Connect with us


I’m Proud of What We Achieved During My Reign as Anambra Commissioner for Lands – Enemali



Bonaventure Enemali, former Anambra state commissioner for lands, physical planning, and rural development, recently declared his bid to represent Anambra West at the State House of Assembly. In this concluding part of the exclusive interview with OLISEMEKA SUNDAY OBECHE, Enemali provides more insight into his achievements during his stewardship and his wide experience in the executive arm of the state government (in which he also served as commissioner for youth empowerment and creative economy) would avail the next Anambra state legislature and, most importantly, his people of the Anambra West constituency whom he describes as neglected, among other issues. EXCERPTS:

Your critics will say that, during your commissionership, you were not accessible to Ndi Anambra West and that, as a legislator, you may alienate them. How do you respond to that?

It is important to juxtapose such a view with other previous Anambra West indigenes that had served as Anambra commissioners and me and let them judge by themselves who was more accessible. We have had several local government transition committee chairmen or house of assembly members from Anambra West. They should also compare me with them to know who was more accessible to Ndi Anambra West.

The answers you get are as good as mine. The truth remains that everybody wants to be attended to at the same time and sometimes, they distract you from your primary responsibility. Somebody will come to your office to discuss something that is not related to your job. You have done what he came for but he does not want to go. They want to stay till you close work. That is a distraction. Sometimes when they call me, I will ask them to tell me what they want. And once they tell me, I will make sure it is done. But they will still want to come to my office or house. I tell them, you don’t need to come to see me when I have already granted your request. But they are not satisfied. Is it coming to see the person’s face that you need or getting your request done? These are needless distractions.
That is why you cannot do well in public office if you leave your door wide open for people to come in and go at will. Or for meeting people to discuss issues that are not for support. If it’s a social discussion, it’s not needed for someone that is in public office. If you allow yourself to indulge people in that, you might not do well because you will be distracted. If my being accessible means that I should allow people to come to my office to discuss issues that are not related to work or support; let them come to my house early in the day when I am planning for my day’s work, I will not allow that to happen because it will distract me. It won’t allow me to do my job properly; and in the end, people will call me a failure. In the end, they will still blame you for failure but won’t admit that they were the ones that distracted you.

This is what happened to the current member representing the Anambra West state constituency at the state house of assembly. People are accusing him of poor performance, that there is no project he has done to justify his representation. But he was always busy attending to people of the constituents. If your child gives birth, you call him and he gives him money. Someone’s house rent expires and hears it and he sends money. And they were praising him for being a generous man. Now, there are no physical infrastructures to showcase as his constituency projects and they are still blaming him.

The truth is that he allowed himself to be distracted by social engagements and handing out cash gifts and items as empowerment. Well, it’s not as if we don’t need to socialise with people of our constituents or empower individuals, but let it not be a distraction. Let it not take your mind away from your primary responsibility as a legislator. Social activity is secondary. Your primary responsibility is to ensure that the basic need of your constituents is provided for them, not individual needs. Nobody is going to assess your performance based on the people you helped individually but on the collective project you have done in the entire local government and their impact on the lives of the people.

That is why we must choose our priorities carefully and wisely when we are in public office. What you do for an individual is personal gratia but what you do for the community or your constituents is your primary responsibility which is in your job description.
Let me give you a little description of what I mean as a Human Resource (HR) person. If you come to resume, you will be given a job description with a key performance indicator (KPI). But if instead of working according to your job description, you begin to run errands for your boss, cleaning his office and following him or her around to be relevant, when it’s time for performance appraisal, they are not going to score you based on the services you have rendered to your boss but on the job description that you signed up on the day, you collected your appointment letter. When you fail to meet your minimum job requirement, your boss that you were following around would not defend you. He or she will be the one to tell them to sack, suspend, query or even demote you.

If you are smart enough, what you need to do is to focus on meeting your KPI before you can do extra work to please your boss. You don’t leave your main job description to try to impress your boss. So, we should look at what is the primary objective of a lawmaker representing Anambra West and his KPI. If he had focused on that, it would have been easier for him to deliver on the primary responsibility. If you can do personal things for your constituents, you can do that; but you should do them out of your will and not as a necessity. The one that you do for your constituency is a necessity because they will ask for it.

What are the things that you consider as major achievements as Anambra commissioner for youth empowerment and creative economy as well as commissioner for lands, physical planning, and rural development?

Very simple. I was sworn in as commissioner for youth empowerment and creative economy on 26th March 2018. From then till June 14, 2019, there were no two weeks that we did not carry out an empowerment programme at the ministry. But for the past two years that I left, have they done any programme there? When I came into that ministry, I discovered that every young person in Anambra state has a skill. If you have a skill, you will not depend on your parents and relations. You’ll, rather, be self-reliant. If you have a skill, you will not be living with your parents. Some so many graduates don’t have a job because they are not employable and don’t have skills.

If you are a graduate with a certificate and skill, when you fail to secure a white-collar job, you readily fall back on your skill for a living. When you don’t have a job and you are living with your parents or uncle, if they are doing something wrong like stealing money, you dare not advise them. The reason is that if they decide to throw you out of the house or stop providing your basic needs, you are doomed. If, however, you have a skill, even when you correct them and they decide to throw you out or stop sustaining you, you have what it takes to survive on your own. By the time we have so many unemployed youths, it increases the burden of parents’ quest to make more money. And when you have such an urge to get more money to sustain members of your immediate and extended family, you may be tempted to begin to do what you don’t want to, and/or shouldn’t, do.
Let me give you a personal example. I am the last child of 12 children from my parents. 90 per cent of my siblings are doing well and can take care of themselves. So, since I became commissioner, they have not been asking me for money as many would presume. Nobody from my immediate family is disturbing me. So, the major people that ask for help are people from my community. Imagine if they are not doing well and their financial burden is upon me, I will be looking for money in desperation to meet their demands. In the course of that, I will begin to do things I am not supposed to do to make money.

That was why I initiated the ‘One-Youth-One-Skill’ initiative when I became commissioner. The ministry ran that programme last year and when I saw it, I was happy because it was my initiative. My target is that every young person in Anambra state must have one skill irrespective of his or her social status. What we do is that, once you chose the skill, you will be trained on it. The state government would not give you a starter pack. I found out that most of the skill acquisition programmes we do in this part of the world involve giving people practical training for a few days and giving them starter parks without getting the real skill. Take barbing skills, for instance, you can learn them within one week. But if I don’t know how to barb and you give me a clipper as a starter pack, I will sell it and spend the money because I don’t value it. But if I am taught how to barb without a clipper, I can go to a barbing salon and give them my service in exchange for money. Once they see that you are barbing very, they will retain your services and, before you know it, you will set up your shop. Skill is more important than the starter pack. We trained young boys on POP for six months, four months of intensive training, and the remaining two months were for an internship. At the end of the day, they used their skill to become self-reliant. It’s better than the ones they would train for a few days and give them N50,000 as a starter pack. If you give them money, they will spend it on things other than vocational skills. Some will use the money to entertain their girl or boyfriends on arrival and before you know it, the money has been squandered. The reason for squandering the money is that he or she did not learn the skill. If you learn POP, nobody will tell you to start going to building construction sites to meet with contractors to be allowed to do their POP work. All you need is to convince them to buy materials and give you chance to do one room. Because you trust yourself that you have acquired the skill, once given the trial, you will deliver and negotiate a deal with them. That is how many of them that are doing well today started their POP career. These are some of the initiatives I developed as commissioner and it is still working today in the state.

I also introduced Anambra Talent Hunt to support our creative economy initiative. We discovered that the state has abundant talent. We did six months of in-house training to collect details of people with special talents. It was simple. If you know you have talent, come we register you free of charge. Based on technovation, we had five guys that emerged. A guy named Stanley was one of them and he is currently working with the Moroccan government. He was the person that produced a rocket that Governor Willie Obiano launched in the state. We also have another guy named Emeka Nelson Ugwueze that produced a generator that can generate electric power using water as fuel. We also have people who produced all kinds of arts and crafts. We wanted to keep at a tempo that we will set up a Technovation hub in the state capital, Awka. We wanted to set up an open space with trees and plants, set up a welding and fabrication workshop at one corner, and then give them an internet facility. They will do wonders. Some people also did exceptionally well in entertainment under the programme.

These guys are doing very well at the moment. Nelson was the person that installed my solar power system. I have recommended him to do solar projects for many people. He is working with a Port Harcourt-based foreign firm on a contract basis. The guy is capable of doing anything you want him to do with his team. There are about ten of them that emerged top from the initiative and they are doing well. We wanted to bring them together, look at the problem we have in Anambra, and tell them to find technological solutions to them. That was our plan before I left the ministry. But I still interface with them. There is a software we are developing which may be ready in the next two years. By the time this wonderful software is out, it will be worth millions of dollars.
We also did abstract sculptors competition because we realised that people who are into sculpture are not recognised in this part of the world. It’s the most technical aspect of the art and very expensive. So, we organised abstract sculptors competition in the state. We gave them eight months to come up with any art they can think of. And those guys did amazing work; all manner of things were done. What they did litter the ministry of youth premises and hall, some in my house. The beauty of it is that abstract sculpture enthusiasts buy them even though they are very expensive.

These are some of the opportunities that people don’t make open for young people here. But we made it possible for young people in Anambra state to showcase their talents and their destinies changed for the better. Those who want to be responsible and tap into the opportunities were accommodated and their lives were never the same. That’s my greatest satisfaction as commissioner of youths empowerment and creative economy.

We came up with Anambra Entrepreneurship Incubation Programme, which I am running now with my fund at the IDK Centre, Awka. That was the last initiative we did before I was redeployed. It’s a six-month business development programme for those who have an idea of business they want to go into, those who have a business already but have not pencilled it down. It also took care of those who have pencilled busio down but don’t know how to start up as well as those already in business and want to expand. What we do is to assist and guide them through to achieve what they want to do in the business. The Central Bank of Nigeria, Microfinance banks all came to be part of the initiative. Since I left, it did not make headway, that is why I am still working with them now. There are a group of 20 people I am mentoring on how to run their business to grow. That is what Tony Elumelu is doing on a larger scale. And our target is to produce many successful young entrepreneurs that we can be proud of in the next 20 years. Just like Nelson who will gladly tell you that Enemali was the one that nurtured him. He has been doing all that stuff but nobody was ready to encourage and mentor him. That was what we did barely 16 months I was at the ministry of youths empowerment and creative economy.

What about your stint in the ministry of lands?

When I moved to the ministry of Land, there was controversy here and there because the operations there were not digitised, with the issue of missing files or papers, and double allocation of plots of land rampant. But from June 14, 2019, when I got to the ministry, till I left, the level of double allocation has reduced to 30 per cent. The record is there for anybody to verify. Before I arrived at the ministry, nobody was talking about real estate. Some people erroneously think that real estate is synonymous with government land but it’s not true. One of the achievements we have made is that we have made our people realise that the real estate business is profitable so long as it is genuine. We only have a few government lands, but those in real estate usually go directly to the villagers to do business with them. Sometimes, the villagers will call me to find out if the person will disappear with their money once they cede their land to him and if the person(s) are genuine, I will tell them to sell land to them because that will bring development to their community. Sometimes, I will go to see the villagers and assure them of why genuineness of some real estate proposal. I will go back and warn the real estate developers to avoid cheating them in any way. The rule of the game is to pay them fully for their land. Those who keyed into this real estate development business have become quite prosperous and that has raised the value of land in the state.

How many government layouts do we have in the state?

They are very few. The majority of these estate properties we are seeing today, Shanghai, Dubai, Serenity, and Cadland are privately owned land. But those who do not understand how things are going would think that they are government layouts. They are booming because we opened people’s eyes that there is profit in the real estate business. It’s an aspect of empowerment and development of the state. Because we have restored sanity and confidence in the land system in the state, people now have the confidence to pay money for government land and processing of their title documents. Once they pay, we process their Certificate of Ownership and it will come out. The information available to me show that since the creation of Anambra state, the ministry of Land has not generated the kind of amount of money we raked in for the state government as internally generated revenue per year. For instance, in 2019 when I came in, we raked in N2.3 billion as revenue. In 2020 at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, we generated N2.4 billion. In 2021, we generated N1.6 billion and that is largely due to the election year. So, the question is why did we generate so much money during my stint at the ministry? It’s because of the confidence that people have in our system that if they pay for land property documentation, it would be processed and you get it without any hassles. This is different from the previous situation where land document processing took as long as five years to complete. The same thing goes for private land. The attorney general was the one signing the C of O documents to hasten the process. For many people that have private estate developers, we do prevail on them to come and perfect their documents because of mortgage transactions with banks. We simplified everything. The fees are made known and calculable. Before I came in, the fees were not openly available to the public.

They were shrouded in secrecy and the actual approved cost per square metre of land in government land was not known. But when I came in, I published it. If you went to the reception of the ministry of lands, they were there for yy to see and pay to the bank and deal with ministry staff with a teller. If you came to the ministry and gave someone more money than was officially stated to help you process land documents, that is your business. Perhaps, you can give someone money as goodwill to help you follow up with your files. But once you pay the government the amount stipulated, we made sure that your file is treated and you got it in record time. That was what gave people a high level of confidence about what we did in the ministry.
Then the geographic information system (GIS) project was ongoing before I came in. But it was not making any progress. I came in a fast-tracked the signing of an agreement with the Third Bridge Ltd, the company that is handling the project to do it, recoup their money and hand it back to the Anambra state government. The GIS, expected to be completed in a few years at a cost that may reach about N2 billion, If implemented fully, will be generating about N1 billion monthly from the ministry of lands.

The reason for that is that everything will be digitised. We have done enumeration. Tenement rate we have sent to everybody. In-land revenue service will follow up and if they don’t pay, there is a penalty for it. These are statutory payments that property owners must make to government coffers. It’s not about who is governor. If you refuse to pay, it’s a criminal offence. So, these are the things we have done at the ministry of Land they, I believe, have repositioned the land administration in the state. With the GIS project coming up and the templates we have set, it’s not likely that we will fall back to the old ways of processing land documents in the state. We left the ministry much better than we met it and I am proud of what we achieved there.

Critics, rather, claim that your reign at the ministry of lands witnessed land speculation and racketeering in the ministry. What’s your take on this allegation?

One thing people do not understand is that the commissioner does not have any right to acquire land or allocate land, revoke or annul land allocations. Land Use Act has made it clear that it’s only the governor that has the statutory powers to acquire, allocate, revoke or annul land property. The only thing the commissioner does is to seek the governor’s approval and without it, nothing is done.
In the area of land speculation, no land speculator can take land that is not acquired by the government. How it works is that when the government wants to acquire land from a community, it’s done in the overriding public interest and they pay the landowners their due compensation. What that means is that automatically that land ceases to belong to them. After that, the government will now begin to use it for whatever purpose it was meant for. So, there is nothing like land speculation for government land.

The state government does not interfere with private lands. By this, I mean lands owned by communities and individuals. So, if for instance, individuals are having a case amongst themselves over land ownership, it’s a different thing altogether. But if you own private land, when you come to the ministry of land, they will request certain documents and once you provide them, especially when it’s customary land, they will issue you a C of O. So, if the villagers or siblings are contesting the land, what they will ask the ministry of lands, we will furnish them with information on who came to register the land. They can go to court for proof of who is the actual owner.
Most people don’t understand that for land that government allocates to an individual, if you do not develop that land within 18 months, the government has the right to revoke that land. That is done by the governor. What the commissioner does is to write to the governor for approval for revocation and once he does that, the land would be re-allocated to another person. Nothing is done without the approval of the governor and the commissioner does not revoke or re-allocate land unilaterally.

Some people claim that Enemali has pending cases with EFCC over land allocation issues in Anambra. Are you aware of that?

There is no land case with the EFCC that I am party to, rather individuals contesting land ownership come to us to provide information on the land. Once I provide them with the information they need, I will go. We are not involved in any land case with the EFCC.

The truth is that once two parties have a land dispute, wherever the case is taken to, the ministry of lands can be called upon to provide information available to them on the land. And once we do that, we go. If they invite us and we discover that the land in dispute is not registered, we also tell them and they go to court on their own. That’s all. We don’t take sides or get involved in it. We simply do our job and move on, whoever wins the case in the end, is not our business.

If elected to the House, what kind of leadership are you bringing to the state legislature?

I did not want to go higher than the State House of Assembly because I want to build my political career. I’m not a fan of people who have never held any political position before gunning for a senatorial seat. What did you know? Senate is not for children, just like the presidency. Those that want me to go for House of Reps, what do I know about the national economy? I can’t contribute effectively there. But, if it were to be the Anambra state house of assembly, I know it very well because I have been part of the system. I will engage anybody that brings anything to the house. But if I go to the House of Representatives, for instance, I will not be able to engage in issues that get raised about areas outside my knowledge such as Maiduguri, because I have not been there or have friends there. I believe that I need to prepare myself first before going for a higher position so that I can effectively deliver at that level. It’s just like having someone that has not toured the local governments across the state or been to a place like Nzam before, as your state assembly member.

He or she cannot contribute effectively because you don’t understand the terrain or people. Being in the executive council offered me the opportunity to know much about the state because there is virtually no local government we don’t discuss their development challenges at the council. I have interfaced with virtual people from across the state because all the local governments are represented in the state executive council. We have also built political friendships amongst strong politicians across the state. So, these have equipped me to engage effectively at the plenary as a State Assemblymember from the Anambra West when I get there.

What’s your final message to Anambra West people, especially youths concerning your bid to represent them?

Let’s take sentiments out of leadership. Leadership is not what should be given to someone out of sentiment. The governor of Anambra state, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, emerged victorious in the last November election because he has the capacity, the reach, and everything in his stride. He was not elected out of sentiments. If we elect political leaders based on sentiments, we stand to lose a lot. If you give the wrong person a leadership position, the mistake will affect an entire generation. The wrong person should end up as a medical doctor than in say governorship position. The damage of a doctor will affect only a few people while the mistake of a wrong leader will cripple the entire economy or system and so ruin an entire generation. Let’s have that at the back of our minds. The time has come for Anambra West to send a qualified candidate who has the experience and exposure to the state house of assembly. If we allow sentiments to becloud our sense of judgment, we will end up regretting it in the future. That’s my message to Ndi Anambra West at this point.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *