A non-governmental organisation, Spaces for Change, has hailed the Imo State Implementation Committee on Lands and other Related Matters for returning over 894 plots of land to their original owners.
A statement by the executive director of the NGO, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, says that it was heart-warming that Governor Hope Uzodinma fulfilled the promise he made to redress the unlawful confiscation and acquisition of both government and individual lands during the 8-year reign of former Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
Spaces for Change says it welcomes the development because it aimed at correcting the brazen landgrabs witnessed across the state which deprived millions of residents of Imo State of their lands and houses.
“In the White Paper on Recovered Land issued by The Committee this week, Imo State government published a detailed list of the landowners—comprising private individuals, corporate bodies, educational institutions, churches, markets, government agencies and parastatals—whose lands were taken over forcefully and illegally and reallocated to the family, relatives and cronies of the former governor of the state,” the NGO says.
It added: “The Committee was inaugurated in September 2021 to implement the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry on the Recovery of Lands and other related matters set up in 2019. Among other things, The Committee was mandated to identify and recover all illegally acquired land in different parts of the State and restore them to their original owners and occupiers.
“The White Paper further exposed how prime land in choice locations, as well as public properties, were partitioned and appropriated to political office holders, their relatives and cronies, at the expense of millions of citizens in critical need of shelter living in under-housed and inadequate housing conditions.
“The decision of the committee further validates the findings and recommendations contained in S4C’s 2019 research, “MOVING FROM MULTI-BILLION NAIRA BUDGET TO IMPROVED HOUSING DELIVERY IN IMO STATE”. The research tracked government spending on housing delivery in Imo State and found evidence of chronic opacity in the award and execution of housing and infrastructure development contracts. Among other things, the study advocated for the development of a sound policy on affordable housing and the revitalization of the Imo State Housing Corporation as a vehicle for improving housing delivery to the different income groups, including the most vulnerable groups.
“The restoration of recovered lands to their original owners means that about 800 households have been removed from Nigeria’s estimated 20 million housing deficit. It further demonstrates that the Imo State government takes citizens’ property and housing rights very seriously. Accordingly, we urge the Imo State government through the Committee to ensure a seamless land recovery procedure that is shorn of red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks. By doing this, Imo government will demonstrate to the world that access to land and housing are not mere objective principles of state policy; but rather, a fundamental human right of Imo citizens.”