Barrister Former Assistant Comptroller of Immigrations, Okey Ezugwu.
As the native of Enugu State describes to journalists the alleged injustice committed against him by the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, it is not the best of times for him.
Ezugwu describes how his multi-million naira investment, which was situated at Independence Layout Enugu, was converted to rubles in the blink of an eye. Excerpts!
What actually transpired when your house was demolished a few days ago?
I worked as an immigration officer at Obollo Afor in Enugu State in 2013. I requested land from the government through the Government House, and the governor authorized my request and forwarded me to the commissioner of lands. I visited the Lands Ministry, where I received a paperwork to complete. Following the completion of the documents, Lands ultimately contacted to inform me that they had located a residence for me in accordance with the instructions provided by His Excellency, Barrister Sullivan Chime.
So the state government granted you ownership of the land?
Yes, the land was the source of all other directions. After they completed the survey plans, visits, and other tasks, I was asked to pay the associated expenses, which I did. I had already received my allocation when I had paid all of the payments. In 2014, I received the C of O after they requested that I pay for it and the other items. Then, from 2014 to August 2021, no one came to ask me anything.
around fact, I was able to build the building there around 2015 or 2016. There, a duplex was built by myself. It’s been a while since then. Because of how remote the location was and how few people actually visited, institutions and professional organizations were given plots close to mine. The Institute of Engineers is one of them, and the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) is one of ours. In fact, the town planners, the COREN, and others are just on that one road. Therefore, I was the only person who received land with residential Status.
I decided to appeal to the government for a change of the proposed plot when I realized I couldn’t live here alone with my family in a circumstance where every other owner also happened to be an institution. At that point, I built the second building.
The approval for the two structures came at the same time. I completed the first one, and it remained in place the entire time. I then completed the second one after altering the suggested plan.
When did the problems begin?
In August 2021, Okey Hyacinth Ayogu, a young man, came by and claimed that my plot had taken a portion of the vast stretch of land he had been allotted. He claimed to have roughly 5000–6000 square feet of that property.
I informed him that the government had directly handed us this land and that the ministry of lands has its own procedures; he later fled away for a considerable amount of time before returning with four troops. It actually turned into a ding dong affair. He will detain my security personnel today and take them to the police. I’ll contact the police later, and they’ll explain that this is not their case and that it is a civil problem.
This went on until he made the decision to go to court. When he appeared in court, the state government that he said had given him the land arrived and requested to be included as a party so that they could at least defend the state’s interests since the man claimed they had given him the land. He disagreed with that verdict. He fled from there and went to the Court of Appeal as soon as the court joined the state.
He appeared before the Court of Appeal to argue against the state’s inclusion, and we are still awaiting the Court of Appeal’s decision on a date. Therefore, he eventually stopped coming.
He arrived with soldiers about two weeks ago and began a new assessment of the entire region, beginning at the end of the new estate that the prior governor had taken, claiming that they wanted to rebuild the original master plan of the location. The ministry of lands surveyors that provided us with the survey plans were the identical ones. He continued to come, and eventually I raised the alarm that he might be re-surveying the area. He had to bulldoze his way into each of the buildings each time he wanted to enter. At one point, they had to climb up my gate.
I mounted a CCTV camera after scaling the gate, and a few days later I was at the location when someone called to tell me that soldiers were circling my gate. They broke down the gate and entered while I was seated, which was the next thing I noticed. As soon as I noticed them, I began taking notes. When they entered, I was surrounded by my employees and five troops, and they took all of my phones and flashed them all.
I’ve been writing to the police the entire time he’s been here. I’ve written the cops a ton of letters. When the police looked into a matter and wrote to the ministry of lands to inquire about the ownership of 23CD, they received a response stating that I am the plot’s owner.
So, on Friday of last week, they called and instructed me to come because this dude had arrived with military. With a few of my pals, I hurried down, and when we arrived, we spotted residents of Enugu State Capital Territory. The man approached me, spoke to me in our language, and warned me that I would be dealt with.
The squad captain from the capital territory, however, questioned me about my awareness of invading someone else’s property. I informed them that, as far as I knew, this man did not own any real estate in the area. I explained how I got there and what I did on the website. I also explained how we went to court, how the state government indicated they would deal with the situation, how the individual returned after seven years and claimed to have been awarded that area, what I told him, and how I have all the paperwork to support any allegation.
What followed after that?
I had 48 hours to get the structure out, they claimed. They departed as a result, but it didn’t take long for Okey Hyacinth Ayogu, a young man, to return with some military and government representatives from the same Capital Territory. They brought a bulldozer, which they drove through the IMT gate and parked there. We began calling individuals, and even our buddies in the government and at the government building claimed they had no idea. As a result, they were powerless that day.
I went to a meeting at the government residence on Monday morning since I had been invited. I declared my position. I addressed a letter to the governor and included everything I could. I described how I had interacted with this man. When I arrived, I realized something wasn’t right because one of the state government officials—who obviously should know and was involved in what occurred during the previous regime in terms of the legal presentations as the solicitor general—appears to have taken on the role of the company’s spokesperson.
I questioned him, “How come you are starting to talk about in other ways when you were a Solicitor General and permanent Secretary and your AG represented the government in this matter.” According to him, there are various ways to interpret the government’s judgment in this case. After I presented him with all of my paperwork, the secretary of the state government stated, “Okay, they have seen it and they have seen the encroachment and others.”
Additionally, the young guy was presenting the contested survey—which he conducted a few days before the meeting—as the area’s initial survey while the Secretary to the State Government was waving the report. It was adopted as the Secretary of State’s working document. He then stated that although they will meet with the governor, the government has already made a decision. However, he added, they would speak with us once more.
How did the situation resurface following the meeting?
Sincerity be damned, I thought and felt satisfied that someone was stepping in and that the crises were about to be resolved. I waited, and nothing happened. On Tuesday, I was in court and was about to leave for Agbani when they called to say that the bulldozer had returned and that Capital Territory officers and soldiers were blocking the road everywhere. Before you could say “jack,” the bulldozer had brought down my gate and was minutes later moving back in to attack the building.
I had no idea what transpired, but the machine ceased to operate; they went outside and dragged three bulldozers, which they then used to attack the structure. So I did what I had to do—I left the region. I resisted going there since I didn’t know what was going on. Even though the case is still pending in court, they destroyed the structure.