Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, on Thursday, personally led other top officials of the state government to commence demolition of illegal buildings on high-brow areas in Yenagoa acquired for senior officials of government.
The first structure to be demolished by the government was an uncompleted filling station at Otiotio area of Yenagoa, belonging to an inlaw of the Governor, Walton Liverpool, who is also the Executive Secretary of the State Universal Basic Education Board.
Dickson, while addressing journalists during the demolition, said that all the illegal buildings and structures on government property would be pulled down.
He said the exercise was to signpost the commencement of ‘Operation Recover All Government Lands’, noting that the demolished filling station violated the law.
He said irrespective of who the person or persons were, irrespective of who they must have bought the land from, once the government convinced itself that the acquisition processes were illegal, such buildings would be demolished.
The governor said, “Today, we are here to signpost the commencement of Operation Recover all government lands. Any land in the state acquired by the government for which compensation was paid to the land owners, whether private or community, once that has been done, and over time, government coming, government going, original land owners, families and individuals, now thinking that government has forgotten or government does not care or government land is not important, or that they are more powerful and more influential than the government of our state, and they now buy lands from communities and families to disrupt govermment original plan for land use, that will not be tolerated anymore.
“If the land was assessed and governments, either this government or governments before this one, pay compensation and people received government money, then it is criminal. We will treat them as criminals, we will treat those who have bought the lands as tresspassers.
“And any development that is purported to be put on the land will be considered as unlawful, illegal development and it is an act of trespass and government will bring them down.
“Now, this phase of demolition is targetted at encroached land, those who have tresspassed government land. This will send message to everybody in Bayelsa and all land-owning people in communities within Yenagoa and across the state where government is undertaking development.
“We don’t want people to go behind us and try to sell lands to unsuspecting members of the public. To the general members of the public, who are desirous of buying land for development, we welcome that. All of us in this state must join hands for our development. But we as a government, we have the primary responsibility for planning, we have the primary responsibility for monitoring standards and we are not going to play with the collective interests of our state.
“Private interests that are involved on the account of this illegal transactions, on account of unlawful tresspass actions, those private interest must come down in place of government interest and general interest.
“And today, we are here. And this is not the first time we are doing this; when the construction of Opolo-Elebele road was ongoing, my own compound in Opolo was demolished. I gave the directive for it to be demolished to accommodate the widening of the road. When it was time for another dualisation to take place in the area the deputy governor has a property, I directed the deputy governor and he personnally went to oversee the destruction of his fence to conform to government standards.”
Dickson, who said Yenagoa, the capital, was like a slum, contended that successive governments over time had slept over their responsibility to monitor.
He said the era when people built on drainage channels, sewage lines and on government acquired lands were over in the state, saying that his administration was making concerted effort to modernise the state capital.
He warned every prospective investor in land to approach the Ministry of Lands and Survey and other relevant agencies, saying that by so doing, they would have proper knowledge of land they intended to acquire to avoid demolition in the future.
He stated, “We want to warn prospective investors in land that there is law and order, there is decency and you have a government that understands its responsibilities and has a clear roadmap.
“We have set up several agencies that you can contact. The principal one as far as acquisition of land is concerned is the Ministry of Lands and Survey. We have set up the computerised title certification system which is the basis. They will let you have the idea. We have physical planning and development board that will pay and receive applications for building permits.
“In every part of this country, including areas that are less developed, you can’t put up a building unless you have an approved building plans and you pay for it. That is the standard. But in Bayelsa, no, they do anyhow, anywhere they see property, they just go to clear it, call a bricklayer and put up a foundation.
“We want to prevent the public from the danger of collapsed buildings that is taking place everywhere in the country. I have to lead senior members of the government to carry out this demolition. Even the Speaker is here. Our government is united on this.”
The governor vowed to recover all government lands, including lands that had been forcibly taken away by people who thought they were more powerful than the state.