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Retirees seek justice over alleged extortion by AHOCOL

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By Sunday Elom N

Members of Ezukoo Housing Estate Cooperative Society Limited, EHECSL, have approached the Anambra State House of Assembly, Awka, the state capital, seeking justice over what they perceive as extortion and rather hazy transaction by the Anambra Home Ownership Company Limited, AHOCOL, a parastatal of the state government.

The members, numbering over 500, and predominantly civil servants who retired from civil services in Anambra state and other parts of Nigeria, raised the alarm for justice, hinting that they had committed over N2.3billion in the purchase of parcels of land from AHOCOL since 2010.

The cooperative, chaired by Dr James Obi Okpala, said that, based on media advertisements made by AHOCOL, they individually approached the agency and made payments for the acquisition of a total of 2,868 plots of lands in 22 estates located at various parts of the state.

However, 11 years on, they were yet to be neither shown the plots of lands allocated to them, nor given their individual survey and building plans, despite having completed payments of all the monies levied by AHOCOL, including N70,000 for individual survey plan, N100,000 for a building plan, N35,000 for opening of roads to the various plots allocated to them with complete receipts and irrevocable power of attorney and the authority to build.

Narrating the ordeal of the victims before the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Public Petitions, the counsel to the complainants, Barrister Chukwu Miriam, alleged that the fraudulent and unfair treatment meted out to his clients had inflicted untold hardship, severe apprehension and emotional instability on them.

Miriam, therefore, prayed the lawmakers to use their good offices to swiftly intervene into the matter to get justice for his clients.

“We plead with you to use your good offices and direct the relevant authorities who may have taken over the responsibilities of AHOCOL to release to our clients the estates and/plots of lands they purchased and the withheld documents,” the council said.

The chairman of the Corporative, Dr Okpala, who spoke on behalf of the members, said the decision to approach the State House followed from several unanswered letters written to the government, including the state governor, secretary to the state government and the Public Complaints Commission in Anambra state.

“Some of us involved in this mess returned from troubled parts of the country to settle down in our home country. Some went as far as borrowing from the bank and individual lenders to pay for the lands.

“Some targeted moving into their own houses they would have erected on the land after retirement, but all these are dashed hopes. In fact, during one of our meetings, one of us collapsed as a result of frustration and trauma,” Okpala lamented.

Responding to the petition, chairman of the committee, Hon. Emeka Aforka (APGA, Orumba North), assured the victims of speedy and thorough investigation into the matter to ensure dispensation of justice.

Aforka, who described the matter as pathetic and heart-breaking said, “We will do thorough investigation; we won’t tolerate use of any means to extort money from citizens, particularly retirees. We’ll use our legislative powers to get justice for all concerned.”

Meanwhile, while answering questions on what his office knows about the controversial transaction, the managing director, Anambra Housing Corporation, Arc. Willie Okafor, admitted receiving some petitions from the complainants which he said were replied to.

He, however, insisted that, to the best of his knowledge, Anambra Housing Corporation has no connection with the transaction.

Okafor, who argued that the Corporation could not investigate the matter despite several petitions it received because it has no constitutional regulatory power, urged the complainants to ensure proper auditing and documentation of receipts of properties and monies expended in the process to assist in the investigation.

In his goodwill reaction, Dr Okpala, who expressed satisfaction over the lawmakers’ prompt intervention, said he was optimistic that his members would get justice at the end of the day, as “this is the first organ that gave us a listening ear since we started crying for help.”

The matter was adjourned to July 12, 2021 to enable the committee invite all the parties involved, including the former managing director of AHOCOL Dr Uche Ezeokafor, ministry of finance, ministry of land as well as the surveyor who worked with AHOCOL.

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