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 APC, lawyers attack Jonathan over 90-hectare farmland

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PostSubject: APC, lawyers attack Jonathan over 90-hectare farmland   2015-02-24, 05:52

The All Progressives Congress and
some lawyers have faulted
President Goodluck Jonathan’s
acquisition of 90.04 hectares of
farmland at the Aviation Village in
Abuja barely seven months after he
was sworn into office.
They said his action was a clear
breach of the provisions of section
138 and 5th Schedule of the 1999
Constitution, Parts 1 and 2.
The APC, in a statement on Monday
by its National Publicity Secretary,
Lai Mohammed, therefore asked
Jonathan to apologise for abusing
his office and engaging in corrupt
practices by acquiring the farmland
as a sitting President.
It said nothing could justify the
indiscretion exhibited by the
President in acquiring such a swath
as contained in a newspaper
advert which had yet to be refuted
by him.
A group, the Purpose Driven
Initiative, had in the advertorial
claimed that Jonathan incorporated
Ebele Integrated Farms Limited
which he used to acquire the land.
The APC said the claim by the
President’s apologists that their
boss got the land because he
wanted to engage in farming and
that a former President, Chief
Olusegun Obasanjo, did the same
while in office, missed the point.
According to the APC, the claim by
the apologists that the 5th
Schedule, Part 1 (Code of Conduct
for Public Officers) of the
constitution empowers a President
to engage in farming, was also not
tenable.
It stated that the issues involved
went beyond the fact that a public
officer was legally allowed to
engage in farming .
‘The Fifth Schedule Part 1(Code of
Conduct for Public Officers) of the
1999 Constitution, Section 1 states
that, a public officer shall not put
himself in a position where his
personal interest conflicts with his
duties and responsibilities.’
“Would President Jonathan have
been given 90.04 hectares of such a
prime land were he not a sitting
President?,” the APC asked. It said
the President leveraged on his
office to “grab” the land.
The APC statement partly read,
‘‘What happened in that Abuja land
grab is nothing but the height of
indiscretion and abuse of office,
and cannot be justified or
explained away just like that.
Without mincing words, it also
amounts to corruption, which is
defined in part as a perversion of
integrity and a glaring instance of
bad leadership.”
It said the Minister of the Federal
Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed,
was emboldened to also grab land
in the area because the President
had done so.
The APC said, “Those pushing this
kind of argument are worsening
the President’s case and insulting
Nigerians. When did one bad act
become a justification for another?
Does a thief escape punishment by
saying he stole because someone
else had stolen? If indeed Chief
Obasanjo did it, does that make it
right? Is this not part of the reasons
this President has been unable to
fight corruption?
“It is also important to point out
that the Aviation Village, under the
Abuja Master plan, is meant only for
Aviation-related activities and not
farming.
“The President knew this, yet he
went ahead to apply and was
allocated land for farming in the
Aviation Village.
“Perhaps his intention is to
subsequently apply for a change of
use. How many other people were
allocated land for farming in the
Aviation Village?’’
The APC asked Jonathan to
immediately give back the land he
has grabbed.
Some lawyers – Jiti Ogunye,
Festus Keyamo and Monday Ubani –
in separate interviews with The
PUNCH in Abuja, also faulted the
acquisition of the land by the
President.
Ogunye argued that act of
corruption was not limited to
dipping hands into public treasury
but also “includes all forms of illicit
conduct in office in violation of the
code of conduct and other laws of
the land.”
Ogunye likened the President’s
action to an attitude common with
Nigerian leaders, who he said, “are
involved in primitive acquisition of
capital, including fixed assets, like
land.”
He added, “Land belongs to the
people, so says the Land Use Act.
The Land Use Act says, the
President, a governor or the
Federal Capital Territory minister is
a trustee of the land for the people.
“When that trustee then uses his
position to acquire public
resources, including fixed assets,
which in this case is large expanse
of land, which he ought not to have
obtained while in office, it is
condemnable.
“The critical question is that what
kind of farming is he going to use
that large size of land for? Is it for
cocoa or groundnut?
“This act is condemnable
regardless of who is in power – be
it Obasanjo or Jonathan.”
Keyamo on his part said though the
law allowed a President to be
involved in farming while in office,
Jonathan had no defence for
acquiring the land since he had not
started using it for the purpose for
which he claimed to have acquired
it.
Keyamo said, “Farming is an
exception. Public officer can
acquire land for farming. But the
President has not started the
farming. Since he has not started it,
there is no evidence that he wants
to use it for farming.
“The issue of farming is an
exception for public officers, but
the truth is that we don’t know
what he wants to use it for. He can
later build an estate there or use it
for a big business. We don’t know
what it is meant for. It is what you
know that you can defend.”
Ubani, a former Chairman, Ikeja
branch of the Nigerian Bar
Association, said the President and
many state governors were
guilty of illicit acquisition of land.
He said, “They all abuse powers.
Even in Lagos. It is something that
happens across all the states of the
federation. It is not limited to the
federal level.
“The Land Use Act says land should
be held in trust for the people. But
the manner in which these public
officials abuse their powers shows
that they are not holding the land
in trust for the people but in trust
for themselves.
“They acquire land meant for public
purposes and sometimes revoke
the land of citizens and allot it to
their friends, cronies and even to
themselves.”
The Presidency had on Sunday said
that Jonathan had not done
anything against the laws of the
land by owning a farmland in Abuja.
The Special Adviser to the
President on Media and Publicity,
Dr. Reuben Abati, said, ‘‘It is not
against the constitution for either a
civil servant or a public officer to
engage in farming.
“One APC-funded, motivated and
inspired NGO placed an advert in a
newspaper, alleging that the
President and the Minister of the
FCT have farms somewhere in
Abuja. They were alleging conflict
of interest.”
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