The Amosun-Akinyemi Land Probe Panel was one the litany of probes and inquisitions designed and constituted by the Ogun State Government with one main objective: run down the person of Otunba Gbenga Daniel and the government he headed between 2003 and 2011. Similar Probes/Inquiries by the Amosun Aministration last year include the Enst & Young Audit Probe and the Justice Aderemi Truth Commission, set up to investigate and find out whether anyone was killed or maimed in Ogun State by our Administration. Visitation Panels to Tertiary Institutions were constituted for OOU, TASUED, MAPOLY, the four ICT Polytechnics, and others. Majority of these Institutions were established during our admnistration. The current Ogun State House of Assembly, acting Governor Amosun’s script, did its own probes into different areas of our administration.
From their various Terms of References and the period covered by the probes (restricted to our tenure), it was clear that our administration was the target of all the hostile investigations. Conservatively, close to N1 billion of Ogun State Tax payers’ money has been spent on the war of attrition being levied to bring one man down. Without doubt, someone, someday, would have to render account to the people of Ogun State whose resources are so recklessly being expended on the wild goose chase to nail one person.
The latest of the Reports of these Inquisitions took ten pages in the Punch of July 19, 2012. This alone cost the people of Ogun State N4.6m. The first part of the Report took five colour pages in the same Punch newspaper. That cost N3.045m. The bulky Report, we’re told, will be published in many other newspapers and magazines. Add to these the huge cost of packaging and broadcasting the litany of Amosun’s propaganda against my person and our Administration on different television and radio stations, then the cost of his war of attrition can be calculated. Yet, we’re made to believe that the Govenment had no money.
Prior to the current administration, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, his cronies, and sponsors had continously asserted that tens of billions of Naira of Ogun state’s money had been stolen by our administration. Over one year of relentless and continuous search and probes, the government, headed by a Chartered Accountant, and one of the leading Accounting firms in the world have not been able to point out even a dime of Ogun State’s money stolen. The aftermath of one of the probes was the purported scrapping of Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), the first in Nigeria and second in Africa, rated by the NUC and world university ranking above even the older OOU and many other older universities in Nigeria, and the four ICT-based Polytechnics, all duly accredited. Beyond the babblings given as rationale for the widely condemned action, the unstated reason, manifest to all reasonable people, was that they were all established by the OGD administration. Going by that spirit, the Government should, without further delay, scrap other institutions established by us, namely: College of Agricultural Sciences, Aiyetoro; College of Engineering, Ibogun; School of Nursing, Ilaro; Gateway Industrial & Petrochemical Institute, Oni; the documented 1,500 other projects that we executed all over the state and which are now being renamed on a daily basis since they were established by the OGD administration.
When the Land Probe Panel was set up, we questioned the proprietary of using a serving Judge to chair the Panel; because in the eight years of our Adminstration, we saw to it that the integrity of our Judges was jealously protected. It was in this regards that we thought that a serving Judge should not have been dragged into what even a school pupil would know as political vendetta and politics of bitterness, especially in a State that has many competent retired Judges. We regret to say that our worst fear has now been confirmed by what we consider to be careless comments, to put it mildly, by a serving Judge who was the Chairman of this infamous Panel set up to do Governor Amosun’s hatchet job. By my background as a young man who grew up near the High Courts at Iyaganku, in Ibadan, my perception of a Judge was someone next to God, measured and sober and who appreciated the implications of the spoken word. Whereas, I feel quite proud of the judiciary that I left in Ogun State, however, the conduct, comportment, utterances and excitement of Hon Justice Biodun Akinyemi, stand out like a sore thumb in the otherwise healthy hand of the Ogun State Judiciary. Ironically, and with humility, he was one of the first few judges whose appointment I confirmed in the early days of our administration.
Because of the respect we have for the judiciary, we will not join Hon Justice Akinyemi in a war of words, but we need to say from the onset that Hon Justice Akinyemi is a major beneficiary of the DELIBERATE LIBERAL LAND POLICY of our administration for which we have no regrets despite the Shenanigans of Governor Amosun. It was this Policy that opened up Ogun State and turned it to a centre of industrial and commercial activities, up from the backwater and backward civil service enclave that we inherited in 2003. This relative prosperity, which our long term view and vision of development engendered, has now put our state in a position to get massive revenue and funds, which, ironically, is now being used to call us names and persecute us.
For constraints of space, it is practically impossible to respond word for word to the 250-page Report of the Land Panel. But I wish to submit, with all emphasis at my disposal, that most of the recommendations, which in essence and substance were predetermined by the whims and caprices of Governor Amosun, were based on outright falsehood, inaccuracies, inconsistencies, illogicalities and irrationalities, and, therefore, will not stand the test of time. I will deal with a few examples of these, especially those that touch on my person, directly or indirectly.
As a background, after careful study, we discovered that the only way to absorb the massive manpower being churned out by tertiary institutions in Ogun state was through massive industrialisation and sundry investments in the state. It is also common knowledge that prior to my becoming Governor, I had made a significant mark as a businessman with wide-ranging connections within and outside Nigeria. It was this wide business network that I exploited to attract local and foreign business persons and investors to support the industrialisation and commercial drive of our administration. Most of them were, at first, reluctant to heed our clarion call, questioning the viability of Ogun State as an investment destination. The state was compared with such locations as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, among others, where they believed, and rightly so, that they could make three or four times returns on their investment over and above what could be made in Ogun State. Examples in this regards are Tourism and hospitality business and the Real Estate.
Land had never been an issue in Ogun State as it was WORTH VERY LITTLE as at the time we assumed office in 2003. At that time, the most expensive land allocated in any GRA anywhere in the state was less than N1million. The only exception was the Hilltop in Abeokuta opened up by the Administration before us. Although all the available spaces were already allocated at that time, not a single plot was built up at the Hilltop. It is important to state that rather than revoke a single plot from all the ones allocated by the Osoba Administration, we went to a virgin forest and developed what we then named Olusegun Obasanjo Hilltop GRA, in honor of the former President, who was like a prophet without honor at home at that time. In other areas, such as Ijebu – Ode, Sagamu and Ilaro, GRAs existed only in name as there was hardly any infrastructure that defined them as such. The cost of land was between N150,000 and N500,000 per plot and there was very little demand for land in those areas. The usual retort by most people offered land at that time was “what do I do with it?” Real Estate business was not very viable anywhere in Ogun State, not even in Abeokuta, our state capital. In fact, there was not a single Real Estate development anywhere in the state. That was 2003.
When my persistent calls to our friends would not abate, they then turned round to sacastically ask me about the investment I myself had in Ogun State to give them the requisite confidence to invest there. They, in essence, asked me to lead by example. It was at that stage that I directed that most of the companies I had some interests in should march to Ogun state and participate in the industrialisation going on there. An act of patriotism to my state has become a REASON WHY I AM NOW BEING CALLED A LAND GRABBER. The most expensive landed property owned by the Ogun State Government is the one aborting the Sheraton Hotel in Ikeja which is worth a couple of Billions of Naira. I did not grab that one. it is some remote land in Agbara which might not be ripe for development in another 30 years that I am grabbing. What absurdity!
Out of about 100,000 C of Os and other related documents that I signed as Governor, the Report in question deliberately and tendentiously selected only 73 cases out of which about 10 of them relate to my person, and or companies connected to me directly or indirectly. Our reverred Justice cannot claim to be unaware that many of the cases that his Panel considered and made recommendations on are part of the charges in the EFCC trial of my humble self. The question that comes to discerning minds is whether all these is part of an effort to preempt the EFCC case and tendentiously influence the trial Judge by creating a fait accompli. Let’s examine the celebrated cases in their Report:
1. Land granted to Divine Grace University ( Church of the Lord, Aladura, Remo):
The Report, inter alia, is Count 13 in the EFCC’s charges against me. And Justice Akinyemi cannot claim ignorance of the State’s Atorney General’s Fiat to the EFFC and the state High Court to prosecute me on behalf of the State Government, which letter was admited as exhibit by Hon Justice Mabekoje. We say this because we are also not unaware of the long time relationship that exists between the Attorney General, Mr Wemimo Ogunde, and Justice Biodun Akinyemi both as Partners in private legal practice and as bossom friends – a relationship that probably goaded our reverred Judge to accept to do the infamous hatchet job on behalf of the Attorney General, a political appointee of Governor Amosun.
Without prejudice to the case in court, being a fact already in the public domain, one needs to inform the public that the land in question is in a rural setting. A good part of this land had been occupied by the Church in the last 60 years, close to where the Church holds its annual and popular Mount Tabbieorar prayers. This is part of what we tried to encourage as an aspect of religious Tourism, much like the Celestial City in Imeko. This was how Jerusalem and Mecca developed into mega centres of Religious Tourism and became economic pillars of their respective countries. Oh, the short-sightedness of some people! And I should mention here that a much bigger parcel of land, just opposite the land in question, right on the Sagamu-Ibadan Expressway, was given free-of-charge by the Kabiyesi Ologere of Ogere to a similar organisation planning to build another university, called Jesus University. As Governor, I actually turned the sod for the project. It is, therefore, one of the tragi-comedies of our time that someone, who claims sanity, would put a value of N1billion to a rural land which community leaders give out free of charge in order to attract development to their domains.
At any rate, why single out the Church of the Lord when various other organisations were given the same concenssions, in varying degrees? These include: Redeemed Christian Church of God, Redeemer University, Crescent University, The Word Bible Church, World Evangelism, Inc, The Voice of the Last Days Ministry, Zumratul Islamic Society, Depeer Life Bible Church, the Anglican Communion, the Baptist Convention, NASFAT, MFM, among others. Are the promoters of these religious bodies also my spiritual fathers as claimed by Justice Akinyemi’s panel? Reasoning that there must be some personal interest in the allocation, Justice Akinyemi stated that the alter ego of the church, His Grace, Most Rev Okikiolu Ositelu, confirmed that the University, to be sited on the land and run by the Church, would be charging fees, with the conclusion, non sequitor, that the land was for a profit making venture. The question to our learned Judge is: Are the state-owned Universities, OOU and TASUED, not charging fees? If yes, does it then follow that those universities were set up to make profit? And how many private universities in Nigeria are currently making profit? I apologize if I am questioning my Lord; but this is the reason serving judges should distance themselves from politics and filthy lucre.
2. Sale/Lease of Government Properties at Ibara GRA to Public Office Holders and Others:
Perhaps we should inform the good people of our state that at the inception of the Land Panel that we had the opportunity to write and inform the Panel, on receipt of its invitation, that most of the cases for which we were invited were already part of the EFCC charges against me. It is on record that Justice Akinyemi ruled to excuse us from the Panel, and we have copies of his ruling. How come that the same Judge now made recommendations on matters on which we were not heard and which are before his Brother Judge, Justice Mabekoje? In most of these cases, Governor Amosun is the Complainant, (as many of the so-called petitions were instigated by him), the Judge (by appointing a serving Judge in his administration and under his direct or indirect control), the Witness (as the civil servants who were called to give evidence saw the body language of their Master, the Governor), the Prosecutor (other members of the Probe panel many of whom had one personal thing or the other against the past administration), Attorney-General, and the Secretary to the State Government, both of who concorted the ‘white’ papers et al, and Executor (The Governor himself, through the Land Bureau and the Bull dozers of the Ministry of Environment) . Talking about witnesses, all government officials who came forward to say the truth contrary to the script already prepared were either sacked or redeployed in punintive manners. We recall the sack of Arc Ayo Vaugham, the relevant Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Housing who knew the facts of most of the cases under reference. Others are Messers Korede Lawal, Jide Oyenuga, Frank Omolayole, Tokunbo Ogunyomi, Demola Badejo, O. Obawunmi, Ogunfowodu, Babajide Oyeti, Banjoko, Adegbite, Muni Salau, Adeniji, Solarin, Mufutau Lawal, Mrs Okuboyejo, and Engr Adekoya. I say with pride that in 8 years of my service to the state, I did not sack or prematurely retire any Permanent Secretary or any Civil Servant for that matter.
So excited was our reverred Judge with the job given to him that he would not even save his own contituency from this needless embarassment. The list in this respect includes the name of the respected Justice Rita Ajumogobia, a Judge of the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, who on many ocassions, ruled against our government and party in many cases brought before her. Yet, we didn’t victimise her. It is true that Justice Ajumogobia applied for allocation which was granted with 50% discount like everyone in that category. After the first discount, Justice Ajumogobia approched me to draw my attention to the fact that the likes of the property for which she was granted 50% discount was given gratis to Judges in other states. We confirmed this claim even from neighboring states. It was on that basis that her application was given further consideration in line with our policy to encourage non indigenes who expressed interest in property development (private or commercial) in Ogun State. An additional rebate of 25% was granted, making a total of 75%, contrary to the 90% discount claimed in the Justice Akinyemi Report. At any rate, as earlier indicated, our reverred Hon Justice Akinyemi was a major beneficiary of our liberal land policy. The property he lives in, in the Judges Quarters, Abeokuta, that cost Ogun State a whooping N25m to construct, and which was worth about N45million (inclusive of land cost and other infrastructure) at the point of transfer to him, was sold to him for a paltry N5m (ie, 11.11% of market value), which represents 88.89%rebate. Why was this property not part of his inquisition? And in any case, up till the end of our administration, there was no record that he even paid the N5m concessionary price. Rather, I approved that the payment for the said house be made from his accumulated Journal, Wardrobe, and other allowances – allowances which I, during my tenure, instituted for Judges in Ogun State. In this season of revocations, what would our reverred Hon Judge recommend? And what does Justice Akinyemi have to say concerning the announcement by the Government that it was ready to grant up to 80% rebate on land to investors?
We would withhold, for now, other parcels of land standing to the benefit of our respected Justice Akinyemi. And it is also needful to reveal that Justice Akinyemi was himself a victim of double allocation. This was resolved in his favour, administratively, without any revocation, dramatisation, blackmail and newspaper advertorials. What is manifest in all of this is that the discretionary benefits that accrued to different individuals, groups and organisations were without discrimination, favouratism, bias, or personal aggrandisement. And it is worth saying here that throughout my eight years as Governor, there was no one or body that requested for land, irrespective of religious persuation, location of origin, or political affiliation, that was not attended to favorably. I, therefore, challenge anyone who had a contrary experience to speak up now or forever remain silent!
3. Western Publishing Co Ltd (EFCC count 6)
This is one cancellation or revocation that was not unexpected. It is on record that in the first few days of the Amosun Administration, on his way to Lagos enroute Abuja, in a conversation with one of his media aides ( a lady, name witheld), vowed, when driving past Western Publishing Co Ltd on the expressway, that the land on which the property was built would be revoked by him. The stated reason for the cancellation in the Report was that the money paid for the land was not enough. It is evident that if there was any infraction, it would be a case of debt and debt recovery. Compass newspaper being published by Western Publishing Co Ltd, is a dream that cannot be killed. We have no illusion that the target of attack is not just the land and the property on it, but the institution (Compass Newspaper) being hosted therein. We have antecedents like that of the Tribune newspaper which some temporary occupants of Government House tried to kill. They failed and the publication not only outlived its traducers but is today waxing strong. Neighbours of Western Publishing Co Ltd who got allocations in like manners are Business Hallmark, Oaks Ltd, Guardsmarks, FATGBEMS filling station, Lafarge, among others. The fact that only Western Publishing Co Ltd was picked for the hammer underscores the vendatta and malice that run through the whole land probe and the proposed government action. I can only hope that our Human Right Activists and Democratic Watchers are closely monitoring the paradox of a fascist government in a democratic dispensation.
4. My Residence in Sagamu
This is Count 1 in the EFCC case against me. Without prejudice to the ongoing trial, I say here that the allegation contained in this subject are false and malicious. It is necessary to state further that this land was fully paid for without any discount. I paid for one of the two dillapidated structures met on the land which they now mischievously refer to Governor’s lodge. I challenge the Lands Bureau to publish the photograph of the so-called Governor’s lodge. In any case, no one informed me of anything of such. I only noticed that a dillapidated structure, valued at N1.72m, was stated in the letter of offer from the Bureau of Lands and I dutifully paid without any discount as the normal practice was because the land was for my personal use. The other decripit structure, as I was informed when we got to site, was once occupied some 40 years earlier by the then ECN’s security staff (for our younger readers, NEPA was formerly ECN before becoming PHCN). On that basis, I contacted the then Managing Director of PHCN, Engr Joseph Makoju, who could not confirm its ownership, as it was not in their records. Nevertheless, PHCN decided that another bungalow of similar size be built and handed over in lieu of the dillapidated structure. This I duly complied with by buying another piece of land on which I built a 4- bedroom bungalow which was twice the size of the dillapidated boys quarters met on site. Beyond these, I had no information whatsoever on whether there was a prior allocation.
In responding to the Report on the above and others, I need to say that the Land administration I inherited when I came into office was manual, archaic and disorganised, such that instances of double or even triple allocation of same portions of land to a multiple individuals and organisations were commonplace. As Governor, it could not have been my responsibility to know the state of every land at any point in time. The encunberances on the land brought to my notice were resolved as stated above. Why was Justice Akinyemi so unkind with those words on a matter he had little information and which is in another court of which he cannot claim ignorance. Is he not in contempt of another court?
5. From my preliminary investigations, the issues of First Elevators, Masterline Investment (EFCC charge count 3), Millenium Park, etc, followed the same pattern. Thousands of companies and individuals had similar situations. Such included, but not limited to, WEMPCO Nig Ltd, Turkish International School, Late Tayo Aderinokun’s Day Watermans College, Winners Chapel, Coleman Wire and Cables Ltd, PARCO Group, Obasanjo Farms Ltd, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Multitrex Plc, Midland Galvanizing Co Ltd, Leventis Group, UTC Group, Havilla Group, Channels Inc, Tribune Newspaper, The Vanguard Newspaper, Tell Magazine, among others too numerous to recollect.
6. OPIC Land (EFFC counts 10 & 11)
This is a particularly interesting one. OPIC purportedly gave the parcel of land as a parting gift to me as Governor for eight years. I wasn’t even aware of this gift until I saw it in the EFCC charges against me. On inquiry, I discovered that at the point of leaving office, all past Governors were, at the instance of OPIC, given such parcels of land. The following past Governors of Ogun State benefitted as follows:
1. Gen S.A Balogun (1976-1978), plots 4 & 50.
2. Gen H.O.D Eghaha (1978 -1979), plots 6 & 48.
3. Chief (Mrs) Lucia Onabanjo, widow of Chief V.O Onabanjo (1979 – 1983), plots 7 & 47.
4. Gen D.O Diya (1984 – 1985), plots 8 & 46.
5. Gen O. Popoola (1985 – 1987), plots 9 & 45.
6. Gen R. Rasaki (1987 – 1988), plots 10 & 44.
7. Commodore M. Lawal (1988 – 1990), plots 11 & 43.
8. Capt O. Joseph (NN) (1990 -1992), plots 12 & 42.
9. Chief Olusegun Osoba (1992 – 1993), plots 13 & 41.
10. Lt Col. D.O Akintonde (1993 – 1996), plots 3 & 50.
7. Instructively, when our administration decided to embark on the development of the HILLCREST GRA, after the Obasanjo Hilltop GRA was fully allocated, we discovered to our chargrin that out of the total government land on which we proposed to developed the Estate, 50 Hectares had been allocated by former Governor Segun Osoba to his wife’s Foundation School a week before he left office in May 2003. Inspite of this discovery, our administration didn’t revoke the C of O of that allocation. This was out of respect for my predecesor despite our political differences. The Terms of Reference of the Amosun Land Panel deliberately didn’t cover that period.
8. Our Land Policy, I say here again, was not accidental, neither was it an afterthought. It was a deliberate policy clearly enunciated in our campaign manifesto of 2003 titled ‘The Contract with Ogun State People’, with the second edition, ‘Agenda For A Secured Future’ launched in 2007. The summary of the two documents was that land should be used as a means of attracting private commercial and Industrial Development to Ogun State with a futuristic vision of reaping, thereafter, taxes, levies, etc in the medium and long run. This contrasts with the current narrow view of putting heavy price on land. And this is being done when neighbouring states are giving, gratis, land in order to attract investors.
9. Some Posers for Mr Governor:
A. As Operation bring OGD down continues, over one year down the line, our people are asking what has become of the Cargo Airport Project which the private investors, in the main, agreed to fund?
B. Our people are asking, Mr Governor: what of the Deep Sea Port Project that promises immediate and future prosperity for our people and which private investors are also ready to fund?
C. What of the OKLNG, rated the most lucrative of all the LNGs, when other LNG projects are progressing while Mr Governor fights a needless battle?
D. What of the Power Projects, one of which we commissioned before we left office and which now provides 24/7 electricity to Mr Governor, both at home and in the office and the whole of the Secretarial Complex (ah! Did Mr Governor forget to demolish the whole edifice since it was OGD that built it?). Kindly be reminded that all the equipment for the other 23 power stations were not just paid for but fully delivered, with some of them lying in the car park in front of your office, as a peep through your office window will reveal. Mr Governor, for the sake of the people of Ogun State, whose resources were used to purchase this equipment, kindly and mercifully don’t allow it to rot away because it was OGD that initiated and bought them. You will actually take the credit once the rest are installed and commissioned one by one.
E. The OGUN-Guangdong Free trade zone is becoming a shadow of itself because the Industries are leaving one by one due to Government hostility to private investors. In fact there are so many questions that require answers but because of Mr Governor’s busy schedules, we’ll leave allow you to address the few ones above.
10. The Last Word
We have asked our lawyers to study the jaundiced Report and take appropriate legal actions; if necessary, up to the Supreme Court, to ensure that illegalities and frivolities do not rule our land. To all our people being daily abused and bruised, be rest assured that the wheel of justice may be slow, but it is sure. The tragi-comedy and debasement going on, currently, in government circles in Abeokuta would have been amusing if not for its tragic consequences. For my sadness is not about my own persecution and travail (I have since counted the cost and resolved to carry my cross) but the gory sight of seeing works done, achievements made and legacies bequethed being mindlessly destroyed because of an insane resolve to bring down one man. Ogun State that, for eight years, of sleepless nights, and prudent management, that my colleagues in government and I laboured to make an investment destination of choice is fast becoming a ghost enclave because of the consequences of irrationally using the whole apparatus of government entrusted to a Governor to fight an individual. What did our people do or fail to do to deserve the current destructions? The lesson of history, however, remains that light sooner than later shines through darkness no matter how thick. Ogun State certainly will be great again.
LONG LIVE OGUN STATE, LONG LIVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!
Otunba (Eng) Gbenga Daniel, FNSE, FNAEng,
Immediate Past Governor of Ogun State.