be directed at their party at the national level.”

But the APC in a statement signed by its State Assistant Publicity Secretary, Victor Osehobo, yesterday, said Edo people know for a fact that the reason why land grabbing had being a major challenge in the state was because the Obaseki government was the biggest culprit.

“As it were, over time, the government has perfected a policy of grabbing peoples land by demolishing their houses and seizing their plots and in many cases claiming them as government plots. In the process, the state government has earned itself myriads of litigations, which could have been avoided ab initio.

“At a time, the Obaseki government contemplated grabbing the lands belonging to these same church organisations and even attempted to relocate many of them over a spurious land use plan.

“Now he wants these same bodies, which are duly registered to apply for fresh registration with his government by presenting building plans,” it added.

The APC contended that, “It smacks of cluelessness for Obaseki to announce that he has declared war on land grabbing. What Edo people expected him to declare a war on and long before now was the activities of rampaging criminal herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits, that have been busy terrorising highways across the state.

“This is the same Governor Obaseki who could not declare a war in January, when scores of persons, dressed in military uniform and suspected to be herdsmen invaded several farming communities in Ovia North-east Local Government Area of Edo State, chased all the villagers away and took control of their farms, homes and properties.

“Mr Obaseki did not also declare a war when last month, more than five persons and several others were maimed as suspected criminal herdsmen attacked Odiguetue, among other agrarian communities in the same Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State.

“Indeed, Governor Obaseki was really busy, politicking, and absent from the state, else he would have known that over 45 communities, including Odiguetue, Ofintebe, Igolo, Okokuo, Abumwenre I and II, Obarenren, Uhiere, Uyimo I and II, all in Ovia Northeast Local government, protested the activities of herdsmen which  resulted in killings, destructions of farm produce and forceful evictions from their ancestral homes, by barricading the Lagos – Benin Expressway for hours.

“Is there any wisdom in hounding church leaders about the Obaseki government’s scam of a Benin master plan? Why his choice of church leaders, if not to garner primitive sympathy? Is it not  tragic that Mr Obaseki has just woken up, after six years in office and discovered the Benin master plan? Is this not the  same plan his predecessor in office strived to implement to the letter but which he chose to abandon since 2016?”

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