CERTAINLY, there are housing shortages in Benin City, capital of Edo State. But not to worry. A group of persons are working hard to reduce the shortages through partnering with the Federal/Edo State Government to build 66 low-cost houses at Ikpoba Hill area of Benin City. One of these persons is Dr. Clement Ehebha. Recently, our man MICHAEL ODIGBE spoke to him on the challenges of the project.
My names are Clement Ehebha. I represent a company mandated by the Federal Government to build low-cost houses at Ikpoba Hill. I was a former Commissioner of Finance in Edo State.
The project is tagged Aduwawa Garden City. The Federal Government, working in collaboration with Edo Government, acquired a land at Aduwawa situated between WAEC and the highway leading from Benin to Auchi for the project. The land is V-shaped. It contains 66 plots. The idea behind the project is to build a low-cost housing estate for Edo residents on the land.
Land Speculators Invade The Area
The land for the project was given to the Federal Government by the old Bendel State on 17th May, 1977. At the time, Patrick Jegbefume was Commissioner of Land and Housing. He signed the documents relating to the Aduwawa Garden City on behalf of government.
The land was given to the Federal government by Bendel State Government, therefore, for a public purpose of building low-cost houses in Ikpoba Hill area of Benin City. Unfortunately, the situation on the ground today is pitiable. Private individuals, corporate organisations and churches have taken over the land earmarked for the laudable project.
When I carried out investigations, I was informed that Federal Ministry of Lands and Housing officials posted to Edo State, about 90% of whom are non-indigenes, sold parts of the government land to private individuals. These officials were on duty transfer to Edo state. While here, they sold the land to unsuspecting buyers who have built or are building houses on the land.
Major Lawrence Loye (rtd) Intervenes
Edo Ministry of Land and Housing is aware of the invasion of the Ikpoba Hill land. It has gone there to mark the buildings and structures on the land for demolition. The ministry asked the land grabbers as well as developers to vacate the area. Infact, Major Lawrence Loye (rtd), now Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Public Utilities, is the one who sent his people there to mark these illegal buildings and structures on the land with red paint.
The red mark is to warn people that all structures on the land are for demolition. But do you know the sad thing about all these developments? People are still developing structures on the land while those with completed buildings on it have refused to vacate the area.
On the 7th of January, for instance, I saw someone putting up a building there. Can’t you imagine this effrontery? However, there is no cause for alarm. Edo people should be patient with us. The land grabbers would be chased out at the appropriate time, using the due process of law.
The Land Will Be Repossessed
I promise that the law will be duly used to repossess the government land. Because this is the only way the Aduwawa Garden City can materialize for the good people of Edo State to benefit from. Without repossessing the land, our bankers won’t release the necessary funds to develop the low-cost houses earmarked for the project. Also, I need to point out that the Federal Government has since 1977 come out with a design of the 66 houses carved out of the said Ikpoba Hill land. Therefore, it is all the land that would be repossessed for the Aduwawa Garden City. Not a part of the land. No concession will be made to any land speculator or buyer. Hence, it would be in their best interest now to leave the site immediately before the government comes with its bulldozers.
No one can deter us from repossessing the land. I am aware there are two giant churches there right now as I speak to you. One of the churches has its headquarters in Auchi, headquarters of Etsako Local Government Council. Also, there is big school which has a nursery and primary section, all rolled into one, on the Ikpoba Hill government land. This school is on the survey road in question. Furthermore, there are over 2 massive storey buildings on this same land.
Effrontery Of A Land Grabber
Right now, there is one man who is just putting up a big structure on the government land. When you see the pillars he is erecting, you will know he is building a massive storey building which is close to the road. On the 31st December, 2012 I saw him moulding blocks and my team warned him on the risk he is taking by building on government land. We were there ten days later. When we got there, we discovered that the structure on the land is half-completed. He has continued to build on the land despite our warning.
The Government To Act Soon
At this juncture, let me say this, we are only waiting for the Federal government go ahead to clear the land of all the encumbrances I have talked about. We are expecting this order between now and March 2013. Then the bulldozers will move in, after they have completed their job, the Aduwawa Garden City of low-cost houses would have taken off. This projection is realizable.
Many people have queued up waiting for the project to start. Such people are in Nigeria and abroad. For instance, I went to Belgium sometime ago where I have a representative. Several of Edo people are living in this country. About sixteen of them are interested in the project and are willing to build or buy houses developed on the Ikpoba Hill land. They want to own good houses in Benin City, their state capital.
Given this scenario, you can see why I am very passionate about recovering the land for the Aduwawa Garden City project. However, I firmly believe that with the goodwill of Edo people, Comrade - Governor Adams Ali Oshiomhole and the Federal Government the land will be reclaimed from land speculators and fake developers.
My final advice is that all occupants of the land should immediately vacate the site. If they don’t do so, their buildings or structures will be demolished and all persons who developed them would be prosecuted. Before the hammer falls, such persons could come to me and I will take them to our lawyers in Benin and Abuja who will liaise with Ms Amma Pepple (Federal Minster in charge of housing) to ensure that they recover their money from the fraudulent federal officials who sold them plots on this land.