From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
The International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights (ISSJHR), has called on the Rivers State government not to politicize the land dispute between the state and DAAR Communication, owners of African Independent television, AIT and Ray-Power radio.
It alleged that the 868 plots of land was legally ceded to DAAR Communications Plc during the administration of former Governor Peter Odili in 2001, with a caveat that the company would give 70 percent employment to the indigenes of the state.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, on Friday, Chancellor of ISSJHR, Jackson Omenazu, said in view of the bad business weather in the state with companies closing down because of myriad of problems, government should not to politicize the land dispute.
Omenazu said: “By our investigations, we were able to obtain useful documents of the Deeds of Agreement between the state government under Peter Odili and DAAR Communications. What that implies is that, that land was genuinely ceded to the communications company and this present administration has no moral or legal right to dispute that.”
Jackson noted that as at that time, DAAR Communications had paid in the sum of N86 million into the account of the Ministry of Lands and the agreement was duly signed by the then Commissioner for Information and Communications in the state.
He maintained that, if the dispute is not handled with care, it would jeopardize the employment of over “48 Rivers indigenes who are eking their living and that of members of their respective families from the company.
“We cannot continue to chase away companies by our attitude and policies as a government when a record from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC), has it that Rivers State has the highest number of unemployment in the country.
“We call on Governor Nyesom Wike and the leadership of the House of Assembly not to allow our political leanings become detrimental to the overall interest of the Rivers people. We have a highly revered son, Prince Shedrack Akolokwu who was appointed onto the board of DAAR Communications to protect the interest of the state.
“Going by the documents at our disposal, there is a provision for Rivers indigenes to even buy shares in the company. That benefit is besides the reception of free signal from AIT not just in Rivers State, but the Niger Delta region.”
Recently, the Rivers State House of Assembly revoked the 868 disputed plots of land which is situated at Ozuoba in Obio/Akpo Local Government Area of the state for “wrongful acquisition”.
The decision of the House was due to the recommendations by the House Committee on Public Complaints which sat over the petition by Rumuokwashi, Rumuosi, Ozuoba and Alakahia communities, owners of the land in dispute.
Chairman of the Committee, Evans Bipi, during his presentation of the report of the committee recently, on the floor of the House, said DAAR Communications “failed” to provide the land documents of the said property.
The committee, therefore, recommended that the media outlets should be allowed to use only the area it currently occupies.
“The committee after two meetings, took a long adjourned date on the request by the management of DAAR Communications, managers of the African Independent Television, to enable them provide the land allocation papers by the State government in 2002, which they failed to provide.
“The committee recommends as follows: that half of one hectare which is about 10.75 plots of land, approximately 4988.8 square metres be allocated to DAAR Communications Plc and the remaining hectares be returned back to the Rivers State government.”
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