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INTERVIEW: How Enugu Govt destroyed my multi-million investment – Ex-Immigration chief, Ezugwu

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Ezugwu narrates how in a twinkle of an eye, his multi-million naira investment, located at Independence Layout Enugu, was turned to rubles. Excerpts!

Barrister Okey Ezugwu is a retired Assistant Comptroller of Immigrations. It is not the best of times for the Enugu State indigene as he narrates to journalists the alleged injustice against him by the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority. Ezugwu narrates how in a twinkle of an eye, his multi-million naira investment, located at Independence Layout Enugu, was turned to rubles. Excerpts!

A few days ago, your house was demolished, what really happened?

In 2013, I was serving in Enugu State as Immigration officer at Obollo Afor. Through the Government House, I applied to the government for provision of land, and the governor approved my application and referred me to the commissioner for lands. I went to the lands ministry and I was given a form to fill. After filling the forms, lands eventually called me to say that they had found a place for me as directed by his excellency, Barrister Sullivan Chime, and that was it.

So the land was given to you by the state government?

Yes, it was lands that directed every other process. They did the survey plans, they did the visitation and whatever, after which I was asked to pay for the fees, which I did. I paid all the fees, by then they have given me the allocation already. They asked me to pay for the C of O and the rest of them which I did and was given the C of O in 2014. Then from 2014 till 2021 August nobody has ever come there to ask me anything.

In fact in 2015/2016, I got approval for the building I wanted to build there. I erected a building there, a duplex. That was a longtime ago. The place was so isolated and people were not really coming around there and those who were allocated plots close to my plots happened to be Institutions and professional bodies. We have the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), then you have the Institute of Engineers and the rest of them. In fact, on that road alone we have the town planners, the COREN and others. So I was really the only one allocated land with residential Status.

When I looked around and I was like how am I going to live here alone with my family in a situation where every other owner happens to be an institution and the rest of them, I decided to apply to the government for change of the proposed plot, that was when I constructed the second building.

The two buildings were approved at the same time. I did the first one and it was standing there all through and then did the second one when I changed the proposed plot.

When did trouble start?

In August of 2021, a young man, Okey Hyacinth Ayogu came around and said he had been given a whole expanse of land there and that he had about 5000/6000 something and that my own plot took a part of what he was given.

I told him this land was given to us directly from the government and the ministry of lands have their mechanism; he later ran away for a long time and after that he came back again and came with four soldiers. In fact, it became a ding dong affair. Today he will arrest my security and take them to the police. Later I will call the police and they will tell them this is not their case, that it is a civil matter.

It continued like this until he decided to go to court. When he went to court, the state government that he claimed gave him land came and said that they want to join in the suit as a party because since the man is saying they gave him, they want to be joined so that they can at least represent the interest of the state. He objected to that judgement. As soon as the court joined the state, he ran away from there and went to the Court of Appeal.

He went to the Court of Appeal to contest why the state should be joined and we are waiting for a date from the Court of Appeal up till now. So at a stage he actually stopped coming.

About two weeks ago, he came with soldiers and started re-surveying the whole entire area again, starting from the end of the new estate which the former governor took, claiming that they want to recreate the original master plan of the place. It was the same surveyors from the ministry of lands that gave us the survey plans. So he kept coming and coming, at a stage I actually raised the alarm that this man is re-surveying this place. Each time he wanted to enter each of the premises, he had to bulldoze his way. There was a time they had to climb my gate.

After climbing the gate, I installed a CCTV camera; after a few days, I was at the site and they called me that soldiers were around my gate. I was sitting down and the next thing I saw was that they broke the gate and came in. As soon as I saw them, I started recording. When they came in, they collected all my phones and flashed all of them while I was pinned down with my workers and five soldiers.

All the time he has been coming, I have been writing to the police. I have written a bunch of letters to the police. There was a time when the police investigated and wrote to the ministry of lands to find out the ownership of 23cd and the police wrote back to confirm that I am the owner of that plot.

So, last Friday, they called me and told me that I should come, that this man has come with soldiers. I raced down with some of my friends, on getting there I saw people from Enugu State Capital Territory. The man came to me, spoke our language and threatened me that he would deal with me.

Well, the leader of the team from the capital territory asked me if I was aware that I was encroaching into somebody’s property. I told them as far as I was concerned, I am not aware that this man owns any property here. I narrated how I came there, and what I have done on the site. I also told them how the man came after seven years and said he had been given that area and what I told him, how we headed to court, how the state government said they will address the whole thing, that I have all the documents to reflect whatever claim.

What then happened next?

They said they were giving me 48 hours to remove the building. So they left, but it did not take up to 45 minutes, this young man, Okey Hyacinth Ayogu, came again with some soldiers and some officials of the same Capital Territory and brought a bulldozer, entered through the IMT gate and parked there. We started calling people and even our friends in the government and the government house said they did not know anything about it. so they couldn’t do anything that day.

On Monday morning, I was invited for a meeting in the government house and I went. I made my position known. I wrote a letter to the Governor and I attached every attachable. I told the story of how I have gone around with this man. It was when I got there that I discovered that something was not right, because one of the officials of the state government, who obviously should know and was part of what happened in the last regime in terms of the legal presentations as the solicitor general, apparently became the spokesman of the company.

I asked him a question- you were a Solicitor General and permanent Secretary and your AG represented the government in this matter, how come you are beginning to talk about in other ways. He said that the decision of the government in that matter can be interpreted in several ways. The Secretary to the State Government, after showing him all my documents, said ok, that they have seen it and they have seen the encroachment and others.

Also, the disputed survey that the young man did a few days before the meeting was actually the survey the Secretary to the State Government was brandishing and that was the one the young man was brandishing as the original survey of the area. It became the working document for the Secretary to the State government. so he said that they will see the Governor but that the government has taken a position. He said all the same, they will talk to us again.

Ezugwu narrates how in a twinkle of an eye, his multi-million naira investment, located at Independence Layout Enugu, was turned to rubles. Excerpts!

How did the matter resurrect after the meeting?

Honestly, I left thinking and feeling contended that someone is intervening in the matter and that the resolution of the crises was at hand. I waited, no incident, nothing. On tuesday I was in the court and I just came out from the court and I wanted to go to Agbani and they called me to come that the bulldozer has come again, that the Capital Territory officers and the soldiers are blocking all over the road, before you could say jack the bulldozer, went and brought down my gate and then moved in again and attacked the building in minutes.

I don’t know what happened, the machine stopped functioning; they went out and brought three bulldozers and attacked the building. So what do I do, I withdrew from the area. I refused to go there because I couldn’t understand what was happening. They demolished the building even when the matter is still in court.

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