BY EMMANUEL IKPE
Against the backdrop of a news publication circulating online and in some local tabloids with the caption ‘’A’Ibom Board Member in Land Grabbing Scandal, uses Federal Government site for multi billion naira project, Police, EFCC, ICPC close in’’, which purported to alleged that Hon. Ekere Afia was forging document to send the Federal Government of Nigeria away from its project site and used it for personal project.
Also, against the purported publication by the same person alleging that an acclaimed billion naira worth project designed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resource through the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) had sailed through implementation stage with capacity to have employed five thousand people among other alleged stories had been proved wrong, the true position of the story has been revealed.
Speaking with journalist, Hon. Ekere Afia who debunked the allegation levelled against him disclosed that he is the bona-fide owner of the said parcel of land located in Ibiaku Issiet covering 17284.15 SQ. M. Area with irrevocable Power of Attorney from individual Donors.
Accordingly, Hon. Afia said he was contacted by two people, one Emmanuel Effiong of Ibiaku Issiet and Mr. Emmanuel Etim Samuel of Okobo LGA to the effect that there is some people willing to sell their land at the locale and that he entered into transaction on it through Mr. Emmanuel Etim Samuel who had already procured 27 parcel of land, which Hon. Afia bought from him between 2009/2010 and a Power of Attorney were given to him by Emmanuel Etim Samuel in August 2010 involving about 27 plot of land before issues arisen. The power of Attorney was executed by Barr. Akpakam Okoho, from Uruan LG.
‘’Apart from the 27 plots of land I purchased from Mr. Emmanuel Samuel, there were others we negotiated for and consideration concluded before Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim A.K.A BAFIL brought in Federal Government Institutions into my land’’ he disclosed and added that on the 1st of October 2010 the Ibiaku Issiet Village Council served him with a letter listing authentic items/conditions for all land occupancy by tenants/strangers within Ibiaku Ikot Utono Community Viz. Eight (8) Cartoons of Star Beer, Eight Cartons of Minerals, Two Hundred Thousand Naira (200,000) for Village Council, One Hundred Thousand Naira (100,000) for Youth, Two Big She Goats, 50 Litter of Palm Wine, Two Bottles of Native Hot Drink, Five (5) Big Yams, Two (2) Bottles of Hot Drink.
On the fulfilment of all the items demanded through the said letter, Hon. Afia said he was served with an acknowledgment letter from Ibiaku Issiet Villge Council signed by Chief Okon Etim Inyang-Acting Village Head, Chief Charles Eyo Etim Council President, Etebom Sylvester E. Idekpe- Youth Leader and Henry E. Akpanekpo – Council Secretary and wondered where the forgery arose.
Hon. Afia recalled that sometimes in November of 2010 Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim, (a.k.a. BAFIL) brother to the same village head led a team of Federal Ministry of Agric/Water Resources in collaboration with the Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research into the land in question, cleared it and destroyed all the palm trees and all other economic items.
On investigation, he said it was realized that they wanted to establish a community based Aquaculture Development Project through the instrumentality of Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim-an indigene of the community who was then the member representing Uyo Federal Constituency at the National Assembly.
As he said ‘’I reached out to him and told him that am not averse to developmental programs brought into Akwa Ibom but he should know that the land is privately owned and not communal. I even suggested that he should contact the leadership of his community to give me another land in exchange, if that was the land so chosen for the project but he refused and went ahead to commenced work at the site’’ he lamented.
‘’Consequently, on the 15th of December 2010, we sent a petition to the Director General, Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research and copied the then Governor, Minister of Agric, State Controller/Director, Min. Of Agric/Water Resources, the Commissioner of Police Aks, the Director of SSS, the Paramount Ruler/Nsom Uruan, Hon. Bassey Etim, Mr. Emmanuel Etim Samuel, Chief Okon Etim Inyang-acting village head, Chief Charlse Eyo Etim- Chairman Village Council, Etubom Sylvester Idekpe-Youth Leader and Henry E. Akpaekpo Council secretary. There was no response and we now approached the Court in January 11, 2011 and Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim was the second defendant in the suit.’’ He said.
In the course of the proceedings, Ekere Afia posited that the lawyer who represented the two Federal Government Institutions filed for a motion proposing for out of Court settlement and was granted without any objection from parties involved.
Hon. Afia hinted that after several meetings in Abuja and adjournment Court sittings in Uyo, the terms for settlement was filed in High Court Six (6) Uyo which was then presided over by Honourable Justice Godwin Abraham, the present Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State on the 14 of February, 2012, the court entered the terms of settlement and delivered her judgement in Suit No. HU/11/2011 declaring Viz.:
(i) The plaintiff Hon. Ekere Afia is the owner of the 27 parcels of land lying, situate, known and called ‘Usung Uduok’’ in Ibiaku Issiet, Uruan LGA of Aks and entitled to quiet and peaceful enjoy and Certificate of Occupancy of those parcels of Land
(ii) The sum of N10 million being special damages
(iii) the sum of N40 million being general damages for trespass and destruction of the plaintiff’s palm trees/fruits on the Plaintiff’s said 27 parcels of land the defendants to vacate the said 27 parcel of land…
(iv)The Order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants either by themselves or through their Agents, servants and/or privies from committing further act of trespass in whatever manner or form on the Plaintiff’s said 27 parcels of land…
2) Sub (i) that the 1st and 3rdDefendants are to vacate the 27 parcels of land…
(ii) That the 1st and 3rd Defendants’ vacation of the 27 parcels of land is to represent the full and final settlement of the reliefs in this action.
(v) That these terms of settlement are to form the judgment of this Honourable Court.
However, something unfortunate had happened after the final meeting on the table of the settlement when Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim 2nd Defendant clandestinely reached out to the then Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpbio and convinced him to make publication revoking all rights of occupancy in land size covering 10.60 htrs; from Ibiaku Issiet to Ikot Edung in Uruan and Ifa Ikot Akpan and Ifa Ikot Idang in Uyo LGAs for the purported Federal Government project on the 1st of Feb 2011 just to ambushed the judgement.
‘’Then I was still in the House of Assembly representing Uyo State Constituency and I immediately reached out to the Governor and explained to him that community based project does not constitute an overriding public interest, as such it would be against good conscience for him to caused the publication, revoking individuals’ right of ownership of landed properties for the sake of establishing community based project, which such individuals may not be members of that community’’ Ekere recalled. Sequel to the above, the state government abandoned the idea.
From that frustration, Rt. Hon Bassey Etim (BAFIL) decided to approached the court and filed a motion on notice praying the court to (1) grant him time to apply to set aside the judgement delivered on the 14 Feb, 2012. (2) To set aside the judgement of the Court entered on the Suit No. HU/11/2011. And in this case the defendant becomes Hon. Ekere Afia. The Nig. Institute Of Oceanography/Marine Research and Federal Ministry Of Agriculture/Water Resources were represented by Barr. Udom who filed a counter Affidavit on the 21 October, 2013 and a written reply asking the court to strike out the motion of the applicant (Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim) with substantial cost.
In the ruling, the court posited that having regards to the fact that the applicant participated in the case, adopted the terms of settlement and then urged the court to enter same as judgement, the applicant cannot be heard to complain against the judgement. ‘’ I cannot point to what interest the applicant seeks to serve in this motion’’ the judge queried and added thus: Having regards to the totality of what transpired in this matter, my view is that the effort of the applicant amount to medicine after death. It is indeed afterthought and abuse of court process. There is no merit in the application and I hereby order that the motion on notice filed by the applicant be and is hereby dismissed. The applicant shall pay (N30,000) thirty thousand naira As cost to Hon. Ekere AFIA. Dated 7th January, 2014, signed by Hon. Justice Godwin Abraham. See SUIT NO. MU/MISC/2012.
Hon. Afia further explained that it was this unfavourable ruling on the motion on notice, that Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim again filed a notice of appeal and later abandoned the case after compiling records of proceedings, till this date and time of this publication there has been no further matter or appeal on the issue either by Rt.Hon. Bassey Etim or the Federal Government.
On the issue of hurriedly erecting massive structure in the site as alleged by the earlier report, Hon. Afia said he had since 2016 commenced construction project on his land but by July 26, 2019 Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim and his cohorts sent some people to go and cover up the trenches dug by him to erect a fence and he reported it to the police command in the state and thereafter resumed work at the site.
‘’On the night of July 28, 2019 he and his cohorts again sent some people to go and demolish the fence and I drew the attention of the police at Ikot Akpan Abia of which one Mr. Uye, the IPO visited the site with photographer and took pictures of the demolition’’ he said.
Following this development, AFIA disclosed that through the police invitation of the suspects, one Mr. Placid Edem John who is the elder brother to Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim showed up to the police headquarters Ikot Akpan Abia and in less than 30 minutes he was granted bail. Unsatisfied by the police action, Hon. Afia said he decided to petition the AIG and police authorities from Zone 6 came in and took over the matter.
Surprisingly, on the early hours of 18th August 2019, at about 12.05 in the morning, the same people went back to caused damage on the main structure which forced the police authority from zone 6 to visit the scene of incidence on Wednesday 21 august 2019. ‘’ knowing the magnitude of their offence, the accused persons rushed to the police headquarters in Uyo through one Etebom Sylvester Idekpe, claiming that I Hon. Ekere Afia forged his signature with a letterhead paper bearing Ibiaku Issiet Village Council despite other signatories, which is not true and I was arrested and charged to Court.’’
In view of the said land revocation by the state Government, Hon. Afia said that (i) Government do not acquired land for community based projects rather; it is community that ought to donate land for community project.
(ii) that out of the 10.60 htrs of land which was said to have been acquired in Ibiaku Issiet and Ikot Edung for the project, his land size in the Area in question is just 1.728 hectres ‘’ so the question begging for answers is why can’t they continue the project in the remaining parcel of land’’ he queried.
(iii) if it is true that the State Government had acquired the said land and handed over to the Federal Government, why don’t they allow those two tiers of government to come for their land and why are they as private individuals who do not have any interest in the Area have come fighting?’’ Afia asked in strong terms.
Meanwhile, Hon. Ekere Afia have said that it is erroneous for anybody to claimed that there is still any case pending in the Court on the issue of Ekere Afia vs the Federal Government, since the Federal Government had since abided by the terms of settlement reached in Court on SUIT NO. HU/11/2011.
From available records, the motion for the settlement was proposed by the lawyer who represented the Federal Government Institutions Rosemary Kogbodi Esq. And was adopted by all parties including Imo Asuquo Esq. Who represented the second defendant (Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim) while Akpakan Okoho Esq. represented the plaintiff Hon. Ekere Afia and they all append their signature, including the presiding Judge Hon. Justice Godwin Abraham on the 14 day of February 2012.
This is the Court verdict ‘’ The terms of settlement filed by the parties on 14/2/2012 is hereby adopted as Final judgement in this matter except that the 1st and 3rd defendants shall not be struck out and shall not be deemed to have been struck out of the suit. Signed: Hon. Justice G. J. Abraham
In the same vein, Hon. Ekere Afia have dismissed the earlier report as captured in the story ‘’EFCC, ICPC, Police close in’’, stated that there is no such issue regarding the aforesaid and therefore called on the general public to disregard any rumour, lies or blackmail peddled or that may be peddled against his person on issue of land grabbing, while describing Rt. Hon. Bassey Etim as someone who is fun of using spurious litigation to grab someone else properties and as such, he should not be taken seriously. According to him, ‘’ apart from politics, am into property investment.
When our reporter visited the site, it was observed that some part of structures were damage, fencing destroyed, while few persons were seen working on the structures. Also seen was the abandoned structure of the said Federal Government Institutions. On inquiry one of them opined that some people are trying to trespass into the 27 parcel of land without details. This is our independent view as follow up to an earlier report on the issue.