We don’t know what they’re talking about – Govt
Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
For years now, poverty and squalor have been the companions of the Egbo family from Kpansia in Yenagoa Local Government area of Bayelsa State.
But the family believes that, ordinarily, it should have absolutely no business with poverty, if the events of 2004 had not been foisted on it by the administration of the former governor, the late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
The Egbo family is angry that its land, located at Aziegwe Bush Kpansia area of Isaac Boroh expressway, Yenagoa, was forcefully confiscated by the Bayelsa State government without any notice, negotiation or meeting with the family that owned the land.
According to investigations, as part of efforts of the Bayelsa State government to develop a Government Reservation Area in Yenagoa, like what obtains in other state capitals, the government identified a vast area of land for the proposed GRA, where top government officials, including lawmakers and other influential Bayelsans, were allocated parcels of land.
But the Egbo family insists that 14 years after the land was taken without consent, it is still waiting for the government to do the right thing by compensating the family for the land. A member of the family, Mr. Barnabas Egbo, said his father died due to depression arising from the forceful takeover of the family land by the state government.
“What government did to us in 2004 under the late governor Diepreye Alamiyeseigha is most unfair. We heard the news that government had earmarked our land as
Government Reservation Area. When we got to the place where the land is situated, we were chased away by armed policemen and soldiers. We were not even allowed to talk. We got to know that the government had acquired the place for its functionaries. We waited for the government to pay us compensation, but up till now, we have not being one paid kobo. They shared the land among themselves and are building mansions, while we are living in squalor. This is injustice and we want to take back our land. Some of the beneficiaries are even selling the land without considering the original owners of the land. My father died because of depression as a result of the forceful takeover of the land. He fell into depression because of poverty as a result of the deprivation of his inheritance. He could not even pay for basic things and after too much thinking he died. So we need justice.”
His brother, Godday Egbo, who corroborated his claims, narrated how he got to the farmland in 2004 and saw armed policemen and soldiers guarding the top government officials inspecting the land.
“Our grandfather owns the land. He handed it to my father, and when my father died, he gave it to me. I was the one farming there until government seized the land.
“One day, during Alamieyeseigha’s government, my child was sick and there was no food at home, so I decided to rush to the farm to get some plantain. Close to the farm, I saw many cars and mobile policemen at the place. I made inquiries and was told that government had taken over the land without talking to us. They cleared the land and allocated it to people. One kobo was not given to us. Now, I want to collect back our land. Now, I am suffering and I need the land. I am really suffering. If I don’t go to farm to collect sugarcane, my family won’t eat. If I don’t go to get plantain, my family won’t eat. So, I want to collect my land back. People are now selling the land. That land is central to my survival. The whole world should help me plead with government to give me back my land. I cannot have that land there and I would be suffering.”
Although he acknowledged that the current governor, Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson, was not in government when the land was taken, he appealed to him to revisit the land issue and give justice to the Egbo family.
The family’s faith in the ability of the Dickson administration to give it justice, he said, was reinforced by the belief that Dickson was desirous of making things right, with the committee he inaugurated to recover government property and land.
Raphael Egbo, son of Godday Egbo, said the family was banking on the Dickson government to help it out of its present predicament. He said his dream of becoming a lawyer had been truncated because his father could not afford the money to send him to school.
“Our father cannot afford to train us in school because there is no money. I dropped out of school for lack of money. My desire is to become a lawyer but my father has no money. If the government had not taken our land, my father would have sold one or two of parcels of land and raised money to train me in school, and we would have no business with poverty. We can’t even feed. Government should give him back his land. No compensation was paid to him. He needs the land in order to survive. Our investigations revealed that some of the people that were allocated the land have been selling the land for as high as N22million. Governor Seriake Dickson should look into the matter and help us. The recent demolition of illegal structures on a section of the GRA has given us an indication that the government was going to pay compensation for land acquired without due process,” he said.
“I know that Governor Seriake Dickson is a lawyer and a man who believes in justice. I am begging him to look into my matter and give me justice. My family is suffering yet we have that kind of property,” Godday Egbo stated.
An aide to the Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Kuroakegha Dorgu referred this reporter to the Land Use Allocation Committee set up by the state governor, Seraike Dickson.
In his reaction to the ownership claims by the Egbo family, the chairman of the committee, Mr Joseph Akedesuo said the issue had not been brought before his committee.
He told the reporter that the committee had hit the ground running and resolving many issues since its inauguration. He insisted, however, that there was no complaint from the Egbo family before the committee.