Mr Iniobong Ekong, Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Akwa Ibom State.

Abasifreke Effiong

The Akwa Ibom state government has assured investors and allottees of government estates that lands and estates in the State are protected against encroachers and land grabbers.

The Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources, Mr. Iniobong Ekong, gave the assurance while giving scorecard of the Ministry at an end-of-year parley with journalists in Uyo, saying that the state government has exterminated land grabbers and reduced illegal activities on government land to the barest level through the digitization of the land registry.

The government launched the Akwa Ibom Geographic Information System, (AKWGIS) in 2021 to create a online database for all land and landed property in the State; digitize land search, application for titles and certificate of occupancy, to make land transaction easier, more convenient and secured.

Mr Ekong said the AKWAGIS project which he met at assumption of office at 75 percent implementation has reached over 95 percent completion.

“The main aim of the project is to capture all land documents in the state. We have started the first phase by digitizing of land registry and land instrument. The second phase will be on secondary transaction with borders on issuance of certificate of occupancy, mortgage and assigned deeds. AKWAGIS will also enhance the electronic processing and speedy land administration procedures and related transactions.”

“With AKWAGIS, a-3 day land search effort has been reduced to minutes and seconds”.

The Commissioner said the state government has fully secured most of her new estates, opened them up with access roads and provided utilities to encourage allottees to move in and start development on them.

“As soon as I took over the ministry, one of my most worries was the extermination of land grabbers and reduction to a zero percentage illegal activities on land and landed property. We pursued this mandate with all pleasure irrespective of relationship.”

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“One of the things we did after recovering government land was to fence them around especially the ones in residential areas. As we speak, we have successfully fenced Ibaoku estate, Nung Oku estate, we have almost completed fencing of Ikot Oduot estate. We have started the fencing of Ebereotu estate, we are looking at fencing certain sections of Anua/Ifa Ikot Okpon estate. We have also opened up roads in these estates.”

He explained that the ministry has land title verification committee working to recover all illegally acquired land and ensure that all original allottees of government estates have access to their plots.

“Let me put it on record that I have signed off over 170 allocation papers, people with valid allocation papers will have access to land. We will reestablish all titles to their original owners.

“The Ministry constituted a title verification committee on all government estates within Uyo Capital city, we have discovered so much about land practices within this time under review, and I can tell you, sanity has returned to lands within Akwa Ibom State. We are going into move to the next phase of ensuring that illegally acquired lands are recovered and returned to the original owners.”

Mr Ekong said government will revoke titles to all land acquired illegally and will prosecute any person who wants to prevent government allottees from accessing their land.

“I want to sound a note of warning to our children, it is wrong for anybody to stand against government in ensuring that persons with legal titles to land have access to their land. The Ministry will frown at anybody who stands on the way of a legal land allottee from taking possession of his land. We will bite very deep and ensure total prosecution of such an individual who stands on the way of government”, he warned.

He announced that government was working out modalities for payment of compensation to owners of land used for the coconut plantation in Mkpat Enin.

In the water sector, the Commissioner noted that the passage of the Water Bill was one of the outstanding achievements made by the Ministry in the year 2022.

He said the Bill was part of the actions taken towards ensuring a total overhaul of the Akwa Ibom Water Company Limited, has laid foundation for serious investments in the water and hygiene sector of the State.

“The Ministry also successfully conducted public hearing on Water Bill and the sanitation sector. The passage of Water Bill into law has been very critical for the water sector of this ministry. The law will regulate the use of water and make it a business in order to attract international donor agencies to participate in the provision of water and hygiene services”, the Commissioner stated.