APC, Lawyers Fault President Jonathan For Acquiring Over 90-Hectare OF Farmland

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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.”

Source: Punch

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