ABANDONED PROPERTY; WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF IN NIGERIA?
After the Nigeria-Biafra War or Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970, the erstwhile Nigerian Leader, General Yakubu Gowon declared a policy of “No Victor, No Vanquished,” but then proceeded to seize the properties of Igbos in Rivers State, Nigeria. Instead of compensating the people of Rivers State for the environmental pollution caused by oil exploration, he decides to compensate them with properties that were legally and rightfully earned by other Nigerians especially Igbos.
This may be the worst case of talking out of both sides of your mouth. He should just have declared that “The Spoils of War Belong to the Victors.” My Kenyan friend was astonished when I told him that some Nigerians had their properties seized by the Nigerian Government and sold to other Nigerians or confiscated by the Government because their side lost in a fratricidal war. It is like the victorious Yankees confiscating the properties of the Rebels after the American Civil War.
This is unthinkable in a country that fought to preserve its unity as Nigeria proclaimed in a war slogan, “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.” Some would argue that the Indigenes of Rivers State moved into the properties. All a military government needed to do was to state that anybody found in a property not belonging to him/her would be “shot.” Nobody will be actually shot but fear will keep people away. The Nigerian Government has responsibility for the welfare of all her citizens. The indigenes of Rivers State would not have confiscated the properties without the acquiescence of the Nigerian Government. What prevents the Yorubas and Hausa/Fulanis from doing the same?
Even more astonishing is the fact that the victims of this injustice did not take their case to the UN or the World Court. But it is not too late, the ECOWAS (Economic Commission of West African States) Court can still step in. Injustice has no statute of limitations. And the world, especially Britain watched as this political and economic malfeasance unfolded. The chief actors of the sordid affair are still parading themselves as Nationalists and include Senator, then Major David Mark (Chief Auctioneer) and General Yakubu Gowon (Chief Executioner).
Some may say “Let bygones be bygones,” but history is bound to repeat itself. After the war, every adult Igbo got twenty, I repeat twenty Nigerian Pounds in lieu of whatever deposit they had in their bank accounts before the hostilities, in addition to having their property confiscated. This was followed two years later in 1972, by the The Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decrees of 1972, and later 1977 Indigenization Decrees, that sold foreign enterprises to Nigerians. Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Vice President of the Supreme Military Council stood idly by, as the Igbos were left out of the process. What can you buy with twenty Pounds? But the Igbos would rebound. A country that hates an enterprising part of itself can never achieve greatness. The current Buhari Administration is a good illustration.
Mallam Nasir El Rufai, a onetime Minister of the Abuja Federal Capital Territory publicly states that Igbos own 80% of the properties in Abuja but he conveniently forgot to mention that 80% of the land on which properties stand were awarded to Northerners for a token. These Northerners turned around to sell the properties to Igbos at highly inflated prices instead of developing them. Is Mallam Nasir El Rufai not ashamed that people who were given twenty Pounds less than two decades earlier arose out of the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix to became major economic players in Nigeria?
Why would the Northerners develop the properties if they can acquire the developed property by abandonment? What is good for Rivers State is also good for Kano State, Kaduna State, Katsina State, Kebbi State, Lagos State, and Abuja. We will make the Igbos abandon their properties again. Igbos running from the Boko Haram slaughter in Northern Nigeria are being offered ten kobo for one Naira in investments in Northern Nigeria. And if you do not sell, we may declare your property abandoned. In the Southwest of Nigeria, Yorubas are claiming ownership of the former Federal Capital Territory, Lagos, that was developed with Nigerian money and Igbo enterprise.
With the present economic and political uncertainties in Nigeria, the Igbos may soon abandon their properties again in Nigeria. The Igbos need to start building in their homelands since they are loathed by other Nigerians. There must be pain before gain. Igboland can become another Lichtenstein or Luxemborg.
Meanwhile to prevent another Abandoned Property Debacle, the Igbos must push for a public apology by the Nigerian Government on the issue of Abandoned Property in Rivers State as well as spearheading a provision in the Nigerian constitution abolishing Abandonment of Properties by Nigerians in Nigeria. The State of Massachusetts is still apologizing for labeling people as witches in 2001, 309 years after the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 but Nigerians are labeling normal children as witches in 2016.
The Buhari administration can apologize for the sordid affair and reclaim some goodwill in the South East. If Nigerians cannot abandon their property in Britain and America, why would they abandon them in Nigeria. The Jews are still reclaiming their “abandoned” properties in Europe. A stitch in time may save trillions in Igbo Properties.
Africastallestman is hoping that the Igbos have learnt their lessons.