The commissioner for lands and water resources has said that the ongoing demolition of illegal structures by the Ministry of Lands and Water Resources in Nung Oku is an exercise done in good faith as those structures were erected on government land.
Mr Ime Ekpo who made the clarification in a media chat in Uyo following what he called 'negative propaganda' on social media, said that the state government acquired the said land and paid compensation fully to the original owners and the host community since 2005.
"This parcel of land was acquired by the government about 2005. Compensations were paid to the landowners. There is no ambiguity at all on whether compensation was paid or not.
"So in May 2017, a concerned citizen from that community wrote a letter to the ministry informing us that: one, the parcel of land in Nung Oku, that government acquired, surveyed and paid compensation has been encroached upon.
"In that same letter, he mentioned that there is one young boy in the village by name, Mr Leo Bassey, who has been deceiving unsuspecting members of the public into selling out government land.
"When I got that letter, I invited the village council and the village head, they came to the office and I specifically mentioned in my letter of invitation to them that Mr Leo Bassey must come with them.
"The village council said they never had a hand in the sales of government land, that government had acquired the land and paid them compensation adequately, Ekpo said.
Ekpo said Governor Udom Emmanuel, in May 2017 directed the Ministry of Lands to allocate the said parcel of land to generals of the Nigerian Armed Forces who are from Akwa Ibom.
"In September of 2017, the governor made a pronouncement to generals of Akwa Ibom State origin, that he will give them land to build a house so that everyone will have land in Akwa Ibom.
"He then instructed me to get the land allocated. We did the allocations and even parcellated it. So, we prepared the layout and gave it to the surveyor.
The Office of the Surveyor-General has been going there since 2018, but this same Mr Leo Bassey will organise members of the community mainly youths to go and chase away government officials. In one of such occasions, survey equipment belonging to the government were seized and the youth even threatened to kill them.
The commissioner regretted that because of the actions of some youths of the community who conspired and sold part of the land to unsuspecting members of the public, the allottees who were given allocation papers since May 2018 have not been able to access the land.
Ekpo, however, denied that his ministry demolished those illegal structures on Christmas Day.
"We carried out demolition last week Friday, on Monday and Tuesday. There was no demolition on Wednesday which was Christmas Day. You are at liberty to go to those affected and find out, there was no demolition on Christmas Day. And there was no single gunshot as insinuated.
The demolition, he said, continued last Friday, saying, though the government was not under a legal obligation to notify the owners of those structures about the demolition, the ministry still informed them.
"By the Urban Development Act, we are not supposed to give notice for demolition of illegal structures. The area that talks about 21 days are for defective structures. But as a responsible government, we notified them, some with letters and some with markings. Even as on Monday, we told them to remove whatever they can remove.
The commissioner disclosed that the state government was working towards having an automated land registry where members of the public can check to know where government parcels of land are situated.
He advised members of the public to always check with the Ministry of Lands before buying any land from people to avoid falling prey to fraudsters who are in the habit of selling government lands.
"Before the end of May, we will start an automated land registry where you can sit in the comfort of your house to do a land search. The governor has given us the approval to set it up and we have started it.
"But in the meantime, we encourage interested land buyers to come to the Ministry of Lands for proper land search before buying any piece of land. We are at the ministry to serve people, so we do the land search at no cost, Ekpo added.