Water Board Land: Otu at Cross road, as pressure mounts to revoke sales, will he succumb or will he play politics?

Jul 13, 2023 - 13:58
Jul 13, 2023 - 17:58
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Water Board Land: Otu at Cross road, as pressure mounts to revoke sales, will he succumb or will he play politics?

Ukorebi ESIEN

It had been less than 40 days since Sen. Bassey Edet Otu took over office as the Governor of Cross River State. The very mantra that propelled him to victory, "People First," is now being put to test by a committee, he formed to review the work of the transition committee. Pressure is mounting, and the choices before him are clear: would he prioritize the well-being of his constituents, or would he succumb to political games surrounding community property?

Governor Otu had established a committee to assess the report of the state transition committee, headed by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba. The committee had enlisted the help of various Cross Riverians, dividing the tasks into 13 different clusters such as Agriculture, Education, Health, Environment, Security, and Finance. These sub-clusters had begun their work, with civil society organizations and individuals providing valuable data and information.

However, trouble is now brewing as a leaked memo from the environment cluster to the chairman of the transition review committee is shaking the integrity of Gov. Otu. During his campaign, Otu had rallied around the "People First" slogan, raising hopes among Cross Riverians. Now, the question on everyone's lips is whether the governor would have the courage to heed the recommendations of the Environment cluster and revoke the sale of Water Board land to high-ranking government officials from the previous administration.

The memo dated June 19, 2023, from the Environment cluster revealed that the land sold to politicians had been acquired from the community for the sake of public interest. It emphasized that there was no evidence of any official reassignment of the Water Board land, as published in the Cross River State Gazette. In the absence of such evidence, the memo revoked the principle in Land Law: "Whatever stands on the land belongs to the land."

The memo raised concerns about unauthorized private development on the Water Board land, stating that it was in violation of the law. It further highlighted that the original purpose of acquiring the land was for overriding public interest, and the previous administration should have adhered to the relevant laws. Regrettably, the land meant for public use had been illegally acquired for private purposes.

Photographs attached to the memo depicted the unlawful development of permanent structures on the Cross River State Water Board Limited property. The Environment cluster noted that no evidence existed regarding the acquisition of any portion of the land. If any land acquisition had been done for other purposes, it should have entailed the revocation of the original title and official publication in the government gazette. Since there was no evidence of such reassignment, the property should be considered as belonging to Water Board.

In a separate instance, Gov. Otu had already revoked the sales of government land belonging to the Cross River State Ministry of Works at Ekorinim. However, this decision faced criticism from individuals who had acquired property on the Cross River State Water Board Land. Though they acknowledged the moral justification for revoking the sales, they believed it was a politically unwise move that could make enemies for the governor, even within his own party.

Many Cross Riverians doubted the governor's political will to take similar action concerning the Water Board land. Numerous influential figures from various political parties had purchased and erected structures on the alleged land, making the revocation a potential source of friction. These individuals held considerable power and had played crucial roles in Gov. Otu's election. Tampering with their investments allegedly risk jeopardizing his chances of securing a second term.

The consequences are clear: Governor Otu could either stand firm, doing what was right for the state, regardless of the potential backlash, or he could prioritize his personal and selfish political ambitions, playing politics with the collective interest of Cross Riverians.