From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Following the intervention of the Bayelsa State Government, the dispute between some landlords and the Nigerian Navy at Agudama-Epie community in Yenagoa has been peacefully resolved.
The issue of the disputed land had caused tension in the community, with both parties not ready to yield ground on their positions.
Speaking on Monday at his office in Government House, Yenagoa, when he received the report of the committee set up to look into issue, Governor Douye Diri stated that available facts show that the Navy were the rightful owners of the land which was in dispute.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Daniel Alabrah, quoted the governor as commending the committee headed by Secretary to the State Government, Dr Konbowei Benson, for doing what he described as a good job which, according to him, prevented a bloodbath.
The governor also commended the Navy for its patience during the period of the committee’s work and stressed the need for individuals and groups, particularly security agencies, to work with the government to sustain the prevailing peace in the state.
He said the government was committed to the peaceful co-existence of residents of the state just as he lauded the former landlords for not taking the laws into their hands but instead reported the issue to government for necessary action.
‘We would have had a bloodbath but the work of the committee averted that. We are here not just receiving the report. Actually the report is that there was no dispute between the Navy and those who bought the land without first of all ascertaining if it was encumbered,’ he said.
‘Clearly, the Nigerian Navy had no other contender to the land. Maybe the only person who would have had issues with the Navy would have been retired Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni who sold it. So, the Nigerian Navy did not commit any offence.
‘Going forward, before you purchase land, visit the Ministry of Lands and Housing. The lawyers say that ignorance is not an excuse under the law. What you did was to buy a land that had already been bought by the Navy and in the process you slowed down their pace of development.’
On the former claimants’ appeal for compensation, Governor Diri said it would be looked into administratively and a decision communicated to them through the Ministry of Lands.
In his remarks, chairman of the committee Dr Konbowei Benson stated that it discovered that the Navy were the rightful owners of the land but as part of its recommendations appealed to the governor to support the former claimants to relocate.
Some of the former landlords who spoke admitted to being on the wrong side of the issues but appealed to the governor to support them by providing some form of compensation for their loss.