Monday, October 19, 2020
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EDITORIAL: Grab The Land-Grabbers Now! 

Land-grabbing is not the preserve of certain local administrators and other cheats posted to Fako Division of the Southwest Region. It is practised to some extent, in other parts of the nation. If the practice in Fako has stubbornly occupied public space during the past six months, it is definitely on account of the propensity and devil-may-care manner with which it is carried out here, vis-a-vis the incontrovertible revelations that have been brought to the front burner.  

Media disclosures have been supported by authoritative documents; such documents that at once provide credible, hidden facts or such elusive truths that should, or ought to have long determined or even informed a prima-facie case against the named grabbers of indigenous land.
The Fako “land bazaar” becomes even more peculiar, given the apparent impregnable Mafioso behind it and the spree with which it was and is invariably still being perpetrated. From all indications, it is a gargantuan mafia, unequalled in the Biya regime. Biya himself is not known, or rather has been hardly openly linked to land-grabbing anywhere in the country, his wherewithal to do so notwithstanding. 
Biya’s former Prime Minister, Ephraim Inoni, is serving time in jail on corruption charges. Inoni is the traditional ruler of Bakingili, in the West Coast of Fako Division, where vast hectares of land have been appropriated by opportunists, often quick to plead xenophobia at the slightest hint of abuse of office. The irony is that even as chief, the jailed Inoni doesn’t boast as much land in Bakingili as certain administrators, who now own hectares of ranches and other vast lands, obtained through fiat and subterfuge.
As it stands, the longer the grabbing network is left un-dismantled, the more revolting it would be to a people known to have sought external recourse for Government to capitulate and order the systematic land surrenders by the Cameroon Development Corporation, CDC, to the indigenous people. But which land is being confiscated, albeit, provocatively, by mindless grabbers and speculators.
The lands, which have become invitingly sweet smelling and succulent business for fabricated traditional rulers in resurrected chiefdoms; some officials in the Ministry in charge of Lands, and successive civil administrators, are ancestral lands, returned to village communities, following their brutal seizure by colonialists in the late 19th and early 20th Century.
The Germans forcefully took the unusually fertile lands, for their plantations, with no compensation to the dispossessed owners, who were inadvertently pushed to the rugged slopes of Mount Fako. The British inherited the immoral German possession of more than 100,000 hectares after the latter were defeated in the First World War. The Germans, however, had the intellectual honesty of registering the said lands in the German Ground Book (Grunbuck) as private lands of the Fako people.
The Bakweri Land Committee, BLC, formed in the 1940s petitioned the United Nations, UN, for the unconditional return of their ancestral land. The case made by the BLC was cogent, watertight and irresistible at the UN and London, such that Her Majesty’s Government took a stop-gap option to assuage the tempestuous rage of the BLC. That is how they created the CDC in 1946, to run the plantations on a 60 year lease, before returning the land to their rightful owners.
Following the devastating economic crisis of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the CDC was listed for privatisation. Fako indigenes rose like one man to warn during a public meeting held in Buea in 1994 that they would rather die than see their lands sold off with the CDC. Government heeded the alarm bells and shelved the outright sale of the corporation.
But then, in 2001, CDC sold out its tea component and it became evident that the land was also to go; not even for all the tea in China! The BLCC emerged from the ashes of the BLC and filed a case against the Government at the African Union Court in Banjul, The Gambia. Eminent Professor Ndiva Kofele Kale was Counsel for the BLCC, while Chief Samuel Epupa Ekum, Mola Ebobi Monangai and others vigorously pursued the case of the Bakweris against the Government of Cameroon.
Because the BLCC had not exhausted local legal avenues and despite arguing that the courts in Cameroon were not independent, as Mr. Biya himself once pointed out, the AU Human Rights Commission advised both parties to return and wash the dirty linen back at home.
Government adopted a policy of gradually and progressively returning the lands to the village communities in Fako that applied for such lands for purposes of expansion and development.
A land-grabbing mafia cashed in, producing a new generation or breed of looters, nouveaux riche, multi-millionaires and prohibitive Epicureans, with the capability of knocking down a heavyweight boxer with a feather, as it were.
Enter, the emergency chiefs, to facilitate the plunder and arm-twisting tactics of SDO’s before according favourable recommendations for CDC land surrender. Helpless CDC management were bullied into surrendering land at all cost or ignite the indignation or reprobation of the Governor or SDO who have amassed incredible pecuniary interests from such surrenders from gullible and spineless "royal fathers".
Note that most of the surrendered lands are in the personal names of chiefs, who then decide to auction them for a song, with little or no regard or recourse for the common good or teeming villagers.
Evidence abounds of Mayoral as well as officials of the services of Lands and Survey, grabbing vast hectares of surrendered land and making visible colossal fortunes from it. Southwest Governor and Fako SDO have tacitly admitted to owning land in the surrendered areas. They know their action to run against the grain of existing regulation. Their action, like that of other birds of similar plumage has practically met with rockets of denunciation.
It smacks of a remake of colonial exploits, with the exception that these modern day colonial masters, often quick to quote the Head of State out of context, are selling their loot, without the slightest compunction.
Agreed that the Government has set up a Ministerial Commission of Inquiry and that the very credible National Anti-Corruption Commission, CONAC, is also investigating the land-grabbing bonanza. We don’t, by any means, doubt their ability to put the facts in perspective; yet, we still call on the authorities to, as a matter of urgency, immediately institute an independent commission of inquiry that should probe, and why not, bring to book the guilty.
We emphasise the enormity of this grab-and-grab-quickly syndrome, whose groundswell is gathering a startling momentum in Fako, even as we write. We insist on decisive action, as any lull or foot-dragging in the investigation, could mean two things; boiling, over-spilling frustrations of duped villagers and the probability of the perpetrators selling off part of the loot to buy time for the sting to wear off.
The Post thinks that it would amount to self-mortification, were the Government to allow this social wound to fester. It would be pernicious to hold back the tide, once the bubble bursts.
This is our humble submission.