Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has thrown more light into the government’s plan to look into the unlawful withdrawal of $31 million from the Government coffers for a questionable business and other matters which were clear abuse of power by the Lucky Igbinedion administration.
Speaking to members of the civil society groups and students of the Ambrose Alli University who thronged the Government House in their thousands to pledge their support to the government on its policies, especially the Land Use Charge Law, the Governor said the Igbinedion family had thrown caution to the wind and was using its Television and Radio stations to wage a war against him because he recovered over 200,000 hectares of land illegally dashed out to Chief Gabriel Igbinedion by his son, Chief Lucky Igbinedion when he was Governor.
Saying he was not deterred by the media campaign against him, the Governor said he would do what is always right in the interest of the Edo taxpayers no matter whose ox is gored.
The Governor said: “let me thank all of you for coming out in this huge number to express your solidarity, your support and your endorsement of my stewardship here in 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, and I mean, everybody born of a woman that lives in this state must be subjected to the rule of law.
“In the interest of Edo people, even the one yet unborn, I want to be remembered after my stewardship not only for roads, hospitals, or schools, 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 walk around our streets when they are supposed to be in prison.
“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 promise 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 by the gang masters of original fraudster.
“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.
“Let me tell you what I have done, I told those Cocoa farmers, you are Nigerians, you do not need resident permit to live in any part of Nigeria as a Nigerian citizen.
Why will a Nigerian be asked to pay rent on a farmland to a chief who collects royalties and I directed, ‘you go and do your farming and whatever you make from it, you pay tax, personal income tax to Edo State Government to ensure that Edo people have the resources to develop Edo State and I said never again should you pay money to a chief.
“That is the battle line that Igbinedion has been fighting and he tells me he is above the law and I tell him, if you fault the law, he will go to prison. He must obey the law. Laws made by Edo State Government and laws made by the Federal Government. If he does not want to obey those laws, he will have to relocate.
“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 clinicals.
“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 the 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 did agree, that Igbinedion University will pay some fees to the Central Hospital. The amount to be paid was not stated. Year-in, year-out , Edo State Government and 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 hospitals and Gabriel Igbinedion as the owner of Igbinedion University collects on average about One million naira from every medical student meanwhile, Edo State Government incurred the cost of training these students. Is that right? Edo people fund the training and Igbinedion collects the money and AAU cannot use Edo State hospital. They had to use Irrua.
“When I got this information, I called for the MoU and read it. I directed the Commissioner of Health to write to Igbinedion University to draw their attention. I asked how much do they pay and they said about a million naira. I said, how much have they paid for the past 6 years they have been using the hospital as at that time and they said nothing.
“So I revoked it and I directed that the services we had already provided using Edo tax payers money, that Igbinedion must pay for it.
“So I directed the Commissioner to write to terminate the MoU and to demand that Igbinedion pay about N30 million per year for those periods and I directed he should be charged to court and we will prosecute and if we convict him, because this is not something you voluntarily give him, we know the implication when you have internal family transaction. When a family member uses his office to confer state asset to a family member; Igbinedion the son to Igbinedion the father, I know what it means .They were able to cover it, but now, it can never be business as usual. If he doesn’t pay that money quickly, we will calculate the interest on it and he will pay it.
“You have also heard of Igbinedion School of Nursing. Where do they train? Igbinedion carries these students to Stella Obasanjo Hospital, our own Edo State Hospital that is run with Edo taxpayer’s money. So you pay the cost of training nurses for Igbinedion. Igbinedion collects 280,000 naira per term from each Nursing Student and you are paying for it. We pay for it, then Igbinedion collects the benefit, put in his pocket.
“Should I have allowed them to continue to do that? You need to know why they are angry. So I terminated the School of Nursing that they can no longer use Edo State facilities to train nurses for Igbinedion University. Am I wrong to have done that? That is the fight.
“Now in the GRA here, I am going to publish all the assets, government owned lands that Igbinedion the son has ceded to Igbinedion the father, properties of Edo people. Even Pastor Ize Iyamu, as Secretary to Government, he acquired a number of Edo State GRA properties. Even the one that his wife is using for business, who owns it? How much did he acquire it? How many blocks of flat does he have there? Where did he work before? Those are the people who want to govern.
Now when you use your power to take so much, you will pay. Every man is entitled to land. In the future, if one man takes all the land, which one will you get? Now we say, pay Land Use Charge and they refuse.
“When I am fighting, I fight with clean conscience; I do not fight for my privileges. I fight 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.”
Leaders of the civil society groups and student leaders of the Ambrose Alli University who led the people on a solidarity rally to the Government House pledged their support to the Governor even as they said the Land Use Charge was a law which would ensure even distribution of land and was in the interest of the masses.