By News Express on 28/12/2013
An Anambra-based rights group has indicted the State Commissioner for Lands & Urban Development, Barrister Okoli Akirika, over alleged unethical practices and extortion, demanding a probe of his activities by Governor Peter Obi.
In a letter dated December 27, 2013, Society Watch – A Project of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), said it came face-to-face with Barrister Okoli Akirika’s unethical style while seeking justice for an Onitsha-based Pastor, Sylvester C. Agu, whose house was illegally demolished four days to Christmas. The letter, which was copied to the State Commissioner of Police and Onitsha Police Area Commander, also indicted some of the commissioner’s staff “including Ms. Oby Inoma and Mr. Aneto C. Chuba (Deputy Director, Urban Development Board) over unethical conducts.”
The letter, a copy of which is in the possession of News Express, was signed by Interim National Director of Society Watch, Justus Uche Ijeoma, and Interim National Secretary, Chike Umeosonwunne. It said the activists’ ordeal started when they sought to deliver to the commissioner, on December 24, his own copy of a petition drawing attention to the travails of Pastor Agu, as captured in a December 25 story by News Express.
According to the activists, “Following the urgency of the issues contained in the letters and the need to get that of the Commissioner delivered to him before the close of work on that same day, the leadership of SOCIETY WATCH, led by Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, went to the office of the Commissioner to personally deliver the letter to him. Unfortunately however, all the efforts put in by us to ensure that actions are expedited on the matter were halted, even frustrated by a most unethical policy put in place by the Commissioner in the Ministry.
“When we got to the office of the Commissioner, to our utmost consternation, we were told by his secretaries that we should pay the sum of seven thousand naira (#7,000.00) before we could deliver the letter. We tried to explain to them that ours was neither an application for job nor an application for allocation of land, but just a letter meant for his urgent attention, yet our explanations and entreaties fell on deaf ears.
“We were bluntly told that what they have told us is a policy and strict directive from the Hon. Commissioner. This strange policy, of course, did not go down well with our team; we therefore, requested to see the Commissioner in person to ascertain the veracity of the secretaries’ claim and possibly explain things to him. Our request was rudely and roundly turned down as we waited for more than an hour without being allowed access to the Commissioner, even when those who came after us were ushered in to his office. At a point, a journalist friend who writes/reports for one of the National dailies in Awka, went into the Commissioner’s office to plead on our behalf.
“Shortly after, the journalist emerged from the Commissioner’s office to inform us that the Commissioner has asked that the letter be collected. We promptly informed one of the secretaries and she collected the letter and told us to wait for her to go and confirm from the Commissioner. Before she came out from his office, the journalist friend had left and she told us that the Commissioner insists that we must pay N7, 000.00 before dropping the letter.
“This, to say the least, was very frustrating, and we have to call the Board Chairman of our Organization, Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi on phone and informed him of the difficulty we were facing at the Ministry. He called the Commissioner on phone, but the Commissioner could barely wait for him to state the reason for the call when he told him “my people are there to attend to them” and then cut the phone.
“For the benefit of doubt, our senior comrade sent him a text message, explaining the situation but the text message did not get any response. Without any headway in sight, we left the Commissioner’s office without delivering the letter since we did not have such money to pay for the purpose of delivering a letter to the Commissioner on matters bordering on life, death and demolition of a dwelling house. We left the office and came to Your Excellency’s Office and delivered your copy since the letter was copied to you and then came back to Onitsha to send the Commissioner’s copy through courier service. This is in “defiance” warnings by the secretaries that even if we decide to send the letter through courier service that once the letter gets to them that we will be called on phone to come and pay otherwise the letter will not be received and registered. What a shocking policy!
“On the part of Ms. Oby Inoma, we have it on good authority that she is of the same family with one Amaechi Inoma, leader of the thugs that demolished the dwelling house of Pastor Sylvester Agu. She is allegedly the person the traducers of the Pastor have in the Ministry who provides them with the insider-information with which they try to, and indeed subvert due process in matters pertaining to land deals. Our independent investigation indicates that they have done several of such shoddy deals in the past. She allegedly has a high-wired connection with “big wig” land speculators and also assists them with “insider technical information” on how to snatch lands from the less endowed people who process land documents in the Ministry of Lands & Urban Development.
“She is alleged to have started making some surreptitious and frantic moves to stall the Pastor’s process of getting approval (certificate of occupancy) so as to pave way for her land speculator-paymasters and their allies despite the fact that the said Pastor’s approval has been previously signed by the former Commissioner, Hon. Peter Afuba and is currently awaiting Your Excellency’s assent. This was inadvertently confirmed by Mr. Aneto Christian Chuba when he, in the cause of our discussion with him on the 23rd December, 2013, said that “somebody may think that he is processing papers in the Ministry without knowing that an insider in the Ministry may have given another person information and equally assist the latter to “overtake” and thus deny the former whatever land he makes application for its approval”. It was indeed an eye-opening. If this kind of thing goes on in the Ministry, though we believe it may not, then something must be done urgently by Your Excellency.
“Mr. Aneto Christian Chuba, on his part, as lucidly presented in our said letter of 24th December, 2013, to the Commissioner, has put up a disposition that very strongly suggests to us that whatever he has done or will do in the matter is fraught with bias and insincere motives. A situation whereby a public servant, maintained with our common resources, unabashedly make some very unguarded comments such as “the poor do not own land in G.R.A. ( government reserved area)” and “no matter what you do the heavy weights can take over your land at will if you don’t have money” etc, is highly condemnable.
“Further Threats & intimidation by amaechi inoma and his thugs.
“The suspected hobnobbing between Amaechi Inoma & his thugs and some staff of the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development has emboldened the former to continue to unleash his unrestrained terror on the Pastor and his family. On the 26th of December, 2013, at about 7.00am, Amaechi Inoma led three other thugs to the demolished house of Pastor Sylvester Agu and his family members, which most parts are now rubbles and after taunting and harassing them, he told them that it will be to their best interest to leave the place as they (Amaechi & co) have concluded an arrangement to storm the place in a few days time with dozens of policemen to “clear” them from the place. This, ordinarily, would have been viewed by us as a mere empty threat, but the previous acts of impunity perpetrated by Amaechi & co, coupled with his unhidden fraternity with some top malicious staffs in the Ministry, make it difficult for us to trivialize it or treat it with kid gloves.
“Though the probability of him using true police officers to carry out his recent threat is low, for no right-thinking police officer will likely get involved in this kind of absurdity, we are not ruling out the possibility of Amaechi, in his characteristic desperation to satisfy his paymasters at all cost, may cloth some of his thugs in police uniform and use them to carry out this second phase of the brigandage. This is not the first time some criminal elements will wear police uniforms as a cover to effectively commit their intended criminal ends. Instances abound.
“We restate, without equivocation, our condemnation of the ugly situation under reference, where any person, no matter how highly placed or whom he works for will invade another person’s dwelling house and reduce same to a heap of rubbles without a valid judgment from a court of competent jurisdiction. Even in matters of “overriding public interest”, absurdities such as the one being complained of are totally absent. In such “overriding public interest situations”, negotiations are initiated with victim parties fully involved and adequate compensations including alternative places duly paid and provided. It is utterly inhuman to render an innocent family homeless and turn their legally and legitimately acquired dwelling house and property into rubbles through acts unknowing to Nigeria’s body of laws and values.
“In the light of the above pellucid explanations and encounters, Your Excellency, we call on you to investigate the activities that go on in the Ministry of Lands with a view of fishing out those corrupt elements that are bent on robbing and rubbishing the respected image of the Government of Anambra State. Your Excellency’s efforts at entrusting on our beloved State a peaceful, prosperous and egalitarian culture must not be allowed to be tainted by the activities of selfish individuals in the Civil/Public Service, premised on uncouth and unethical conducts. “Transparency and probity must remain the watchword and indeed, the guiding principle in every process in the Anambra State Ministry of Lands & Urban Development.
“We also call on Your Excellency to issue a query to the Commissioner for Lands & Urban Development, Barrister Okoli Akirika over the obnoxious policy of extorting money from citizens and citizen-corporate like Intersociety letters of socio-public interest are delivered to him or his Ministry, even when such letters are of public interest issue geared towards enhancing addressing the issues of justice, peace and security in the State. Direct, also, that the said unpopular policy should be abolished with immediate effect.
“It is our further demand that Your Excellency should review all the high profile activities carried out by the said Commissioner for Lands & Urban Development since he became the Commissioner in charge of the Ministry. These include all land/plot allocations and revocations as well as the issue under reference (Pastor Sylvester Agu’s dwelling house demolition and its certificate of occupancy procession saga). This is to ascertain their genuineness or the otherwise and if he is found wanting in all or any of them, then he should be relieved of his duty and made to face the music of the law. The Commissioner’s conducts as complained suggest that he may not diligently and impartially handle the main issue under reference. As a matter of fact, we suspect strongly a foul play in the whole saga from the desk of the Commissioner.
“The roles of Ms. Oby Inoma and her likes in the Ministry should be thoroughly investigated and any person found culpable of subverting due process or involved in any criminal or administrative sabotage should be adequately sanctioned. Sanity and discipline must be restored in the Ministry. Both Amaechi and Oby Inoma and their cohorts are strongly believed to be working for one Best Aluminum to render Pastor Sylvester Agu and members of his family homeless and forcefully and maliciously take over their property on Magazine Avenue, Onitsha GRA, Onitsha.
“While we wait for the Inspector General of Police’s action on our earlier letter to him, we call on Your Excellency to direct the security agencies to be at alert and on lookout so as to forestall any attempts by Amaechi Inoma and his cohorts to use the police, whether fake or real to unleash further mayhem on the family under reference as any such attempts may lead to a breakdown of law and order in the State or any part thereof.
“We sincerely thank Your Excellency immensely and hope that this letter will receive Your Excellency’s usual urgent and proactive attention it deserves.”
•Photo shows Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi.
Source News Express
Posted 28/12/2013 11:51:23 AM
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