Edo Government to commence land verification exercise, deal with land grabbers

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Tough times are here for land grabbers in Edo state.

The Edo State Government has directed individuals and groups with valid title documents to landed property at the new town development project along Irhirhi-Obazagbon-Ogheghe Road to come forward with their documents for verification at the project site from Monday, October 10, 2022.

Godwin Obaseki
Godwin Obaseki

The exercise is being carried out by the Edo State New Town Development Authority, which has officials stationed at the project site.

Background story on the government's acquisition of the area and plans for the new town Acquisition of the land for the new city was concluded in July 2017 for the project, which covers 1229 hectares of land, which has now been divided into portions A, B, C, and D.

Portion A is currently being reclaimed, covering over 350 hectares of land, with a green forest reserve that terminates on both sides of the Ogba River.

In a statement signed by the Honourable Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Osa Nehikhare and made available to The Standard Gazette, the Commissioner noted that, prior to the construction of a 32km link road to Obayantor, there was no encroachment on the area.

"As of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a huge plantation cultivated in the area. Traditional mud houses were situated within the forest area."

In the wake of the pandemic, youths in the four communities of Okoroma, Obagie Nevbosa, Obayantor 1, and Ewhrekpen entered the communities and started selling the land.

They sold all the palm trees. Not up to ten percent of the palm plantation stands today. The level of degradation and afforestation that has taken place is alarming. The government planned the city with green areas.

The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, constructed the road to help the community, but they used it as an occasion for abuse.

The state government had made a series of announcements that the area was a government acquisition. A drone was flown around the area for imaging to ascertain what was on the ground and to ensure that everybody who legally owned their land was entitled to compensation.

For compensation to be paid, there must be an enumeration, but the communities' hostility did not allow for enumeration to occur.

The government called them to several meetings. There had been a stakeholders conference, and four hundred employment slots were offered to them. One hundred per community. They agreed, and they gave a date for a meeting.
On that day, they killed two boys and pursued government agents from the community.

They were asked to bring community liaison officers. They refused. There was a plan for a town hall meeting, but they boycotted and sabotaged it. The Governor met with the Enogie of Obagie to discuss the matter, but even with that, they kept on selling the land.

Those who bought from them began to build day and night, as they erroneously believed that once foundations or buildings are erected on land, irrespective of the defective title they hold, such property had immunity from demolition. Some of the buildings were built in five or six weeks. It got to the point government agents from the ministry could not even use their vehicles because of attacks from the heavily armed youths of the communities.

Only recently, government staff who came with the EdoGIS to do perimeter reestablishment were harassed, beaten up, and their clothes removed. They were humiliated in the community. The government was been challenged!

However, despite the dare, announcements asking them to stay away from the area were regular and made frequently.

It is no longer business as usual as Governor Obaseki insists that charity must begin at home and hence, the need for sanity.

"The government in the past have just been playing politics with such things. The Community Development Association was proscribed, it became illegal, but it did not stop them."

The Commissioner maintained that the Government wants to have a planned city where the pressure of the city can be taken away from Benin, and we can come back and dedicate the old city.

This operation takes possession of the land for those who do the enumeration to come in. There must be a topographic study as well as a soil test to test the area where there would be high-rise buildings to ascertain if the soil can take it.

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