SaharaReporters’ 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 essence is for the state to take over such landed property.
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.
The source added that after revoking the property, the state government will allocate it to his cronies through their companies who come in as estate developers.
One of the companies identified as being floated by the governor's cronies for such land racketeering is the Coal City Eastern Extension Estate Alliance Limited.
SaharaReporters’ investigation revealed that the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof Ortuanya Simon Uchenna; the Managing Director, Enugu State Housing Corporation, Agu Chukwuemelie Lambert; Head of Service, Chukwuegbo Kenneth; Permanent Secretary, State Civil Service, Robinson Ogbonna Odo; and Ikeyi James Onyeanwuna, who chaired Governor Ugwuanyi's Panel on reconciliation of revoked estate properties in Ugwuaji communities are directors in this company, while one Mbah Ijeoma Oluchi, said to be a relation of the governor, serves as the Secretary of the company.
Checks revealed that the Coal City Eastern Extension Layout/Estate Alliance Limited was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on December 29, 2021, with No. RC: 1878141. The company, however, was allocated 278.94 hectares of layout/estate the government fraudulently revoked from investors over 10 months before it was incorporated.
This means that the actors had been using a nonexistent company name to acquire revoked property before it was incorporated over 10 months later.
In a letter obtained by SaharaReporters, the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development had in a public notice signed by the then Commissioner, Dr. Victor Chukwuemeka Nnam, titled: "Public Notice Cancellation/ Revocation Of Layouts Within Government Acquired Area At Ogui/ Ugwuaji/ Amechi Awkunanaw," allocated same property to the Coal City Eastern Extension Layout/Estate clearly 10 months and 20 days before it was incorporated as Coal City Eastern Extension Layout/Estate Alliance Limited.
The ministry's letter read, "On November 20, 2020, the Enugu State Government acquired approximately 278.94 hectares of land at Ogui Nike/Ugwuaji/Amaechi Uwani all within Enugu South and Enugu North Local Government Areas, consequently, all titles within the acquired land were revoked with effect from November 20, 2020.
"Consequent upon the above action by Enugu State Government, a new layout/planning scheme has been approved/registered for the acquired area and named as Coal City Eastern Extension Layout /Estate.
"In view of the foregoing, all existing registered layouts/schemes within the acquired area are hereby cancelled/revoked. The following layouts are directly affected:
(1) Valley Layout, Isiagu Village, Ugwuaji. (2) Umunnugwu-Ndiagah Layout, Ugwuaji (3) Promised Land Layout, Umunnaji Ngene, Ugwuaji.
"Anyone transacting with any individual or group of individuals on the above listed cancelled/revoked layouts is doing so at his/her own risk."
As shown by the letter of revocation, after claiming that the government acquired the land on November 20, 2020, it was diverted to a yet-to-be registered private limited liability company on February 9, 2021, while the company was later registered on December 29, 2021, a source told our SaharaReporters.
However, on August 2, 2021, the same government went back and released some plots to their owners, publishing the names of sellers and buyers, plot numbers, among others. Those names were published in the Saturday Sun Newspaper.
Meanwhile, while the governor's cronies through the Ministry of Land were doing their business, Governor Ugwuanyi ironically on August 29, 2021, announced the setting up of an Administrative Panel of Inquiry into Ugwuaji land dispute. On September 4, he inaugurated the six-man panel chaired by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief James Ikeyi.
Other members of the Panel were Major-General Godwin Ugwoke (Rtd), Prof. Daniel Nwachukwu, Mr. Godwin Ishiwu (Surveyor General, Enugu State) and Barr. Chudi Ozokolo and Mr. Robinson Odoh, who serves as the Secretary.
According to the governor, the panel was to establish the true owners of the parcels of land in the 'sponsored' dispute as well as ascertain the entire area of the disputed land.
Other terms of reference include “to ascertain individual claims or title to parcels of land in the disputed area” and “make any other finding that will ensure lasting peace in the area”.
While Governor Ugwuanyi gave the panel two months to complete its assignment, he warned that all claims to, and/or activities on the disputed parcels of the land should cease forthwith until the final submission of the panel’s report and the state government’s action on the matter.
Unfortunately, while the panel was still sitting, its Chairman, Ikeyi and the governor's henchmen had already started the process of registering their company with the CAC to take over the property.
On December 21, 2021, the government again convened a meeting of people whose names were published on August 2, 2021, at Michael Okpara Square and ordered them to pay 50% of the market value of a high-density plot at their New Layout, DRG No. E/637A, which eventually turned out to be N3,000,000 (three million Naira only).
Although under the 1978 Land Use Act, all land in the state is vested in the governor, Chapter 1 of the Act says it “shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act”.
Also, the Act clearly states in section 28 the conditions by which the governor can revoke land and section 29 talks about compensation for revoked land.
For instance, Section 29, (Compensation payable on revocation of right of occupancy by Governor in certain cases), says: “(3) If the holder or the occupier entitled to compensation under this section is a community the Governor may direct that any compensation payable to it shall be paid-
“(a) to the community; or (b) to the chief or leader of the community to be disposed of by him for the benefit of the community in accordance with the applicable customary law; or (c) into some fund specified by the Governor for the purpose of being utilised or applied for the benefit of the community.
“(4) Compensation under subsection (1) of this section shall be, as respects- (a) the land, for an amount equal to the rent, if any, paid by the occupier during the year in which the right of occupancy was revoked; (b) buildings, installation or improvements thereon, for the amount of the replacement cost of the building, installation or improvement, that is to say, such cost as may be assessed on the basis of the prescribed method of assessment as determined by the appropriate officer less any depreciation, together with interest at the bank rate for delayed payment of compensation and in respect of any improvement in the nature of reclamation works, being such cost thereof as may be substantiated by documentary evidence and proof to the satisfaction of the appropriate officer; (c) crops on land apart from any building, installation or improvement thereon, for an amount equal to the value as prescribed and determined by the appropriate officer.
“(5) Where the land in respect of which a right of occupancy has been revoked forms part of a larger area, the compensation payable shall be computed as in subsection (4) (a) of this section less a proportionate amount calculated in relation to that part of the area not affected by the revocation, but of which the portion revoked forms a part and any interest payable shall be assessed and computed in the like manner.”
Meanwhile, Sources say the revocation of land under the administration of the governor has been for personal benefit, which probably explains why many communities have sued the government, challenging some of its excesses.
However, when the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Prof Ortuanya Uchenna was contacted on the telephone, after listening to our reporter, he hung up without making any comment. Subsequent attempts to reach him on his mobile line suggested that the phone had been switched off.
When SaharaReporters called him at another time, he answered and asked who our correspondent wanted to talk to. When our correspondent answered by mentioning his name (Simon Ortuanya), he hung up again. Subsequent attempts suggested the mobile phone may have been switched off again.
Other directors have not responded to inquiries.
Below are records of the private company, current owners of the plots, price list and bank details: