From Vincent Nyinongu, Makurdi.
Occupants of parcels of land around Community Secondary School, Makurdi, the Benue state capital, have appealed to Governor Samuel Ortom to reverse his decision to demolish their houses on grounds that they were illegal occupants.
Chairman, Association of Land Owners, Community Secondary School, Makurdi, Mr. Sunday Ali made this appeal while speaking with newsmen in Makurdi.
He refuted the allegations that they were occupying the land illegally and employed the Governor to listen to their own side of the story.
“It was in 2011, when the Board of Trustees of community secondary school, Makurdi via radio benue announced that they wanted to sale part of their land and that, they were calling on the public for those interested to come and buy.
“The notice of advert for sales of land was pasted at the school gate.And that was how we bought the land. The papers were duly signed by the Principal, Gedion Abiji who was BOT secretary, and Iyoh i Ihyarev, BOT subcommittee chairman for sales of land and, throughout the period, there was no notice of warning nor complait from any quarters” he stated.
Governor Samuel Ortom had, at the behest of MINDA, a body vested with ownership of the school to help them recover part of the school land that has been encroached upon by illegal occupants, directed Urban Development Board(UDB) to embark on total demolition of all buildings on the land aside the ones owned by the school.
Consequent upon the directive, 480 houses have been marked for demolition by the board with a month’s notice to the occupants to vacate the land or face the risk of having their properties destroyed along the buildings.
Ali said the Board of Trustees assured them at the point of purchase that ownership of the land was vested in them and the authority to transfer same to the buyer, insisting they were not illegal occupants.
He said when the Urban Development Board approached them sometime in 2016 on request that they submit their papers for regularization, they went there in company with the Chairman of the Board of Trustee of the school, Dr. Kpamor JT Orkaa who gave his consent on behalf of others that the land was sold to them.
He wondered why they were made scapegoat and no one seems to be concerned about those who sold the land to them. “those who sold the land to us are respected members of MINDA who are now asking us to leave.
” Most of them are alive, and no one is mentioning them; does it mean we were defrauded?” he querried.
Amidst notice of demolition, Ortom at the meeting with the owners of the land, Masev Iharev Nongov Development Association(MINDA) noted that CSSM was the only legacy of unity bequeathed them by their fathers and reiterated he must recover the land for his kinsmen.
Ali, however, appealed to the Governor to understand their position and plight. He said they didn’t usurp the land. They used their hard earned money from their retirement benefits, others borrowed from the bank to acquire the land to build those houses.
“It’s obvious we don’t have any hope from anywhere! That’s why you see that some of us have been hospitalized already because our houses had been marked for demolition. And It would be genocidal if our houses are demolished, so we are appealing to the Governor to allow us stay.”
Ali said he believed that the Governor who went through thick and tin to achieve this feat would understand their plight and expressed hope that their appeal would elicit positive response.
Reacting, Hon. Kenneth Iyoh who spoke on behalf of his aged father, Iyoh Iharev who represented BOT in the sales committee, said the Governor was in charge of all lands and can vacate the authority of BOT for the overriding interest of the public.
Community Secondary School, Makurdi, established in 1973 by Masev, Iharev Nongov Development Association(MINDA), is situated on a peace of land covering 43 hectares in Makurdi.