A socio-political group, Cross River State Progressives Forum (CRISPROF), Tuesday, staged a peaceful protest against the government of Cross River state for allegedly laying claims to a piece of land at the Hope Waddel axis of Calabar metropolis currently being occupied by the Nigerian navy.
It could be recalled that the Navy had pulled down what used to be their Officers’ Mess, which was erected in the eighties on the said land and was erecting a hotel there before insisted it owns the land and ordered the navy not to proceed with the building. Reports say the Navy had deployed heavily armed personnel to the said land to secure it.
But the protesting group, led by a popular legal luminary, Barr Eyo Nsa Ekpo, found fault with the state government’s claims to the land, and posited that government was trying to take the state anticlockwise with such claims.
Addressing journalists, Barr Ekpo said the group decided to use the protest to express their grievances over the matter, and therefore accused the Governor Ben Ayade-led administration of having a penchant for grabbing land without following due process.
He charged the governor to focus on addressing insecurity challenges in the state and other issues bordering on the welfare of the people, and not struggling for the said land, adding “this is something that other people in other states are struggling to have, unfortunately our state government wants to take the land which had been occupied by the navy in the last 40years.
“By section 49 of the land Use Act, if a federal government agency has occupied a land before the coming into force of the Land Use Act of 1978, no state government has the power to revoke their right of occupancy. If the state government wants to take over any parcel of land it should follow due process.
“They have to publish a notice of revocation of right of occupancy, unfortunately, this state governor has published none, instead they go about grabbing peoples’ land. Are all these parcels of land being taken in the public interest or for personal use? The answer is no.”
Reacting to the protest, the state Commissioner for Information, Comrade Asu Okang, said government was no longer seeking to take over the land in contention, explaining that the said parcel of land used to be an annex of the Peregrino, as part of government’s house, and which it gave to the navy. Okang wondered why it wasn’t the navy personnel who were leading the protest.