A pro-democracy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has raised the alarm over what it termed as ‘frightening and shocking’ rate at which governors of Nigeria’s federating units have embraced lawlessness and impunity as their mode of operation, thereby disregarding the constitutional provisions of the principle of checks and balances.
This is just as HURIWA noted, that the Nigerian governors have borrowed a leaf from the current federal government that is ‘consistently lawless’, adding that the governors talk as though there are no laws in place.
The HURIWA National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, who made this known at a press conference in Abuja, Monday, gave instance of the Zamfara State governor, Bello Muhammad Matawalle who he said, abandoned the party that brought him to power and joined APC, and threatened to deal with his deputy who decided to obey the constitution by staying back in PDP, adding that this is impunity of the saddest dimension.
He further noted that the attitude of the Governors of the 36 states of the country, shows that impunity has reached a very sad trajectory.
Speaking on the main reason for the press conference, he said, “We are here to address a major evidence of lawlessness in display by the recent ceremonial commencement of a certain housing project on landed assets whose ownership is a subject of a plethora of litigation by many native claimants in Enugu State known as Ugwuaji in Enugu South local government area and many other nearby communities.
“The vexatious decision of the Enugu State governor regarding this project is not that under the extant land use Act of 1978, the governor is not vested with the authority over ownership of landed assets in Enugu, but the same law makes it imperative that in ceding ownership of any land in the state for public use, it must be of strategic public interest of overwhelming dimension and importantly the state must of legal necessity pay compensation to the native owners of such lands that are to be converted for public use in any state”.
Onwubiko pointed out that notwithstanding the clear provisions of the land use Act and the fact that ownership of the landed assets in Enugu are being litigated, the governor authorized the use of the landed assets for public use even when a panel he [Ugwuanyi] set up to resolve the dispute submitted its recommendations and there is, as of this moment, no white paper on the issue in which members of the public had made submissions.
The HURIWA Coordinator stated that, “Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State as reported widely in the media, was accompanied by the State Commissioner for Housing, Hon. Vitus Okechi and his team of engineers and surveyors, to inspect what they illegally termed as the ongoing massive developments of Enugu’s biggest housing project, ‘The New Enugu City, according to reports, ’ is supposedly sitting on 2,667 hectares of land, in three phases, adjacent to Independence Layout, Phase II, Enugu.
“The Governor of Enugu State doesn’t seem to accept that Section 6 of the Constitution ceded judicial powers of Enugu state on the Judiciary. This same government under governor Ugwuanyi had published a public disclaimer on these massive lands and there has been no counter public notice. So why approbate and reprobate at the same time or is Enugu State a Banana Republic?”
He demanded that the governor should respect rule of law and section 6 of the Nigerian Constitution and allow the litigation that has been filed in different courts of law in Enugu state to be determined by the court of competent jurisdiction, before the government can embark on the building of the massive housing project.
On the alternative, Onwubiko urged the governor to release the white paper on the land from the recommendations that was made to him from the panel, adding that they should respect Nigerians and the citizens of Enugu state who he said, are not slaves but tax payers.
He explained that HURIWA is not lending its voice because the matter involves Enugu state, but because the Governors of all the states are becoming ‘overbearing and lawless’.
In his words, “The Enugu state Governor is not an enemy to the Association but a friend, and HURIWA is taking action because of the Constitution of Nigeria. We believe in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and so, those who have been elected into offices should stop bastardizing the Constitution. We must stick by the Rule of Law”.