– Rescues UB, CDC from land-grabbing cartel
– Ngoh Ngoh says decision follows tons of petitions received at the presidency
– Limbe indigenes, Fame Ndongo, UB Vice-Chancellor, among others credited
– Prof. Dorothy Njeuma, Senator Mbella Moki add their voices
BY ATIA TILARIOUS AZOHNWI
The Head of State, President Paul Biya has ordered the suspension of all land transactions in Fako Division, as well as an end to the retrocession of land from the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC.
The presidential instructions were conveyed by Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, Minister of State, Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic to the Minister of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure in a dispatch dated September 22, 2020.
The decision to suspend all land transactions in Fako, according to Ngoh Ngoh, was necessitated by several petitions received at the Presidency of the Republic regarding “the anarchic management of land” in the division.
Although land-grabbing has been a perennial issue in Fako Division, The SUN understands that recent events pushed indigenes of Limbe, the Minister of State, Minister of Higher Education to write to the President of the Republic.
Limbe Health Facility land surrender
Cameroon’s Minister of State Property and Land Tenure, Henri Eyebe Ayissi first came under the eye of the storm following his January 28, 2020 decision leasing the land hosting the lone accredited International Vaccination Centre for the South West Region to Ndykoson Investment Company Limited, a company known to be managed by Chief Ndiko Fonderson Henry, the traditional ruler of Meveo Me Mbenge Village.
Indeed, the controversial lease of the government property situated opposite the SDO’s Office and next to ENEO at Down Beach Limbe meant that the beneficiary company must improve the property with construction and could occupy the said property for up to 99 years.
Public Health Minister, Dr. Manaouda Malachie in a July 9 dispatch opposed the lease.Hundreds of irate youths took to the streets of Limbe, Thursday, July 16, protesting against the Government’s lease of the ancient PMI building to Chief Ndiko Fonderson.
On July 30, 2020, Minister Ayissi buckled under pressure. He said the land hitherto ceded to Ndykoson Investment Company Ltd will now be used for the construction of a new office for the Senior Divisional Officer for Fako as well as a public edifice.
Wanton surrender of CDC land in June, July
Following unbearable pressure from Limbe indigenes and the management of the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, the Minister of State Property, Surveys, and Land Tenure was forced to cancel 15 decisions allocating vast portions of CDC leaseholder land to individuals and obscure groups.
On August 28 and September 1, 2020, the Minister signed at least fifteen decisions cancelling his June 9 and July 9 orders surrendering parcels of CDC leasehold land to some communities represented by their traditional rulers, as well as some companies and nongovernmental organisations.
Minister Eyebe Ayissi’s U-turn was in response to protests by indigenes as well as a correspondence dated August 28, 2020, of the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the CDC on the “illegal and anarchical” occupation of leasehold land of the Cameroon Development Corporation.
The Minister however said his backpedaling was informed by the fact that the said surrenders did not have the approval of the Board of Directors of the CDC.
How Limbe indigenes opposed “wanton” land surrenders
The indigenes of Fako Division and Limbe in particular seized state authorities to seek redress following “the wanton distribution of indigenous land to obscure groups and individuals”.
Locals feared that Limbe, hitherto peaceful and stable, an oasis of peace in the turbulent North West and South West Regions, was on the verge of an explosion if the government does not take speedy measures to reverse the unilateral decisions that were being taken by the Minister of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure.
“The issue is even grimmer given that the Minister has since frozen the land consultative boards at the Divisional and Sub-divisional level. As such, he is virtually handling all Fako land matters from Yaoundé. We are in the dark as to who advises the Minister to make these wanton land surrenders,” Limbe indigenes said in one of their many petitions.
UB land hot potato
What turned out to be a hot potato in the mouth of the Minister of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure is his role in the land tussle between the University of Buea (UB) and the Bulu Village Community.
While the Supreme Court had ascertained UB’s ownership over the said parcels of land, some persons acting on the strength of a controversial letter from the Minister went on to violate the court ruling, encroached into UB and destroyed property.
The Supreme Court had on Wednesday, September 2, 2020, cancelled a land certificate held by the Bulu Traditional Council and others over the said parcel of land belonging to the University of Buea.
But recent actions on the disputed parcels of land are said to have been carried out by the Bulu Village Traditional Council on the strength of a ministerial order transferring the disputed parcels of land to it.
On September 1, 2020, a day before the Supreme Court ruling, Henri Eyebe Ayissi, Cameroon’s Minister of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure dispatched a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buea, informing him of the retrocession of the disputed land to the Bulu Community.
The letter has as subject, “land dispute between Bulu Community and the University of Buea.”
“Based on the recommendations of the commission chaired by the Senior Divisional Officer of Fako in September 2019 settling the land dispute mentioned supra,” the minister wrote, “I have the honour to inform you that, the Senior Divisional Officer for Fako has been requested to reduce land certificates 02694/Fako and 02695/Fako established on behalf of the University of Buea, to retrocede the both disputed parcels to the Bulu Community and to find another site which will be attributed in compensation to the University of Buea.”
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buea, Prof. Ngomo Horace Manga said demonstrations farms of students of the Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine and optical fibre lines linking the newly constructed IT centre and the Faculty of Laws and Political Science building under construction were destroyed when invaders ran bulldozers through the university’s land.
The university has commissioned a team to evaluate the destroyed crops and property and to prosecute the perpetrators, said Prof. Ngomo.
Back in September, the Minister of State, Minister of Higher Education, Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo is said to have drawn the attention of the President of the Republic to the attempts being made to seize UB land.
Enter Prof. Njeuma’s epistle
Prof. Dorothy Limunga Njeuma, former Director-General of the Buea University Centre, pioneer Vice-Chancellor, VC, of the University of Buea, and Senior Citizen of Buea fired off a missive dated October 14, to the Minister of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure.
Her outing came on the heels of an “unlawful encroachment on University of Buea land and destruction of property of that institution by certain unscrupulous individuals” the week before.
She said “these individuals have destroyed valuable university property that include demonstration farms of the Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine; optic fibre cables to the nearby Multimedia Centre constructed under cooperation with China; and the foundation of the new Faculty of Laws and Political Science.”
She went on to unveil the faces behind the scheme to grab UB land.
“It is alleged that some of the persons involved in the encroachment and destruction last week include staff of your Ministry in Fako Division. I believe that the encroachers and destroyers have been encouraged in their action by the corrupt administration of Fako that misled you to sign letter No. 6280/L/MINDCAF/SG of September 1, 2020, addressed to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buea to inform him that “the Senior Divisional Officer of Fako has been requested to reduce land certificates No. 02694/Fako and 02695/Fako established on behalf of the University of Buea, to retrocede the both disputed parcels to the Bulu Community and to find another site which will be attributed in compensation to the University of Buea.”
The eminent professor said “it is inconceivable that your Ministry could have contemplated such retrocession of 87 hectares of University land to individuals, whose sole intention is to sell the land for their personal enrichment and those of the corrupt administration of Fako, at the expense of a public institution like the University of Buea which is the mainstay of the city of Buea, intended to train the youth and to develop much needed human resources for our beloved country, Cameroon.”
“In their senseless action, these individuals have ignored ruling No. 110/FD/2020 of 2nd September 2020 of the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court which quashed ruling No. SWAC/LSP/003/2019 of the South West Administrative Court that had upheld a fraudulent land title issued by your ministry to the Bulu Village Traditional Council, land over which the University of Buea was given title by your same ministry many years ago,” said Prof. Njeuma. “The ruling of the Supreme Court not only supersedes the ruling of the Administrative Court of the South West region, but also cancels your letter of 1st September 2020 cited above.”
After spending 17 years of her productive years to develop the Buea University Centre and the University of Buea and made it a reputable higher institute of learning in Cameroon and beyond, Prof. Njeuma asserts that: “I believe that I have a moral obligation to ensure that it is protected for the benefit of present and future generations… I believe that should also be the prime responsibility of your Ministry which is supposed to protect State property.”
She said it is immoral for the people of Bulu to want to grab UB land, after selling all their communal land, including graves of their ancestors.
“If the people of Bulu have sold all the land in their village, including the graves of their ancestors, it is immoral for them to collude with unscrupulous so-called Fako Chiefs and individuals who now want to continue the same malpractice by usurping University of Buea land. If you and the corrupt Fako administration are so mindful of the welfare of the people of Bulu village, it would be better that you offer them land elsewhere on the “other site” that you want to allocate to the University of Buea.”
Prof. Njeuma’s counsel to the Minister of Lands: “This is the second time I am writing to you on the matter of land grabbing in Fako. Since my first letter of 26 November 2019 on irregular allocations of state land in Buea by the administration of Fako, the situation has become considerably worse, with huge parcels of CDC land allocated to villages in the name of so-called chiefs of Fako, some of whom are dead, and to individuals under the guise of NGOs. I humbly appeal to your high office to be more attentive to matters that concern the management of land in Fako Division.
“In any case, it would be highly appreciated if the staff of your ministry involved in this mafia over land in Fako division in general and at the University of Buea in particular, are identified and duly sanctioned.”
We cannot stay hands folded – Senator Mbella Moki Charles
Senator Mbella Moki Charles came out of his political silence to denounce the ongoing struggle by the Bulu Village Community to “seize” two parcels of land from the University of Buea (UB), in complicity with some administrative authorities.
“We can no longer take it. The time has come for all of us to rise to the occasion and speak out,” thundered the former two-term Mayor of Buea.
The erstwhile Fako III (Buea) Section President of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM, says they will go to every length possible to protect the University of Buea.
To the students, he said: “Let not their hearts be troubled. We and the people who matter in this community are going to stand by the side of the students. We shall not allow their future to be frustrated and endangered by a greedy lot trying to pull down the good intentions of the Head of State and President of the Republic.”
Senator Mbella Moki says some land grabbers are using Bulu Village to grab portions of UB land to meet their selfish interests.
“No! It is not about Bulu Village. The name of Bulu is merely brought in here to facilitate an illegal acquisition of space for personal enrichment knowing that if this land is acquired, it can benefit the owners and those who want to wrongfully use it,” said Mbella Moki. “The Bulu people will not desire the amount of heritage that is illegally seized from the University of Buea.”
Affectionately referred to as the “Pichichi of Fako politics”, Mbella Moki says he will coalesce efforts with the who-is-who in Buea to see to it that justice is done in the interest of the people.
“This has to stop. This confusion of national activities has to be addressed. And this time, we are ready to take it to the highest level, cry out to the authorities that be and ensure that they listen,” the Senator said. “If they do not want to listen, we shall use every means at our disposal to cause the Head of State to know what is happening and to see with us. It is too much.”
For the people of Buea, Mbella Moki says the University of Buea is a symbol of pride, a huge edifice that also carries the image of Buea, as majestic as the Fako Mountain.
Hear him: “We cannot allow it to perish through the whims and caprices of a few greedy individuals. They have exhibited the extent to which they are gullible and how destructive, damaging and unpatriotic they are. This must stop. It has to end!”
“It is happening with the University of Buea, it has happened with the CDC [the Cameroon Development Corporation], it has happened with our village communities where chiefs and villages are created at random. Administrative authorities are waging a war against our people. We cannot stay hands folded,” Mbella Moki roared. “God did not bring us here to be conducted as slaves in our lifetime. He did not bring us here to be treated as subhuman. He did not bring us here to be molested, humiliated, abused, denigrated, undermined and underrated the way we are being treated today.”