Abia has no GIS —Commissioner; explains ministry’s inability to generate enough revenue
Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 12 October 2016 | 2,055 times
Contrary to claims by the Abia State Ministry of Lands that it established the Geographic Information Service (GIS) about 12 years ago, the GIS was never completed as the claim existed only on paper.
Abia Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Barr. Uche Ihediwa, who disclosed this in Umuahia on Tuesday, also identified inefficient land administration and improper revocation of over 600 plots of land by the immediate past administration in the state as factors hampering his ministry’s ability to generate revenue for the state as expected.
Addressing the executive of the Abia State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) who paid him a courtesy visit in his office, Ihediwa expressed disappointment that instead of driving the GIS which would have simplified land acquisition in Abia electronically, he was only starting the project.
The commissioner said: “The reason it appears we are not where I would want us to be today, I must confess, is due to the load I inherited.
“When I assumed office, I was under the impression that we have a functioning Geographic Information Service (GIS). I was supposed to drive it but it turned out that we have not started a GIS.
“I would like to be challenged. We haven’t started the GIS because there are components of a GIS that were not in place before we started advertising GIS and issuing people receipts of GIS. There is no geodetic station, there is no aerial overfly where you will capture the terrain but we built a house and started to capture data in files and we said we have started GIS.
“Rather than a GIS that is supposed to be giving money, we are going back to the starting point. It has not been easy because there is a contract now and somebody has entered into contract review.”
Rather than concentrating on his job, Ihediwa disclosed that he has been busy adjudicating on cases bordering on revocation of plots of land.
“The other aspect,” according to the commissioner, “is that between 2014 and 2015 when I came, over 600 plots were revoked and since I came, virtually every other day, we are confronted with petitions of people whose lands have been revoked, sometimes, crying to high heavens.
“Sometimes, we have to adjudicate on the cases. In fact, this place has become a court of some sorts.”
He faulted the reason for revoking over 600 plots – that the first allottees did not develop the plots – and giving same to new allottees.
His words: “The new people have they developed?” he asked rhetorically, adding that the revocation and reallocation was strictly done for commercial purposes, speculative purposes.
“If we had given those lands to people who wants to build a house to live and have the ability to build it and live, by today, something would have been springing up.
“So, what we have often succeeded in doing is to remove one speculator and replace him with another speculator.”
The commissioner, however, warned than soon, he would begin to revoke undeveloped plots as a means of discouraging land speculation.
“But, I can assure you that in no distant time, I will also revoke those ones. And if I find, God helping me, that any allottee that was given land under the new dispensation has sold it to somebody else, I will cancel the allocation because you couldn’t have given the land for speculative purposes and took it from somebody who was the owner.
“My goal is to give lands to people who are actually in need of it and not land speculators.
We are praying and believing that allocations that we will make will be to those who need it, not those who want to take it and sell it and make more money,” he said.
The commissioner decried the inefficiency of land administration system in the state and assured that the ministry was currently working to make it efficient “so that an Abian that does not know anybody in the Ministry of Lands can come here and go away with his Certificate of Occupancy.”
Ihediwa said he was targeting one month duration for a Certificate of Occupancy to be issued to any land allottee.
He said: “At least, we want to start with a month, subject to when the governor will sign. So, he (land buyer) comes here, does his business and is professionally attended to and then he goes home, confident that in a month’s time, his file would have, at least, gone to the governor. Sometimes, you see files that have been here for 10 years.
“The land administration system has not been efficient and we want to see how we can make it more efficient, God helping us.
“It is this inefficiency and lack of GIS that has made the Ministry of Lands that is supposed to be a volcano of Internally-Generated Revenue, to be battling for balance, it can’t even stand.
“Our ultimate goal is to wake up this dormant volcano called Ministry of Lands. It is a dormant volcano right now because it is not yielding what it is supposed to yield,” he said.
While assuring of his readiness to partner the NUJ, the Commissioner hinted that the union would be considered when there is land for allocation.
Earlier, the chairman of Abia Council of the NUJ, Comrade John Emejor, expressed the desire of the Council to partner the Ministry of Lands, especially in the area of enlightenment of the public on the programmes of the ministry.
Emejor requested the Ministry to consider allocating lands for expansion of the union’s secretariat and building of a Media Village for members.
•Photo shows Abia Commissioner for Lands, Barr. Uche Ihediwa.