By Fred Itua
Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development in Enugu State, Dr Victor Chukwuemeka Nnam, in this interview with Daily Sun, spoke on his ongoing travails and how land grabbers are smearing his image over some alleged plan to run for the governorship position of Enugu State in 2023. He spoke on land administration and other issues in Enugu State.
What was your involvement with Kingsley Eze’s company, wherein he alleged that you forged a document?
I’m speechless. What happened was that, in 2014, in the course of my private practice as a licensed Surveyor, I carried out certain survey services for Private Estates International West Africa Ltd. After diligently carrying out the survey works, we parted ways shortly after. I have never been and would never have been their staff as they purport in their media propaganda.
They even claim that I was their staff and that I was fired. That’s false, because I was never their staff. I had been a staff of and lectured at the Enugu State University before I was made a Commissioner. I’m still a lecturer. I only took leave of absence to enable me serve in government.
Secondly, when I became a commissioner, they had a wrong belief that I’ll be there to protect their interest. I discovered that the State Government gave them a C-of-O in 2009. They waved the premium. They didn’t pay the premium and the ground rent. After 10 years, they’re yet to pay anything. So, Enugu State Government revoked the C-of-O on that basis.
Because they expected me to do their bidding and protect their interests instead of that of the state, they started fighting me.
On the issue of forgery, I didn’t do that. I carried out surveys for some communities in Enugu East. The documents I submitted were given to me by the communities. How can a surveyor forge documents to pay for a land? Who will pay for the services? A surveyor has no reason to forge your document since it is not his land. When you engage a surveyor, you supply him with the necessary documents. It’s the document you supply that he uses in sorting out your survey arrangement. The document they gave me was what I submitted.
I surveyed that land in 2017. When I became a commissioner, I was at work in my office when police came to my office in Enugu and claimed there was a petition against me. They said I must follow them to Lagos. I declined and insisted that the governor must approve before I will follow them. So, they asked me to write my statement there in my office. The next thing I saw on social media was that I had been charged to court.
Are you saying there was no due diligence before you were charged?
There was no investigation. I was never arrested. I never went to Lagos or Abuja with them. I was never interrogated. It was just the visit. Next thing, I was charged by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation. The last time they went to court, I was ill. I visited a hospital. The doctor asked that I take some days off. I applied to the governor so I could rest. I was granted leave. I also notified my lawyer and gave him the medical report.
Do you see this as a political witch-hunt?
Some political jobbers who are not happy with the transformation of land administration in Enugu State as per the mandate of our governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, have hijacked the whole thing. They’re using the media against me. What is happening in the media is just a smear campaign against my person. Some of them believe that I may be contesting for the governorship election in 2023. I have never consulted anybody or declared any interest. I’m still a serving commissioner under Governor Ugwuanyi. I have never discussed anything about contesting for the governorship with my boss. I have never indicated any interest. These campaigns you’re seeing are done by land grabbers who want to mortgage the future of Enugu youths. They’re afraid that if I declare interest and perhaps become the governor, especially because of my resolve to reform the land administration, they will be fought to a standstill. Whether or not I will contest, it’s left for God to decide.
You also said recently that land grabbers will be resisted by Enugu Government. Are they also behind your travails?
These things you see going on, is because some of those fighting me have perfected the act of treachery in land grabbing. They have amassed so much wealth from it. They’re afraid. Imagine somebody who took over 1,000 hectares of community land. He didn’t pay the government or the community. He didn’t even repay the bank loans he took from the bank. Instead he was busy selling the land and living larger-than-life. He had the guts to come out and accuse me of forgery. He’s the one who should be arrested and jailed. He committed the fraud. Kingsley Eze, you didn’t pay a premium on the land. You used the land to borrow money from the bank. And you’ve been making money from the sale. Yet, you have not paid the government, the bank or any compensation to the community. I challenge Kingsley Eze to produce evidence of payment of premium or ground rent to Enugu State Government. As part of government’s revenue generation drive, the Ministry of Lands is responsible for generating revenue for government from ground rent and premiums. You can’t take community land without paying compensation. Take government land without paying premium. The premium they’re supposed to pay to the government is about N4.7 billion. They’re sitting on this huge amount of money and haven’t remitted a dime to government.
Where does the governor stand?
They wanted me to hide this truth from my boss. I had to brief my boss about what was going on. My boss is solidly behind me. He knows that I am doing everything in the interest of the state. The unfortunate thing is that, people who don’t have the full details will start getting confused. But those who know the full details know that these people are land grabbers. My sin is that I revealed the level of the monumental fraud they were committing. That is why they are after me. They want to smear my name and rubbish me. We know that in a matter of time, justice will prevail. Nothing is hidden under the sun. People will know what has happened. This land you’re referring to belongs to a community. They farm there, live there and have graves of their forefathers there. They’ve no other land to farm. We had to stand up and speak out.