AKEEM NAFIU reports that there seems to be no end to the controversy trailing the ownership of large expanse of land on Airport Road Layout in Enugu as landowners and the state government are currently locked in litigations. Already 193 owners of plots have petitioned the Federal Government
In Enugu State, owners of phase 4 and 5 land, Airport Road Layout, are currently at loggerheads with the state government for allegedly denying them access to the landed property which they purchased from an Architect, Mr. John Emejulu.
To ventilate their grievances, 193 land owners, majority of who are residing in Lagos, have petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari; Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika; Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu.
In a letter dated 28th September, 2020, signed by Mike Anayo, Mba Catherine and Uzoma Udechi on behalf of 190 others, the land owners said about 40 of them allegedly bought land from Emejulu in Airport Road Layout before he got two separate Enugu State High Court judgements in his favour in 2015 and 2017.
They said others came into the picture after the levying of execution by Enugu State High Court and issuance of certificate of possession to Emejulu following which about 25 duplexes were put up in the place.
They claimed that they were informed by Emejulu of how the buildings were pulled down by the Chairman of Enugu East Local Government Area, Cornelius Nnaji, Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Edward Ubosi and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi with about five commissioners on the premise that the buildings were erected on government’s land.
“Enugu State Government issued a C of O to one, Empower Energy Ltd as the owner and developer of the land but Arch. J. J. Emejulu petitioned IGP then and men of Police General Investigations Department in Area 10 which investigated the matter and confirmed the allegations to be true and they are about being prosecuted for malicious damage.
“Hon. Cornelius Nnaji, Hon. Edward Ubosi and three other state commissioners sold over 40 plots from the same Airport Road Layout Phase IV and V and that made our landlord to drag them to EFCC for financial crimes. “Buildings are standing there now and people are occupying them. These powerful politicians have been using government powers to be intimidating our landlord, Arc. J. J. Emejulu.
The EFCC investigation report is there in PFU section of the EFCC Zonal office. “Our landlord, Arc. J. J. Emejulu, reached out to Inspector General of Police about a year ago and complained to him how Hon. Cornelius Nnaji and accomplices had prevented him from enjoying the fruit of his judgement. “The Inspector General of Police immediately put out a call to Cornelius Nnaji and asked him what was happening on the land.
After their discussion, the IGP directed his Monitoring Unit to go and investigate the matter. The IGP’s men went to the layout and acted as the law stipulated by ensuring that all the imposters were sent away from the land. “Many of us at this stage of IGP’s involvement got interested and started buying plots of land from Arc. J.J. Emejulu.
Empower Energy Ltd that was in charge when the layout was being delineated called Enugu State Government land, took out a court action against our landlord in suit No.E/094/2019.
“Also, Hon. Cornelius Nnaji that has been the brain behind all these evil machinations on seeing that Empower Energy Ltd had been thrown out of the layout also went to court against him claiming that the layouts belonged to his native, Nnaji family in suit No.E/9/2020.
“At the start of COVID-19, they re-entered the layout and started fencing off the entire land claiming that Federal Airport Authority applied for extension of land and that a C of O has been issued to them. Being a law abiding citizen, our landlord went to court for an order of mandamus on Inspector General of Police and Enugu State Commissioner of Police, which was promptly granted.
About 50 armed policemen were released to him for execution of the court order. He has been in possession of the said layout for three years now by virtue of certificate of possession issued to him.
“As the execution of the court order was on, the governor brought in some airforce men to derail the court execution. Even the Airforce men brought in by the Governor and Minister of Aviation are still there, preventing us from working on our respective plots and because of this, the police are helpless in doing the bidding of the court.
“Government has the right to take away any land but due process must be followed because many of us that bought plots legitimately should not be allowed to suffer unduly. In other words, adequate compensation should be paid to our landlord to enable him refund our monies to us,” the petitioners reads.
On his part, Architect Emejulu has also continued to lay claim to the ownership of the land. He told journalists while executing a court’s judgement that he bought the layout containing more than 300 plots of land from Umuenwene Iji Nike community in Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State in 2008 and that the property was gazetted by the state government before some people started laying claim and trespassing.
He accused the Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Edward Ubosi and former Chairman of Enugu East local government area, Hon. Cornelius Nnaji, of allegedly working in tandem with some other powerful people to wrest the layout away from him.
He said: “The thing is that some people entered my land forcefully and started trespassing. A land I bought in 2008 from Umuenwene Iji-Nike community. As a law abiding citizen, I had no other alternative than to have recourse to the law. So, I went to court to obtain judgement. So, what you are seeing here is execution by the court; it’s court of law, High Court of Enugu that is doing this.
“The people that want to wrest this land away from me are the people that own the state because they have connection; so, they felt that they will use their connection to intimidate me. I’m talking about the person of the Speaker, Edward Ubosi and Cornelius Nnaji, they are the principal people.”
However, in his response, Nnaji was reported to have accused Emejulu of engaging in campaign of calumny. He said he was not in contention with Emejulu as he had no interest in the land in question.
“The man is just calling my name and the Speaker’s name to tarnish our image. I have no property there; I’m not in contention with him. But if he says he owns the layout, let him provide the layout plan and the plot numbers.
That place is part of Free Trade Zone which was recently flagged off by the government. And if you say you have court judgment, you have to serve the people concerned,” he said