From Tony Osauzo, Benin
Alleged plan by Governor Godwin Obaseki to acquire the premises of the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists located at No. 1, Gabriel Igbinedion Way in Benin City, is generating tension among journalists in the state.
The Secretariat of the union, popularly known as ‘Press Centre, was built in the early 70s by the late Military Governor of the defunct Mid-West/Bendel State, Brig.-Gen. Samuel Ogbemudia on an expanse of land donated to the NUJ by the then Benin monarch, Oba Akenzua.
The State Government’s plot to take over the property was exposed when the Functioning Director of Lands, Edo State Geographic Information Service (EDOGIS), Mrs. Lydia Igbinigie, earlier wrote to the Chairman of the Edo NUJ, Festus Alenkhe, on the land matter, while the Managing Director of EDOGIS, Mrs. Osaro Aihie, also called him on the same matter.
It was learnt that the government is interested in acquiring the property, especially the Union’s expanse of undeveloped land behind the Secretariat for the building of its proposed Edo Museum of West African Arts (EMOWAA) and Cultural district.
The expatriates that would handle the project were reportedly sited at NUJ press centre on Thursday while carrying out inspection of the site and were accompanied by fully-armed policemen.
On Thursday afternoon, past Chairmen of the Union met with the Secretary to the State Government, followed by another meeting yesterday morning of concerned elders and stakeholders of the Union with the SSG, Osarodion Ogie, in his office on on the land matter. He was quoted as saying that he was not aware of the land tussle and demolition bid, but promised to get the details.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, stated that Obaseki’s government was working on moat’s right of way in Benin and its environs, but declined comment on the NUJ’s land matter.
But in his comment the President of NUJ, Chris Isiguzo, said: “Please, ask Edo State Chairman of NUJ. I earlier told Festus Alenkhe what to do”.
On his part, the Chairman of the Edo State Council of the NUJ, Festus Alenkhe, who recently lost his mother, said: “Mr. President (of NUJ) directed Edo State Council’s leadership of NUJ to resist the forcible take over of the land”, adding that the directive of the President would be strictly adhered to.
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