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Retired Immigration Officer Ezugwu Explains How He Sought Governor Mbah’s Intervention Before SSG Onyia Ordered Demolition Of His Property Worth Millions Unlawfully

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Retired Immigration Officer Ezugwu Explains How He Sought Governor Mbah's Intervention Before SSG Onyia Ordered Demolition Of His Property Worth Millions Unlawfully

Retired Immigration Officer Ezugwu Explains How He Sought Governor Mbah’s Intervention Before SSG Onyia Ordered Demolition Of His Property Worth Millions Unlawfully

Ezugwu Cries For Help Over Demolition Of His Multi-Million Naira Property By Enugu State Government

Barrister Okey Ezugwu, a retired Assistant Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), has written to Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State, detailing how the state government allocated Plot 23CD at Independence Layout, Enugu to him 10 years ago.

The same property was demolished by the government this week.

Ezugwu had fully developed the property before the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Chidiebere Onyia ordered its demolition despite the pendency of the matter in court.

Some residents who witnessed the demolition of the structure blamed it on land-grabbing, saying it has become the hallmark of every government in the state since 1999.

According to them, it became more pronounced during the eight years of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration.

Some residents have described it as one of the reasons why Ugwuanyi lost his senatorial bid to an opposition Labour Party candidate despite contesting as an incumbent governor.

Recall that Charity Reporters, Wednesday reported that Enugu State Government on Tuesday demolished the property belonging to Ezugwu, a retired Immigration officer.

Our source gathered that Ezugwu had written to Governor Mbah about efforts being made by his SSG, Onyia to demolish his property without any reason(s) but the governor allegedly ignored his complaint and tacitly supported Onyia to demolish the “N500 million property”.

In a letter which was addressed to Governor Peter Mbah, dated 15 July, 2023, through the Secretary to the Government of Enugu state, titled: “Unlawful Attempt By The Secretary To The State Government And Enugu Capital Territory CITY Development Authority To Demolish My Property Situate At Plot 23CD Independence Layout, Enugu”.

Ezugwu who introduced himself as the Assistant Comptroller General of Immigration Service (rtd), drew the attention of Governor Mbah to the move by the SSG and Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA) to demolish his property at Plot 23CD, Independence Layout in the Enugu North Local Government Area of the state even thought the matter was in court.

Narrating how he acquired the property, Ezugwu started, “Your Excellency, in 2013 while I was serving as the Passport Comptroller, Enugu State Command I applied for allocation of land and upon approval by His Excellency – Sullivan Iheanacho Chime, Plot 23CD Independence Layout, Enugu was allocated to me.

“In 2014, the Government of Governor Sullivan Iheanacho Chime issued me with a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) with a Survey Plan after paying all the necessary fees.

“In 2015, under the Government of His Excellency Governor Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi, I applied for and got Building Plan approval from the Town Planning Ministry of Lands and Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA).

“I also applied for and received approval from the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development for a Change of Purpose Clause from residential to commercial (Hotel).

“I am also up to date in the payment of ground rent,” he stated and attached all the photocopies of the receipts, documents, and approval letters to show that he did not breach any law in acquiring and developing the property.

“Following the approval of my building plan by the appropriate authority of the Enugu State Government aforementioned, I raised money from my meager resources, proceeds from the sale of my lands, the banks, side hustles, and my retirement benefits, to erect on the land structures with over N500 million.”

“In the course of the construction, nobody disturbed my possession or sought to halt construction, not even Enugu State Government. There was no injunctive order restraining the development of my property from any Court of Competent. My property was never revoked. No Revocation Notice has ever been given to me to date,” he explained to the governor.

He, however, noted that he was enjoying his peace until sometime in August 2021, when one Oke Hyacinth Ayogu, who identified himself as the Managing Director of Hymac Real Ltd surfaced with an allocation paper and a Certificate of Occupancy purportedly issued to him by one Victor Nnam, the former Commissioner for Lands then in respect to Plot 23C, Independence Layout, Enugu.

“He claimed that my Plot No 23CD was part of his allocation. He could not appreciate the fact that Plot 23C was already de-zoned several years ago and there is an existing Plot known as Plot 23C. The purported revocation was done by Victor Nnam unlawfully in 2021 eight clear years after the land was allocated to me and seven clear years after the C of O was issued to me and the land fully developed,” he explained adding that if there was any such purported revocation, “it is unlawful and not done for overriding public interest,” he said.

He continued, “Thereafter, he approached the Enugu State High Court to amplify his grievance. He filed a suit dated 16th July 2021 wherein he claimed as follows:

“A Declaration that the plaintiffs by virtue of building certificate of occupancy registered as No. 55 at page 55 in volume 220 land registry Enugu have been in full and exclusive possession of the plot No. 23C Independence Layout, Enugu State and is entitled to the statutory right of occupancy.

“A Declaration that the presence and activities of the Defendants on the said plot No. 23C Independence Layout, Enugu State is the property of the plaintiffs.

“An Order of court that the said land the subject matter of dispute belongs to the plaintiffs and the plaintiffs are entitled to possession.

“An Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the Defendants, their heirs, hirelings, agents, privies and otherwise howsoever described from trespassing or carrying out further acts of trespass in any manner whatsoever with the plaintiffs land known as plot No. P/23C Independence Layout Enugu State without the consent of the plaintiffs among other relies he wants the court to grant him.”

Ezugwu, however, explained that the state government which he claimed allocated the said land to him denounced his claim and applied through the Attorney General of the State to be joined as a party in the suit.

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Although he opposed the application for joinder, he told the governor that the court on January 27, 2022, in its ruling, held that the Attorney General of Enugu State was a necessary party to the suit and joined him in the suit.

He continued: “Mr Ayogu and his company went on appeal to the Court of Appeal, Enugu Judicial Division against the order for joinder. Thereafter, he neither pursued his case at the High Court nor his appeal at the Court of Appeal against the joinder of the State. Those cases are still pending at those courts without diligent prosecution.”

The retired Immigration officer said after he (Ayogu) abandoned the case he resorted to crude force using “soldiers and street urchins to harass, beat, kidnap and illegally detain workers and the security men at my site. He has unlawfully invaded my premises severally with armed soldiers and thugs to cause a breach of the peace.

“Sometime precisely in July 2022, he invaded my premises with armed soldiers, manhandled my staff, and made away with their bags and phones. He did it regularly and on each occasion, I wrote a petition to the Commissioner of Police, The General Officer Commanding 82 Division, and the Garrison Commander.

“After police investigation and he was about to be charged to court for a threat to life, unlawful invasion of premises with armed soldiers, stealing, conduct likely to cause a breach of peace, etc., he used his connections to effect a transfer of the case file to Force Headquarters, Abuja. I was also invited to the Force Headquarters for interrogation.

“I reported as requested with a Counter Petition and was discharged after perusing through my documents and found me not wanting. The Force Headquarters are yet to return the case file despite repeated demands.

“In the course of investigation of the true owner of my property, the Criminal Investigation Department of the Nigerian Police, Enugu State Police Command wrote an official letter to the Enugu State Ministry of Lands and Urban Development. The Enugu State Ministry of Lands and Urban Development confirmed my ownership of the aforementioned property.”

He revealed that when he saw how desperate Mr Ayogu had become, “I applied, obtained approval and paid for Certified True Copies of all the documents in my file – plot 23CD. On receipt of the said Certified True Copies of all the documents in my file – plot 23CD, I discovered to my chagrin that a fraudster had invaded my file and unlawfully applied to register an Irrevocable Power of Attorney purportedly issued by me.” he added that upon the said discovery, “I reported the matter to the police through a Petition dated the 2nd day of May 2023.”

Notwithstanding, he narrated that Ayogu on June 29, 2023, stormed his premises with armed soldiers numbering seven. “They jumped through the fence and some through the gate because the security men refused to open the gate for them. They beat up the security men and the staff and left. The matter was reported to the police and he denied it. I installed the CCTV to track his illegalities.

“A few days after, he invaded my premises again with the same armed soldiers. They broke the key to the gate and dismantled all the cameras. Those soldiers collected all the phones belonging to the security men, my staff, and my three phones including my power bank and Ipad, and handed them over to Oke Hyacinth Ayogu.

“The soldiers held us hostage for hours while he went away and flashed all the phones and my iPad. I have lost everything I have on my phones and iPad, all my contacts, documents, files, financial transaction history, and pictures among others. Ayogu later brought back the phones and Ipad after holding us hostage with the soldiers for hours.

“I am at a loss why he is still holding on to the phones he earlier stole from my staff with the soldiers, the CCTV cameras, and my power bank to date without our authorisation and consent. There is no kind of physical, psychological and mental trauma I have not suffered under Mr Ayogu because he feels he is well connected to the police, the Army and well protected by the Enugu State Government,” he lamented.

Ezugwu noted that Ayogu on numerous occasions had bragged that the new Chief of Army Staff – Major General Taoreed Lagbaja was his close friend and colleague. “He also brags that the new Chief of Army Staff gave him the soldiers and logistics he uses to terrorise us. He also made us understand that the soldiers he operates with do not take any order from any military formation or any military officer for that matter in Enugu State.

“He further brags that he is part and parcel of this Government of Governor Peter Mbah and can do anything and nothing will happen. He makes outlandish claims that he took our kind and amiable Governor Peter Mbah to the new Chief of Army Staff to help him see President Bola Tinubu help him win his case in court and Tribunal.

“He brags that he had a meeting with Governor Peter Mbah and the Secretary to the State Government of Enugu State – Prof. Chidiebere Onyia – on Wednesday the 12th day of July and they assured him that my fully developed property must go down/demolished and nothing can stop it.

“True to his threat, on Friday the 14th July 2023, precisely around 5 pm after closing of work, from nowhere, some men from the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority on the orders from Secretary to the Enugu State Government – Prof. Chidiebere Onyia – came and marked the building for demolition and ordered me to remove the building within 48 hrs.

“Forty-eight hours should expire on Sunday, the 16th day of July 2023. That was not to be. A few minutes later on the same Friday the 14th day of July 2023 after ordering me to remove my completely developed plot 23CD waiting for commissioning, they stationed a Caterpillar to demolish the property before your kind and prompt intervention.”

Ezugwu, however, queried the desperation to destroy his property despite the substantive suit still pending at the High Court. “Why is the Secretary to the State Government – Prof. Chidiebere Onyia – bent on destroying the Res?”

He however appealed to Governor Mbah to use his good offices to call on Oke Hyacinth Ayogu and his cohorts to order to avoid a breach of peace and security. “Since there is already a suit in court the proper thing would be to allow the courts to deal with the matter,” he said.

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