2 September 2018
The Enugu State government, working with a property developer, has invited “Enugu State indigenes in Diaspora” to buy land in a new development in the state capital Enugu called “Enugu Life Style and Golf City”.
The information from the developers stated:
“We are happy to confirm that the final Site Plan for the Diaspora Gardens Estate situated in the Enugu Life Style and Golf City, bordering Centenary City Enugu State is now ready for purchase.
“The Diaspora Gardens Estate is solely meant for Enugu State Indigenes living in the Diaspora.
“This Estate is powered under the Portfolio of the Special Adviser to Enugu State Governor on Diaspora and Special Projects in collaboration with DFC Properties Incorporation and OLSOMMIC Dwellers Ltd.
“Included in the Diaspora Gardens Estate price are the following : Certificate of Occupancy, Asphalted Roads, Water Reticulation, Electricity/Street Lights, Maintenance Facilities, Security Services, Diaspora Club House, Green Area, Mini Shopping Mall and Play Ground.
“Commencement of Infastructural development will begin once the raining season is over( November 2018).”
It sounds like a good idea for the state government to provide land for Enugu State indigenes living abroad, but it is actually unconstitutional.
In Chapter 4 Fundamental Rights, the Nigerian Constitution states:
42. (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or
(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.
(2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.
This clearly means that no government has the right to subject Nigerian citizens to restrictions that do not apply to others of different places of origin. So the Enugu State government can’t accord privilege or advantage to Enugu State indigenes that is not accorded to other Nigerians. Or the state can’t place restrictions on other citizens that do not apply to those from Enugu State.
Therefore restricting opportunities to purchase land in this new development to people from Enugu State, no matter how well-intentioned, is unlawful.
This type of unlawful behaviour is common in Nigeria and is widely-accepted. Human Right Watch published a report in April 2006, ‘They Do Not Own This Place’: Government Discrimination Against ‘Non-Indigenes’ in Nigeria, which documented: “the harmful impact of these discriminatory policies on the human rights of many Nigerians in violation of the Nigerian constitution and international human rights law”.
Human Rights Watch stated that: “State and local governments throughout Nigeria have enacted policies that discriminate against non-indigenes and deny them access to some of the most important avenues of socio-economic mobility open to ordinary Nigerians”. The report highlighted how Nigerians are treated as second-class citizens through government policies that discriminate against “non-indigenes”.
The decision by the Enugu State government to deny “non-indigenes” access to the land is not only unlawful, it is also not justifiable economically. Enugu, has been the capital of Southern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, East Central State, Anambra State and now Enugu State. It was also the capital of Biafra during the attempt by the Eastern Region to secede in 1967. It’s history has made Enugu the centre of the universe for most Igbo-speaking people. One commentator described it as the “Jerusalem of the Igbos”.
That history has meant that Enugu is the most cosmopolitan of Igbo cities, with a population from all corners of Igbo land and other parts of Nigeria. Enugu is what it is today because of the contributions of residents past and present from far beyond Enugu State. Many “non-indigenes” have lived in the city for generations. It is their contributions, investment and their socioeconomic endeavour that add value to any piece of land in the city, including this new development.
Additionally, anyone living in Enugu as a “non-indigene” is paying taxes that are not repatriated to his state of origin. Such revenue is likely to be used to develop the new estate in terms of roads and other infrastructure that would make it habitable. It is therefore wrong to exclude “non-indigenes” from a venture that they may have helped fund directly or indirectly.
The Enugu State government should review its discriminatory decision to exclude indigenes from this estate immediately because it is wrong on all counts.