John Tondu denies land scam under Lands Ministry



Nigerian Concord Newspaper

Few days ago, the social media was full of stories of land scams which allegedly took place under Honourable John Tondu when he was the Benue State commissioner for Lands and Survey.

Shortly after the stories hit the cyber space, Nigerian Concord promised to investigate the matter and give full and detailed reports to our numerous readers.

While our team of investigators are still collating data and details of all the land transactions that took place under Tondu’s leadership at the Ministry (Details of the investigation will be published after the conclusion of our), the governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party granted us an exclusive interview, and below are his explanations. Excerpts :

Sir, can you explain to us if truly there were land scams under the Ministry of Lands and Survey when you were a commissioner there?

John Tondu: “That is a misleading allegation because nothing of that nature took place when I was in the Ministry as a commissioner. I came in as a professional when I was appointed by my boss, Dr. Gabriel Suswam, as a commissioner overseeing the Lands and Survey Ministry in Benue state.

“The major functions of the ministry are physical planning and land administration while every other function is just by the way. When we took over the ministry, the whole place was abandoned, and there was no development in the planning of the cities in Benue.

“When I took over, I took up the physical planning, I went to develop and plan them so that people would not just be acquiring our lands illegally. The parastatal under the ministry was saddled with the responsibility of removing and demolishing all illegal plans.

“Back to the allocation of lands, during my tenure, the layout was over 16,000 in Naka Road because that’s the biggest of all the layouts. We planned it on over 30,000 hectares of land and the layout had over 50,000 plots. The layout which is on the way to Gboko is over 2000 to 3000 plots. Another layout has over 16,000 plots.

“I don’t have all the figures off hand but I can tell you that under my tenure, we had about 100,000 plots but throughout that tenure, we only allocated less that 20 percent of the land. I left the other ones unallocated because I strongly believed that other people that will be coming after us will have lands to also allocate. I made provisions for those who needed lands for schools, hospitals etc.

“In a nutshell, the numbers of the plots of lands that were available during my tenure was 100,000. Of all these, I only allocated 20 percent, and almost 98 percent of the 20 percent of the lands that we allocated were allocated to those I have never come across with. They applied and went through the normal processes, and those lands were allocated to them genuinely.

“And some of these people we are talking about are members of the opposition, they are the ones who benefited most because I believed I was a commissioner for the entire state, and wasn’t serving any political party but Benue State as a whole.

“I was serving the public either in the APC, PDP, APGA and others. As long as the service was concerned, I was supposed to discharge my duties as a public servant. So how can someone wake up one morning and allege that John Tondu allocated chunks of lands to himself and his cronies?To me, that is a political statement.

“All the plans that we made met the international standard. I was able to differentiate between being a member of a political party from being a public servant.

“Can the accusers say if those that I allocated the 98 percent of the lands that were approved under my tenure were my friends? These records are there and you can go to the ministry to confirm.

“The truth of this matter is that 98 percent of the lands was allocated to those I have never come in contact with but let’s say the remaining 2 percent was for people that came to me to say that they had applied for lands, and after I found out that they met the basic requirements, I allocated the lands to them.

“If I could allocate 98 percent of the total lands to strangers, those I didn’t know from anywhere, tell me what is wrong in allocating the remaining 2 percent to those that came to me with genuine documentation? I had no reason to deny them since they were qualified, and all I did was to encourage them”