The question of whether or not Enugu State Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development, Victor Nnam, forged land documents belonging to Private Estates International West Africa Limited (PEIWA) has metamorphosed into a legal battle between the surveyor and the Federal Government.
PEIWA is the developer of Enugu Lifestyle and Golf City, also known as Centenary City, Enugu. The Centenary City was established on May 18, 2009 during the administration of former Governor Sullivan Chime as a result of an agreement executed between both parties to establish a new township or model city.
In line with the obligations of the parties under the agreement, Enugu State Government by a Building Certificate of Occupancy dated 10 November 2009 and registered as No. 20 at Page 20 in Volume 1622 in the Lands Registry, Enugu, granted PEIWA a statutory right of occupancy over land situated at Obeagu/Amechi Awkunanaw, Enugu ‘the Land’.
The land, granted to the developer was acquired by Government in 1985 from the Obeagu/Amechi Awkunanaw, the notice of revocation of the community’s interest in the land was dated June 10, 1985 and published in the Anambra State Government Gazette No. 12 Vol. 11 gazette of 27 March 1986.
In the course of the project execution, it was alleged that the services of Nnam and his company, Geosynergy Services Limited was secured by PEIWA in March, 2014 as a consultant surveyor and he was assigned the task of conducting perimeter surveys, preparing survey plans, plotting lands, registering layouts and liaising with staff of the Enugu State Ministry of Lands and Urban Development on behalf of PEIWA.
But the surveyor’s appointment was terminated two years ago due to his alleged complicity in the registration of the new layouts and using data given to him in confidence against the company’s interest.
The commissioner was also accused of using his office to secure revocation of PEIWA’s Certificate of Occupancy in November 27, 2019, which was quashed on December 9, 2019 by the High Court of Enugu State on the basis of a suit (Suit No. E/ 1081/2019: Private Estates International West Africa Limited v. Governor of Enugu State & 2 Ors.) filed by PEIWA.
In response, Nnam denied being a staff of the company and engaging in any wrongdoing.
He said; “PEIWA sought and secured the professional services of my survey firm, in the course of my private practice. PEIWA never employed me as their principal surveyor; I had no contract or MOU with the company and was never a staff of PEIWA. I carried out subdivision surveys for PEIWA on a pro-rata basis and my firm was duly remunerated for her services.
“It is important to underscore the fact that communities/land owners register their land themselves. The surveyor acts as a facilitator, upon receipt of the instructions of the owners to ensure that the protocols set by the relevant registering bodies are sufficiently met. No surveyor has the authority to enter and survey any landed property unless with the consent of the one who owns or has verifiable claim of ownership of the land.
“The people of Obeagu Awkunanaw, who own the referenced lands, surveyed and registered community expansion layout Ugwu-Orie Obeagu Awkunanaw and Aruga Layout Offia Aruga Obinagu Obeagu in Enugu State. They engaged the professional services of my firm and paid the agreed remuneration.
“In all of my years of practice, I have never been and will never be open to committing forgery. All the documents and affidavits used for the survey were submitted to my office by the community representatives.”
But, the Federal government acting as the plaintiff had through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation filed an eight-count charge of forgery and fraud against the commissioner at a Federal High Court, Enugu.
The court had also issued an originating summons against the surveyor following a petition by PEIWA to the Inspector General of Police accusing the commissioner of forging documents, which he allegedly used to register new layouts within the area allocated to the company as well as selling those layouts.
On conclusion of investigation into the criminal complaint by Nnam’s former employers, Private Estates International West Africa Limited, the Police noted that the surveyor had a case to answer. He was arrested by the police and later granted bail.
The matter was moved to the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
The plaintiff represented by A.K Alilu, who is the Chief State Council on behalf of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice dragged the defendant to the court for the trial under the charge number FHC/EN/CR/33/2020. The case is before Justice Dugbo Ogboghorie.
The defendant, Nnam is accused of making false documents and authoring a false document contrary to section 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, cap M18 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under the same section of the act.
The defendant is also charged with presenting false affidavit of facts of Sunday Nene, Oguejiefor Egbo, Okoh Christian and Chigbogu Eze to appropriate government ministries and departments in Enugu State for approval of Aruga Layout, Obinagụ Obeagu community in the state.
When the matter was mentioned for hearing at the court, the defendant was absent. Though his lawyer, P.M.B. Onyia, presented a medical report, indicating that he was sick.
However, the presiding judge, Ogboghorie, turned down the medical report, as it was not from a government-recognized hospital and adjourned the matter to February 24, 2021. the Guardian