Okorocha (file photo)
By Valentine Amanze
Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, has ordered the return of all lands forcefully taken away by the former Governor Rochas Okorocha and his administration to their rightful owners.
He also pledged that his sdministration would continue to promote due processes and protect the interest of all law-abiding citizens of Imo State, while pledging to assuage the pains of the people who were wrongfully treated.
Governor Uzodimma spoke on Tuesday at a town hall meeting of stakeholders and the Committee on Implementation of the Imo State Whitepaper on Lands and Other Related Matters at Concorde Hotel Owerri.
Represented by the Deputy Governor, Prof Placid Njoku, the governor explained that the town hall meeting with stakeholders was a way of sending out clear message that the era of impunity and violation of the rights of the people of Imo State was gone.
His words: “I realized that the only way to assuage the pains of the people was a complete restoration of the lands back to their rightful owners – and today, we have gathered for the first phase of the restoration of lands forcefully taken away from their rightful owners.
“To those whose lands are being restored today, I congratulate you and urge you to be confident that my administration will support and promote only forthright processes.
“At the time that I took over the mantle of leadership of our great state, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Lands and Related Matters was already sitting. At my interactive session with the members of the Commission, I confirmed that the Commission should continue and complete its work and I promised Imo people that I will implement the report of the Commission.
“When the report was submitted on 1st June 2020, I immediately saw and felt the pains of Imolites whose lands were forcefully wrested away by the then administration. The government itself was not spared on this land-grabbing madness. Government lands and properties were sadly converted to personal use by the management of Senator Rochas Okorocha administration, their families and friends.
“In Orlu, all government lands at the Government Station Layout and the Eastern Palm University were brazenly taken over by the same people that the people of Imo State entrusted with the sacred duty of protecting and preserving public property.
“In Owerri, entire layouts (including the proposed New Government House at Area P), Judiciary quarters and many other areas were taken over for private use. The perpretrators also paid no heed to the basic principles of town planning in their drive. Then I realized that the only way to assuage the pains of the people was a complete restoration of the lands back to their rightful owners.
“Today, in line with the 3R mantra of my administration (Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Recovery) we are actively reconstructing roads and infrastructure. We are rehabilitating institutions and services. And today, we have gathered for the first phase of the restoration of lands forcefully taken away from their rightful owners.
“Our Town Hall meeting this morning is one of our ways of sending a message to past and future leaders of our state that nobody can violate our sacred values and get away with it.
“My administration will continue to be the protector of the helpless. The era when leaders or government officials will usurp the property of Imolites and hope to get away with it is over.
“To those whose lands are being restored today, I congratulate you and urge you to be confident that my administration will support and promote only forthright processes.”
Among other findings by the Panel are as follows:
- Public Buildings Plot P/2 Otamiri South Extention Layout (part of public Plot 2 given to Ministry of Women Affairs for the establishment of Skills Acquisition Centre for women), Plot P/5 Naze Residential Layout (initially part of Primary Education Commission) were illegally converted to private use by Sen. Rochas Okorocha and given to his wife for her ALL- IN STORE along Aba road.
- Magistrates Quarters, Co-operative office, and Girls Guide office all along Orlu road, Owerri, were illegally converted to private use by Sen. Rochas Okorocha and is unlawfully being used as Market Square and Kilimanjaro etc.
- IBC Quarters at Orji and the public road leading up to it were illegally converted to private use by Sen. Rochas Okorocha and now houses Rochas Foundation College.
- Legislative Aides/Staff Quarters opposite Concorde Hotel was illegally converted to private use by Sen. Rochas Okorocha and is now unlawfully being used as Heroes Apartments Residential Estate.
- Almost the entire Area ‘P’ , the proposed new Government House was illegally converted to private use by Sen Rochas Okorocha and is now in the hands of his various family members, inlaws and friends.
- Ministry of Works yard along Okigwe road, Owerri is now an estate of private apartments known as Diaspora Village while all the equipment and the engineering laboratories installed there were carted away by Sen. Rochas Okorocha and his cronies.
- Part of Deputy Governor’s Lodge and Government Office building at Orlu road were converted to Chief Rochas Okorocha’s Willowood Hotel.
- Plot 75A, Housing Area “Old D” (Speakers Residence) was demolished and re-allocated to Chief Emma Ugorji who now uses it privately.
- Eastern Palm University, Ogboko was converted to personal use by Chief Rochas Okorocha.
The Committee thereafter notified all those who have any of their properties or equipment on any of the listed government areas to vacate them on or before mid of December 2021, noting that “Thereafter, government through this Committee will recover the land for government and the good people of Imo State.”