THE current war between Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and former governor Lucky Igbinedion has taken fresh dimensions with the two leaders trading allegations. The development has tended to heighten tension in the area two groups of residents took to the streets last Monday and Wednesday protesting government’s recent introduction of the land charge policy.
The anti-land charge protestors who marched through major streets in Benin-City were allegedly sponsored by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
But in a counter protest, a multitude of youths said to comprise students and civil society organizations backed the land use charge policy and commended government over what they described as its efforts to collect such taxes from the rich to assist the poor.
The group of solidarity protesters marched to the House of Assembly complex and Government House where Oshiomhole addressed them and described Igbinedion’s alleged unlawful withdrawal of $31 million from the government coffers as clear abuse of power.
Oshiomhole also said that the Igbinedion family had thrown caution to the winds, using every available means to wage war against him because he recovered over 200,000 hectares of land illegally by Chief Gabriel Igbinedion during the tenure of his son as governor.
According to the Governor, “let me thank all of you for coming out in huge numbers to express your solidarity, your support and your endorsement of my stewardship here at Osadebey Avenue.
Let me assure you, I will continue without fear of man, but with the fear of God to provide leadership that will deliver prosperity to the great people of this great state. To be able to do that, everybody, everybody born of a woman who lives in this state must be subjected to the rule of law.
“In the interest of Edo people, even the ones yet unborn, I want to be remembered after my stewardship not only for roads, hospitals, for schools and much more importantly, I want to be remembered as the man who brought an end to exemption.
There is no more exemption in Edo State. I want to be remembered as the man who took from those who have bastardized, raped and privatized the resources of Edo State, used our money to build their private universities and they walk around our streets when they are supposed to be in prison.”
Alleged land deals
According to Oshiomhole, “let me share with you some of the things that are going on and why they are angry. I did not promise to make everybody happy, what I promised was to make the majority happy. I will publish records in black and white and Edo people will be shocked how they have been raped.
You are here looking for a small parcel of land and Lucky Igbinedion, former Governor here gave out to his own father, Gabriel Igbinedion over 200,000 acres of government land. They took that land on the ground that they will use it for mechanized farming.
That is what is in the books but what is on ground is that, Igbinedion takes this land and gives this land to cocoa farmers, some of them from Edo, some from Yoruba land. These cocoa farmers will farm and sweat to grow their cocoa on government land, Igbinedion will sit in his house on which he is not paying ground rent and is collecting royalties.
Is Igbinedion the Oba of Benin? The great Oba of the great Benin Kingdom never subjected his people to that level of exploitation. Can you accept that one chief collects royalties as if he is a traditional ruler.
Based on the powers vested in me, as the elected Governor of Edo State, I used those privileges to revoke the over 200,000 hectares of land that the Igbinedion, the son gave to Igbinedion the father. I revoked it and I returned it to government.
“You need to hear as students of AAU how Igbinedion raided Edo State resources. You know that in AAU, we have College of Medicine where we are training doctors. In 2000, when Lucky was in government, AAU was producing Medical students.
These medical students are supposed to be attached to a hospital for their clinical. The Igbinedion family decided that AAU will not use the state-owned hospital. They decided on record that our Central Hospital will be reserved for Igbinedion University.
Some of you will remember that AAU medical students had to go to University of Jos Teaching Hospital for their clinical at their own expense. When UniJos could no longer take them, they made arrangement to take them to Uniben.
When the authorities found out the capacity of Uniben could not accommodate them, AAU students were stranded. In the end, they ended up with Irrua Specialist Hospital. Now, what did they do with the Edo state-owned Central Hospital?
Igbinedion the son, entered into agreement with Igbinedion the father that the Central Hospital shall be reserved for medical students of Igbinedion University, Okada. So, whereas Edo State Government owns a university, their own students were denied the use of Edo State-owned hospital. Edo State hospital was obliged to teach students of Igbinedion University, Okada.
They agreed that Igbinedion University will pay some fees to the Central Hospital. The amount to be paid was not stated. Every year, the taxes that you pay were being used to provide facilities for the Central Hospital to teach the students of Igbinedion University and they paid zero cost. Edo State Government paid the lecturers, the doctors and provides all the consumables in the hospital.
“So I revoked it and directed the Commissioner to write to terminate the MoU and to demand that Igbinedion pays about N30 million per year for those periods and I directed he should be charged to court. That is the fight.
“I fight with clean conscience to secure the collective future of our people. My motives are not personal. My mission in government is not to bring hardship to anyone. I just want to correct what is wrong and get going. I am not here to look at yesterday but if you over do it and you continue, we need to put an end to it.”
Oshiomhole’s allegations baseless
But former Governor Igbinedion in an advertorial carpeted Oshiomhole describing him as a sinking man Igbinedion said that allegation of illegal deduction of money had no basis even as he accused Oshiomhole of a deliberate policy of grounding the industries he established when he was governor.
However, Oshiomhole in his 7th anniversary as governor on Thursday responded to the allegation that he failed to build industries arguing that the industries the Igbinedion administration built were never meant to function, rather to siphon money.
“The previous government is quick to tell us that they built a factory in Ehor, Casavita at Uromi, Fertilizer at Auchi and Ikpesi Fruit Juice Factory. The intention of that government was simply to use these outfits to siphon public funds to private pockets. They were never intended to function and they never functioned one day even under their government,” Oshiomhole said.