Giving fresh breath to land matters in Akwa Ibom
Land has become a hotcake all over the world. The competition for land, either for property development, cultivation of crops or animal husbandry, is at the centre of insecurity in Nigeria. This is why effective management of lands is very critical to peace and prosperity for all.
The industrial revolution of this administration, in which land is basic, makes it very critical to effectively manage lands and water resorces in the State. To assist Governor Udom Emmanuel exercise oversight on lands and water resources was why Pastor Umo Eno was assigned to the Ministry of Lands and Water Resources as the Commissioner. Coming from the background of entrepreneurship, where lands and water become pivotal to business entities, the Commissioner in six months has made some landmarks in the administration of lands and water resources in the State. His goal is to make land acquisition, particularly for businesses less cumbersome, in order to attract more foreign direct investments.
FORGING STRONG INTER-AGENCY SYNERGY
To smoothen-off the rough edges in the State’s lands and water management, Pastor Umo Eno, on assumption of office initiated a strategy of collaborating with inter-agencies in the lands and water trajectory of the state. That strategic approach took him two major players – Akwa Ibom Water Company Limited, Uyo and Uyo City Capital Development (UCCD). Management and staff of the company were so elated to receive the Commissioner and his team.
The Chairman, Board of Directors, Prince Uwem Ita Etuk described the visit as unprecedented. Etuk said, “It has never happened. When I heard that you were visiting us, I said, “Yes, that you Know your onions. The Ministry of Lands and Water Resources is one that is packed full of work to do, so I wonder how you manage and squeeze out time to visit us. But it shows that you know what you are doing.”
Prince Uwem Ita Etuk, a former Commissioner in the State, commended Pastor Umo Eno for his pragmatic approach to duty and promised to give him the necessary support to enable him succeed. He solicited the Commissioner’s assistance in tackling challenges bedevilling the organization such as decayed infrastructure and ruptured water pipes, due to construction of roads across the state. Pastor Umo Eno, however, noted that the challenges facing water supply was a global issue and that donor agencies were willing to partner with water companies for maximum delivery and assured that Governor Udom Emmanuel who has the welfare of Akwa Ibom people at heart, was prepared to fix challenges facing the water company.
At UCCD, the Commissioner enjoyed similar cooperation in the task of delivering best service to the citizenry and investors. Prince Enobong Uwah, Chairman of UCCD commended Governor Udom Emmanuel for appointing Pastor Umo Eno, whom he described as a very competent person to man the Ministry of Lands and Water Resources. He pledged maximum cooperation in the execution of the Ministry’s projects.
As charity begins at home, the Commissioner had, in the early hours of his assumption of duties at the Ministry, parleyed with top management and staff. He charged the staff to reposition themselves for quality and expeditious service delivery in line with the Completion agenda of the Udom Emmanuel’s administration. “There is a need to quit being lazy and show diligence in our work. We need to open a new page for the Ministry so that we can meet the demands of the Ministry. Investors want land, Government also wants land, and there is no way we can do without land in the scheme of things and development of the state. So there is a need for diligence for us to be successful on our delivery of service. One of the things I want to see in this new dispensation is speed, we need to apply speed and accuracy to our work,” he said.
FAST-TRACKING ISSUANCE OF CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY
Before now, obtaining Certificate of Occupancy was a big challenge to most investors and local businesses. But things have changed, thanks to the listening Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, who also understands and values the importance of land owners possessing relevant land documents to ease their operations. The Commissioner was able to secure the approval of the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, who mandated him to handle some aspects of the process. Presenting the first certificate under this process to a business concerns, Master Plan Innovative Industries Limited, the Commissioner said, “It is a privilege to, on behalf of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, present to you this Certificate of Occupancy and trust that it will help progress your business.”
He explained that with the Covid-19 economic challenges, private businesses needed to raise finances, and the Governor coming from the private sector with full knowledge of the dynamics of doing business in Nigeria, has authorized the release of the C of Os. The representative of the organization, Mr. Victor UkoAbasi, praised Governor Udom Emmanuel for making it possible for the company to receive its C of O, adding that his organization was on ground with facilities to bring a balance to the ecosystem of Akwa Ibom and the adjoining States.
One of the achievements of the Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources in the office so far is breaking the impasse that slowed down the development of the Dakkada Luxury Estate in Uruan. Disagreements over payment of compensation to host communities had stalled the work; but all that have been resolved. The host Communities of the Dakkada Luxury Estate in Uruan resolved to bury their hatchet and support the development of the project, upon the intervention by Pastor Umo Eno.
The Commissioner had sued for peace amongst the host Communities and appealed for understanding over the delay in paying full compensation, but noted that Ibiaku Obio Ndobo was paid 50 percent of their compensation, while Ibiaku Ishiet was yet to be paid its own 50 percent due to some outstanding issues. Meanwhile, the Chairman of Uruan Local Government Area, Surveyor Iniobong Ekpenyong, who attended the meeting, urged youths to keep calm and avoid acts capable of truncating peace enjoyed in the area.
The commissioner described the Dakkada Luxury Estate as a smart estate and one of the best in the country, which will “be a well gated city within a city with hospital, school, police station, football field, civic centre, playground, general sewage, central power source and will accommodate about 567 families.”
He stressed that the Governor does not embark on projects arbitrarily and that all projects in the state are interconnected. According to him, “with the industrialization drive of the state, housing becomes a major need for the investors and employees.
He urged Akwa Ibom people to protect existing public facilities within their domain and called for more support and prayers for full achievement of the Completion agenda.
SUSTAINING BEST PRACTICES IN DEVELOPMENT
In addition, the Commissioner has inaugurated relevant committees within the Ministry for critical role of monitoring land development across the state. The committees are Monitoring and Development Control and the Land Allocation, Verification and Recovery Committee. The two committees were tasked with responsibilities of ensuring quality control in order to avoid haphazard buildings in the State. They were to maintain standards to avoid collapse of buildings. The Monitoring and Development Control was charged to ensure developers comply with Area Planning Authorities (APA), as indiscriminate buildings without approval of plans were noticed in parts of the states.
The Commissioner, however, charged the committees to operate within the ambits of the law. “I like to make it very clear; we need to work within the ambits of the law. Note that no demolition should take place for whatever reason without my direct approval. On no account must anybody’s home or property be demolished without following due process of the law.”
On the Land Allocation and Recovery, the Commissioner said, “As a ministry, we are looking forward to a sustainable roadmap on sources and supply of water as well as optimal utilization of land for social and economic development for improved standard of living of Akwa Ibom citizens arising from the natural endowment of the people.
“The Ministry of Lands and Water Resources is saddled with the responsibilities of acquiring lands for government and allocating same for industrial, commercial and residential purposes. Allottees of these lands are by law expected to pay statutory fees to Government, including premium and ground rent. However, it has been observed that some of the allottees have not paid the applicable statutory fees, including premium and ground rents. Let me mention here that the current administration under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel is on a fast lane of development, and this can only be achieved with the maximum cooperation of all stakeholders. Land indeed is the necessary pillar for every development.” He frowned at some investors who, after lands have been allocated to them, use same to achieve other purposes, without payment of the required statutory fees and in most cases, abandon same.
He maintained that the committee was expected to within two months, carry out investigation into all allocated Government lands from 2018 till date; come up with status of land allocated, whether developed or underdeveloped; ascertain and brief the ministry on the status of all outstanding indebtedness on statutory payments, including registration fees, premiums and ground rents on Government lands, so that approval could be sought for revocation.
He stressed that at the end of the exercise, defaulting allottees will be given a window of 90 days to pay all outstanding fees and charges or be ready to forfeit their plots to other interested persons and investors.
The Chairman, AKIRS, Mr. Okon Okon, who graced the occasion, commended the Commissioner for the initiative which he said would be a turning point in land administration in the State. The revenue boss was confident the committee would deliver on terms of engagement and noted that the committee’s efforts will bolster revenue generation in the state.