On Abandoned Properties:
This post is for posterity sake and to inform those who aren’t properly informed
Recall that at Independence, Nigeria operated the Regional System whereas PH fell into then Eastern Region with Ndigbo as the dominant ethnic Nationality
Though the majority, there were and are still small ethnic groups which aren’t Igbos.
The city of PH, then Eastern Nigeria’s foremost City belongs to the Minorities that are found in today’s Rivers State. Note that Rivers State wasn’t created then, as such, the administration of PH was done from Enugu
Unfortunately, the PH lands were systematically taken away from the indegenuous owners who are predominantly farmers and alloted by the Eastern Regional Govt in Enugu to their friends, brothers, relatives, etc with little or no consideration to how those who owned those lands would survive being that they’re mainly farmers. As farmers, whoever takes away your land has committed genocide against you because they’ve automatically denied you the means of livelihood
But that’s what the Eastern Region did to their neigbours.
Take particular note that as at then, PH was the most viable city in the entire East, so the need to own property there was a sign of affluence for the powers that be in Enugu. So they sat in Enugu and shared out lands belonging to other people
This act was resisted by the Minorities but because the levers of powers were controlled from Enugu, the resistance was not able to gain traction. This is one of the reasons when eventually the Civil War broke out, the Minorities refused to back Biafra. It is their refusal to back Biafra that led to the labelling and killing of hundreds of people from the minorities under the guise of “Saboteurs”
Fortunately, Gowon created the first 12 States including Rivers State thereby effectively pulling out the PH area from Eastern Region.
Again, note that the abolition of State creation was one of Ojukwu’s demand in Aburi, Ghana when they went for peace meeting
Alternatively, Ojukwu requested that should the state creation hold, that Rivers State should not be a state of it’s own. The Niger Deltans till date believe it was due to the interest in PH lands that made Ojukwu to make such demands but thank goodness, Gowon rejected that and created Rivers State
Upon her creation and the appointment of Navy Cdr Diette-Spiff as it’s Military Governor, the Biafrans refused him from coming down to form govt in PH, until the Federal Troops liberated the area
Now a State of it’s own, the citizens took their complaints to the State Govt saying their lands were forcefully taken to build mansions by peoplewho didn’t buy the lands. Ordinarily, the only civil ways to own lands are clear; Either as a Gift, through purchase or through inheritance. If it’s through purchase, there must be a Deed of Conveyance and Survey. The Deed conveys ownership of the land from the seller to the buyer
In response to the complaints, the State Govt setup a Verification Committee and requested all those who claimed they own lands to present their documents with which they purchased the lands to that Committee. It’s important to state that the Committee sat for over 9months within which many cases were reviewed
After its sittings, it was discovered that actually, those lands were forcefully taken because many of the socalled buyers couldn’t present Deeds from the indegenuous owners, instead most presented Allocation Papers from then Eastern Regional Govt
However, it must be stated that some who actually purchased and had their documents were allowed to continue owning their houses till date. There’s a case as recent as from year 2000 when a man who actually bought lands and built on it was awarded possession of his house by the Supreme Court right here in PH after presentation of original documents including Deed from the locals and Survey Plan
But those who took lands by force, the law was applied. The law is that whoever owns a land owns everything ontop of it. In this instance, the law was applied
Note again that some people claimed that their documents were burnt or got missing during the Civil War but as everyone knows, till date, the National Archives in Enugu was not affected by the war, meaning that documents kept there were and are still safe. That’s why there are still colonial documents there till date.
So, the question here is, if you bought land from the owners and they signed Deed for you and you registered the land at then Lands Office, how come the office didn’t have copies of such documents, how come Archives didn’t also have such?
Is Chief Joe Igbokwe telling us that the land he bought in Lagos doesn’t have Deeds or Survey Plans or is he saying the lands are not registered with necessary governmental authorities?
Finally, I have taken this long to write this only to inform those who genuinely need the information of what happened.
Now, i tell my Igbo friends that we must build a future together and to start it is to not deny our pasts. The pasts are important parts of today and tomorrow, so let’s not deny it. Let’s also not brood endlessly over it, rather we should see them as mistakes that were made, every human is open to making mistakes
Let’s also not pretend those things, especially the wicked dispossession of the lands from their original owners didn’t happen. Yes, it happened, but let’s learn from it on how not to build a people in unity and peace. If you take away people’s possession by force because you control power, they’ll definitely come for it when they see the opportunity to. It’s a human trait to do so and the Enugu guys would have done same were they in the position of the minorities
If today, Joe and Co are still talking of Abandoned Properties, they should know that it touches at the very heart of our existence and reminds us of the bitter experiences under Eastern Region and Biafra. Most people haven’t read the experiences of the minorities in Eastern Region and Biafra, because some of them haven’t been properly documented. And because of that, only one narrative is always heard, in this case, that of “Abandoned Properties” while nobody asks of the “Dispossessed Lands or Economic Genocide”
Importantly, let it be noted that the issue didn’t stop at the State Govt, it went up to the Supreme Court wherein it was ruled that whoever owns a land owns whatever is built on it, especially when that land was acquired forcefully
Let me also say that the only essence of this post is to put the records straight with a view to properly informing the public on what actually transpired, so that now and in the future, those who find themselves at the Corridors of Power in Africa would stop abusing it, they rather should use it to build sustainable peace amongst our people
Lands are important in the East for all people, it is for it’s sake that Aguleri & Umuleri are locked in endless conflicts years on, it is also for its purpose that Onitsha and Obosi fought and are still subtly fighting today, years after. I do not know of any people who would be so dispossessed that won’t feel bad
What is instructive with this issue is that there was and is no Igbo vs Niger Delta War on this matter, only few greedy Igbos who constituted themselves Lord made this tragic historical mistake and not the entire Igbo nation. As such, it is the responsibility of our own generation to correct that mistake and build a legacy of mutuality, respect and peaceful coexistence anchored on justice, not to whip up sentiments as Joe and his friends are doing now because they suspect the Presidency is possibly around the corner, a reason for which they’ve begun to know who’s original Igbo and who’s not.
We wish them luck, all the same
We all better let sleeping Dogs lie..