By Akanimo Sampson
A hotel project by the Nigerian Navy in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, has sparked a seeming bitter land dispute between the state government and the navy.
The land which previously served as the Navy Officers’ Mess is being converted to a hotel by the navy. But, Governor Ben Ayade, has ordered the navy to withdraw from the site, claiming that the land belongs to the state government.
In a swift response, the navy deployed its heavily armed personnel to the disputed site in a bid to deter intruders, including state government officials.
The state Information Commissioner, Asu Okang, in his reaction to the development says the navy has no legal right to the land any longer.
According to him, “the navy has rampantly commandeered many lands in parts of Calabar to erect their facilities. The land on which the Nigerian Navy is attempting to erect their hotel does not belong to them.
“It belongs to Cross River State Government. It was a one-time military administrator of the state, Navy Captain Ibim Princewill, who put up an official guest house for his personal guests.
“When he left, because he was naval personnel, the navy began to occupy it and subsequently claimed it. But the laws are very clear about ownership of lands.
“In Calabar, some the land surrounding the governor’s official residence and office taken by the navy, tend to compromise the governor’s security.
“For the navy to deploy armed personnel to guard the land is uncalled for. It is overbearing. The state is not a banana republic that should be ruled with arms.
“In any case, it is very doubtful that they have a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for this land in question. But even if they have, the constitution grants the governor power over all lands. He has the power to revoke any C of O.”
Apparently aware of the consequence of their action, a naval officer who did not want his name in print claimed that the presence of armed naval personnel in Calabar “is because we have our top officers coming to inspect some of our facilities.”