John Ofem Inyang, is the Cross River State Commissioner for Lands. Iwara U. Iwara, Editorial Team Lead, www.calitown.com, recently caught up with Inyang and briskly threw a few questions that have been on the front burner at him. Excerpts:
Why has it become so difficult for people to obtain their Certificates of Occupancy from the state government?
That is not entirely true; maybe it happened in the past but in the last two to three years, that has changed. As we speak, the governor has signed several of them and there is absolute proof to this information that I am giving you. Even on my table here you will see several Deeds of Assignment for private land that I am signing, as a first step before they go to the governor for his signature. For land allocation, you know the state is a business oriented state and the ideas of the governor have been wrapped all around the positive drive for industrialization, so a man like the governor, who wants the state speedily industrialized, will not turn around and make things difficult. But then, even though we see land allocation as a welcome source of revenue to government, there are procedures that must be followed by whoever wants land. Let me draw your attention to certain categories of persons who come and want land allocated to them. When we drill them to see if they have financial capacity to drive through development on the land and our domestic economy, they disappear into thin air because they know that they cannot meet the criteria for allocation. Are these the people who go back and claim that it is difficult to be allocated land in the state? They want 10 to 20 hectares of land but cannot show they have capacity to utilize these hectares within specified time.
Where government officials are the ones engaged in land racketeering, how has your office responded?
Unfortunately, this is a common practice all over the country, especially with people prospecting for pieces of land and preferring to take short administrative cuts in actualizing this efforts. In the ministry, we have taken adequate steps that have in turn ensured that the public is well informed on procedures that are acceptable if people want to be allocated government land in the state. We have massively engaged the public through the media. Where we had a major challenge was the situation in some communities, turn around to sell off pieces of land belonging to the state government, claiming there was no compensation paid at the time the land was acquired by government. It came with some complications, especially when we have to go to the field and do demolitions to property illegally erected on government land and the hue and cry that accompanies this process. We are encouraging people to ensure that the land offered them is charted as this will help them identify the title on the piece of land or whether it has government interest.
Not too long ago, a Yakurr Stakeholders meet was convened in Calabar. Before and after this meet, so much hue and cry trailed this event for the reasons that bothered on believe in large quarters that a meeting to look at the mid-term performance of the council chairman, was taken away from the LGA, to Calabar and to a place where a huge sum of money was spent on the venue, when council has meeting facilities back in the LGA that she wouldn’t have had to pay for. Additionally, the meeting was a closed one, reserved only for those invited to it. What happened?
This meeting has unfortunately become a matter of controversy in respect of the way people reacted to it. But I think that even on the floor of that gathering, I was able to explain to those who saw it as a problem that, if they read the invitation properly, that invitation even had the logo of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as a party on it, indicating that it was a political party affair. As a party, we sat and reasoned before the meeting that this was going to be the first major outing of the chairman, where he was going to address the people, the party should gather first, and listen to his scorecard before we embrace a larger LG audience. What we simply did in Calabar was to first sit as critical stakeholders of the APC from Yakurr LGA, have a brainstorm session on the presentation put forth by the chairman and reconcile and marry several interests within our party. Some of our members were aggrieved because of the state congress, we had to hem them in so that party ranks will not be broken. It was a vital meeting that was to a select few to enable us talk to ourselves. We came to Calabar to discuss in a conducive environment away from distractions. Indeed, what we did was an APC affair that is not open to all. Let me assure you that a town hall meeting to take place in Yakurr is in the offing.
Now you have roundly been accused of arm twisting the process singlehandedly producing the Chairman of Yakurr LGA, much to the chagrin of critical stakeholders from your LGA. How do you react to this?
Nowhere in Nigeria can someone claim to be able to exclusively produce the Chairman of his LG council, it is not possible. In the first place, I belong to a political party and we all know what a political party is; an organization of so many persons with different interests, coming together to operate on a certain ideology that guides them. And it is that party that gives us guidelines on how to operate. So, it couldn’t have been possible for one person to put a Chairman of council in place. There are procedures and the party put forth those procedures which were diligently followed as expected. Unfortunately, those who bandy this impression leave me in awe. The Chairman of Yakurr Local Government Area, underwent the pre and post-election procedures, leading up to his nomination and successful election.
How soon is your party expected to, working with the council chairman, put together a town hall meeting in Yakurr LGA, so burning issues can be addressed?
I must assure you that it will be long from now. Already we have completed modalities that will birth this long awaited town hall meeting between the chairman and all the other stake holders in Yakurr LGA and beyond. Information will soon go out to this effect.
You are unarguably the political leader of the APC in your local government area. Were you to assess the performance of the chairman of your council, on a scale of one to ten, what will you score him?
When you say on a scale of one to ten, you know in some scales you may decide that one is the highest or in other cases, ten is the highest. But let us use a scale that moves from one to ten, I will give him an average score because he has been working with very limited resources. In the scorecard that he presented in the meeting in Calabar, he showed clearly that he has concentrated on the renovation of council infrastructure especially in the council headquarters. The reason for this is simple; for a very long time, they were no democratically elected administrations in our local councils, for about five years something that massively threatened infrastructure already in place. He had to stem this decay by embarking on massive infrastructure repair. I also in his proposal that he was going to start a rice market, considering the agrarian nature of our people, in fact as we speak, he has acquired land for this specific purpose. Don’t forget too that work in on-going at the Ijom health centre in Ugep that he is building from scratch. If he has done all of this within available resources and has also been able to reach out to sons and daughters of the LGA, and assisted them, in my assessment he has done well. Summarily, let me score him six, on our scale.
But a needs assessment should have shown us that the council chairman ought to have built that health centre in another community with more pressing health needs than Ugep which is already populated with a general hospital, several health centres and private clinics?
The best person to answer this question will be the council chairman. However, like you carefully noted, I had raised eyebrows about this health centre project being sited in Ugep but the chairman stated categorically that while Ugep has a few health centres, the population there is overwhelming available health facilities. Don’t forget too, like he said, the health facilities in Ugep service up to Biase, Abi, Obubra LGAs and even neighbouring Ebonyi state. But then, I reasonably don’t think that where the health centre is sited in the LGA, should become an issue, we should rather concern ourselves with looking at how well equipped the health centre will be and the adequate service it will bring to all those who use it. The chairman must be encouraged to complete this project and put it to good use.
Let me get a bit personal with you. Are you running for elective office in 2023?
If the party finds me fit to run, I will run. If my family too says run, I will run.
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