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Kachikwu's Gaffe: Okerenkoko's 13 Billion Land And Ikwerre's Free Plots

By Solomon Nnam Okocha

I hail from the ancient Ekinigbo clan, what you now call Rumuigbo Town, an Ikwerre Community in Rivers State. My people gave the Federal Government of Nigeria vast acres of land for the siting of the Amphibious Brigade - Bori Camp, as well as other Army facilities in Port Harcourt for free. We charged nothing, and FG paid us nothing.

My people freely gave the Rivers State Government over 150 plots of land for the development of Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Port Harcourt. The Mental Health Facility gulped the entire length and breadth of my Family land. Many thanks to late Senator Obi Wali.

Federal Government College (FGC) Port Harcourt also took its own fair share of the land largesse. Over 200 plots of land were bequeathed to the Federal Government by my people. My people are such incredible givers.

Rivers State College of Arts and Science (RIVCAS) or the soon to be named Port Harcourt Polytechnic (PolyPort), took the largest share of the land bazaar. Over 300 plots of land were heartily bestowed to the Government of Rivers State.

The University of Port Harcourt (Uniport), Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Rivers State University of Education, Military Hospital, Air Force Base, the Port Harcourt International Airport and so many other government institutions, parastatals, and agencies are all residing in massive acres of Ikwerre land.

Nigeria cut me off from left, right and centre. But no 'shaking. I love it. It developed my place in the speed of light. We don't have land today, but we aren't perturbed at all. We have shops and houses that can sustain families all year round. Development is good. We paid the ultimate price.

This is why my imagination was baffled when Nigeria's Minister of Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, openly declared his support for the purchase of a parcel of land for thirteen billion naira in this harsh economic climate. Recently at a town hall meeting, Kachikwu scolded the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, over his demand for the refund of N13 billion used for the acquisition of land in Okerenkoko Community, Delta State.

Amaechi, a very vocal Nigerian politician, while speaking at this particular event in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, disclosed that the Federal Government of Nigeria cannot comfortably let go the amount of money that was used for buying the said land at Okerenkoko Community. To this Ikwerre born statesman, it is unthinkable, unreasonable, and unjustifiable, for one coastal community in Delta State to extract a whooping thirteen billion naira from the dry coffers of Nigeria in exchange for just a parcel of land, especially in the face of a dwindling economy.

Being a man who has been poisoned by truth, Amaechi's good judgement could be clearly heard in his voice when he spoke at that event. According to the strong man of Niger Delta: "I'm not against the Maritime University in Okerenkoko... my argument is this: instead of spending thirteen billion naira on just land, give me the cash and I'll buy a land in Okerenkoko and still build the entire university with the same amount of money," Amaechi said.

I can understand Amaechi very well, because as a fellow Ikwerre man, I know that he's a hospitable being. In Ikwerre land, the best form of hospitality comes in the shape of lands and houses; a floor under your feet, and a roof over your head. Our fathers enjoyed living with strangers, being children of immigrants themselves, they cherished diversity, and romanced with different ethnic nationalities. The Ikwerre people freely gave out land a lot. My people hate to live alone. We are a social lot.

What I cannot understand is the Petroleum Minister's alien position. I am highly disturbed that Ibe Kachikwu, a cabinet member and the manager of Nigeria's only revenue source, in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the legendary Nigeria's anti-corruption czar, could openly declare his support for corruption, wastages and leakages in the form of a whole thirteen billion naira for the purchase of just land. I am deeply worried, indeed, we should all be. To me, Kachikwu's gaffe is a red alert to Nigeria.

Solomon Nnam Okocha