Regina Daniels husband Ned Nwoko has been accused of stealing large amounts of farmlands from poor inhabitant of Anioma community, a local government he is representing in the Senate. The billionaire and former lawmaker grabbed massive pieces of land collectively and has relentlessly used security personnel to intimidate inhabitants of the community who dared to challenge him.
A 90 years old mrs Oghedo Osodi inherited four acres of farmland from her husband but that land, which was her only means of sustenance was grabbed by Ned Nwoko, a billionaire and former lawmaker from Delta State.
Mrs Osodi four acres of land was part of the vast pieces of land, including those collectively owned by indigenes of Idume-Ugboko community, controversially acquired by Mr. Ned Nwoko to build his proposed Sports, Technology, and Arts (STARS) University.
Mr. Ned Nwoko, a member of the royal family of the community, represented the Aniocha North-South and Oshimili North-South federal constituency in the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003.
Mrs. Osodi said she watched with terror as a bulldozer, guarded by heavily armed policemen, uprooted and cleared palm trees, rubber trees and other cash and food crops on her land. An eye witness said she fled for her life after the policemen started shooting sporadically to disperse an angry crowd from the village.
Like Mrs. Osodi, 67 years old Sunday Kainebi, suffered a similar fate. On January 14, 2017, Mr Kainebi said, some associates of Mr. Nwoko took over his land.
According to his words; “I was at home that afternoon and I was informed that a bulldozer was on my farmland. I met them. They were more than 50, including policemen. When I asked one of them, He said it was their oga that sent them. He said Ned Nwoko.”
Unlike Mr Kainebi and Mrs Osodi, Jude Isonye said he confronted Mr. Nwoko for trespassing on his land and the former lawmaker promised to compensate him. Mr. Isonye said he turned down the ex-lawmaker’s offer.
According to his words; “They started creating a narrow way. They destroyed parts of my farm. It was at the boundary between Ugboko and Onicha-Ugbo. I met Ned Nwoko himself. He said I should leave and that he would pay. I told him, you are taking us for a ride, and that is not acceptable” Mr Isonye stated.
Benedict Dungu said associates of Mr Ned Nwoko destroyed his ready to harvest cassava on his farm last August. Other stories of how the former lawmaker is using strong arm tactics to grab land in the community abound.
A Premium Times investigation into the allegations against the lawmaker has now revealed that Mr Nwoko did not only bully individual landowners in order to take over their properties, he also hoodwinked the community before acquiring the land for STAR University.
According to the guideline of the National University Commission, promoters of universities must first show that they have acquired enough land before they are granted approval of setting up the university.
Premium Times findings revealed that the former lawmaker’s acquisition of the community land began in 2000. While he was serving in the House of Representatives, Mr. Ned Nwoko requested 33 hectares of the community land for a dairy farm and factory. He convinced the community that the dairy farm would provide jobs for the youth and ultimately improve the economy of the community.
However, some members of the community, such as Uche Aligbe, the then president-general of the Idumuje Ugboko Development Union thought that Mr. Ned Nwoko proposed dairy farm was dead on arrival. They argued that the environment of the town was not conducive for rearing of cattles.
One agriculturist who spoke to Premium Times echoed the view of Mr Ned Nwoko kinsmen. Philips Aniagwu, an animal scientist, said a dairy farm can barely survive in a rainforest area such as that of the lawmaker’s hometown.
According to his words; “Rainforest zones like Delta State breeds Tsetse fly more during the rainy season which is a pest of the Cattle, it causes sleeping illness in them and thereby reducing their productivity. They also contribute to deforestation by feeding on vegetation” Mr Aniagwu said.
Mr. Ned Nwoko request was, however, granted and the land was allotted to him. But instead of setting up the dairy farm, the former lawmaker built a lodge on the land and a tourist site he called Mount Ned.
Posing as a tourist, reporters visited the facility located on the outskirts of the village last September. Mount Ned has a 9-hole golf course within its premises. Behind the green area of the golf course, is the lodge, where the former lawmaker stays and receives guests when in the village.
Also, on the property are a commercial-sized fishpond, one commercial-sized poultry farm for birds and a zoo with two ostriches, one monkey, a donkey, a few lambs and two Arabian hens but there was no dairy farm. Chukwugo, the tour guide, told reporters that there was a dairy farm on the property but when asked to take reporters to the site of the farm, Chukwugo said the cattle had been taken out to feed.
Chukwugo’s claim that the animals were being taken into the bush is suspicious as Mr. Ned Nwoko and his ally, Walters Eziashi, a former president-general of the IUDU, had claimed that about 500 cattle bought for the dairy farm have all died.
According to his words; “Unfortunately, Ned Nwoko was ill-advised. A dairy farm could not survive with the Idumuje-Ugboko climate. They brought in over 500 cows. Every Ugboko people, including myself, saw it,” Mr Eziashi said on a Channels TV programme in August 2020.
According to his words; “There is no dairy farm there but a commercial fish pond and poultry is there. Part of that land is part of what we use for the University project” Mr Nwoko told Premium Times when asked about the dairy farm in September 2020.
Idumuje Ugboko has a structured process for land acquisition which discourages land grabbing. According to the tradition, all requests for land are made to the monarch of the community. The king will then consult the Obi-in council, a group of chiefs for approval.
If the request sails through this stage, it is passed to the Izu-Ani, a group of representatives of Idumuje Ugboko adults and the highest decision-making organ of the community. The Izu-Ani is chaired by the king.
After the approval of the assembly, the king instructs the land allocation committee chaired by one of the palace chiefs, the Odogwu, to take over the process. For arbitration on land matters, the Onotu, headed by the Iyase, the prime minister of the kingdom, wades in. He is also assisted by the Odogwu.
According to the tradition, any community land awarded but not used for the purpose for which it was awarded will be withdrawn after three years, Premium Times report.
It was through this process that Mr. Ned Nwoko secured the original 33 hectares of land, which he claimed was meant to set up a dairy farm. Despite not utilizing the 33 hectares for the purpose for which it was awarded, Mr. Ned Nwoko soon became thirsty for more land. On March 16, 2015, through his company, Linas International Limited, he requested another 90 hectares of land for an international-standard golf course from the now late traditional ruler of the community, Albert Nwoko.
An international standard golf course has at least 18 holes and can occupy up to 60 hectares of land. The ex-lawmaker was not done. A week later, he sent out another letter requesting a two-miles-by-two miles land for the construction of STARS University.
Some members of the community, led by his kinsmen from the royal family, kicked against these fresh demands. They argued that Mr. Ned Nwoko did not use the original 33 hectares he was allotted for what he requested it for. They argued that he should first exhaust the land before requesting additional land.
However, Mr. Ned Nwoko argued that he has a rightful claim to the land. He claimed he secured the approval of the additional 90 hectares from the late monarch, who he claimed also directed the land allocation committee to map out the land while another conducted a feasibility assessment for his golf course project.
To back his claim, he presented a letter dated April 10, 2015, signed by the monarch, Albert Nwoko, who died in 2017. In the letter, the monarch indicated that the village was going into a partnership with the politician and he set up a committee led by the Iyase, Christopher Ogwu, to determine the investment ratio and the feasibility of the project.
According to his letter; “The town will go into partnership with your company by investing the capitalized value of the land at the appropriate rate in the Golf Course. The land for the University will be donated by the village,” the letter read.
“I hereby instruct the land allocation committee and the committee established by the Izu Ani that held last month to determine the current value of the land and capitalize it for the purpose of the investment at the appropriate rate for the course,” the letter added.
Mr, Ned Nwoko also claimed that the monarch’s directive was approved by the Izu-Ani on April 25, 2015. However, the then crowned prince of the community, Chukwunonso Nwoko, countered the politician’s claim, stating that the king did not approve of the request. He told Premium Times that he had questioned the rationale behind Mr. Ned Nwoko’s request for additional land even before it became public knowledge.
He said he first sighted a copy of the approval letter paraded by the ex-lawmaker on April 11, 2015, a day after it was written. He said the letter had been pre-written and did not have the signature of his father at the time.
According to his words; “Akaba Nwoko, the special assistant to my Dad, was holding a paper. It was a document. It turned out to be an approval based on his application. That document was on the letterhead of the Obi. All that was needed was my father’s signature.”
He said he threw out the letter and summoned a family meeting the following day when it was decided to sack the secretary and expel him from the palace. The next day, at a meeting of the elders, the same document resurfaced, and he said he objected to it again.
According to his words; “I showed up at the meeting with Ned Nwoko. The same letter I threw out was the main thing that they used for the deliberation. I was surprised.
“The elders did not counter it. At that point, I raised my hand to ask a question. For me, this man was given over thirty hectares. What did he do with the land? None of them could answer. Since as the heir to the throne, I was not in support, the elders could not proceed with the request.”
Premium Times could not reach Akaba for comment. Akaba could not be reached via his phone number and he did not respond to a text message sent to him requesting comment.
The controversy surrounding the approval of the 90 hectares deepened when Chukwunonso and his brothers presented letters they claimed were signed by their deceased father debunking the approval letter, presented by Mr. Ned Nwoko, starting from May 2015. The three different letters were signed by the monarch.
According to copies of the letters obtained by Premium Times, the king stated that Mr. Ned Nwoko’s activities should be restricted to the 33 hectares allocated in 2000, restating that he has not approved of the additional land requested.
“With reference to royal family meeting held on the 21 of May 2015 in the royal palace Idumuje – Ugboko in respect of the above subject matter. The following decisions were taken:
- I, His Royal Majesty hereby order that all activities on the said land should cease with immediate effect.
I, His Royal Majesty also hereby order that you should restrict your activities to the parcel of land already allocated to you in the past by the town. Please be informed that the Izu-Ani meeting held on 25th April 2015 was not authorized by I, His Royal Majesty and therefore all decisions taken at the said meeting are null and void. Please note that failure to comply with the above directives will attract very severe sanctions from the palace” the letter dated May 21, 2015, and addressed to Mr. Ned Nwoko.