Chief Efande Ewule discusses with Mami Ngwa who can now cultivate her vegetables years after land seizure
Indigenes and inhabitants of Lower-Bokova in Buea Subdivision are now taking a cautious sigh of relief after the Minister of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure annulled an irregularly established super land certificate that handed over 20hectares of community land and farms to a certain Nomen George Tchapchet.
Even with the Ministerial decision, the locals are still living in fear as a former military commander, Fobang Obadia alongside an armed group are still terrorising locals, claiming that they are on duty guarding Minister Mbah Acha Rose’s five hectares share of the grabbed land, from being reclaimed by locals.
Though in a celebratory mode that after five years authorities have finally decided to render justice on their behalf, the locals whose farms and lands had been confiscated by Nomen and his crew which earlier on enjoyed considerable support from former Divisional Officer, DO, for Buea, Paul Woukam Koam who on several occasions threatened to take away Chief Emmanuel Efande Ewule’s, throne, if he continued to defy him, by refusing to sign away half of villagers’ and community land to the George Nomen. At the time, Nomen is said to have also enjoyed support from several officials, including those directly involved in adjudicating the matter in court. The officials reportedly received parcels of the grabbed land and joined forces against the villagers and their Chief and Traditional Council who were left helpless and continually harassed.
The villagers were subjected to rampant arrests, detention and torments by officials who were working with Nomen. In several instances, state security officers were drafted to do the bidding for the land grabber who ordered them to terrorise the local population and deter them from using the lands. Speaking to the media, some of the victims narrated how the crops were cleared down, how their farms were demarcated and sold, and how armed young men wielding crude weapons and even guns had subjected them to permanent torment.
In a ministerial order cancelling the said super land certificate that swallowed almost half of Lower Bolifamba land, the Minister of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure in an order signed on February 1, 2022, under the subject line, “Cancellation of Ministerial Order N1206Y.7/MINDCAF SG D6 S200/M.J/SF of22/09/2021” wrote, “Your Highness, Pursuant to your petition whose reference and subject matter are mentioned above, I have the honour to inform you that, by Ministerial Order of this day, the annulment of Land Certificate N° 12241/Fako issued to Mr. Nomen George Tchapchet is maintained and Ministerial Order 1206/Y.7/MINDCAF/SG/D6/S200/MJ/SF of 22/09/2021, which rehabilitated the said Land Certificate has been declared null and void with all the consequences therefrom. Accept, Your Highness, my best regards,” Minister Henri Eyebe Ayissi wrote.
The Genesis of the Land Claim
Children of late Isaac Mokoko Moli, who leased out the land to Felix Nomen, father of George Nomen, who came from Buea in search of land to cultivate in the 1950s, narrated that they were surprised when the late man’s son showed up claiming that his father owned 70 hectares of land in Lower Bokova. Chief Ewule and his people say they were surprised because all the land put together is not up to 70hectares.
“Mr Felix Nomen came from Buea looking for a piece of land in Bokova, and Mr Isaac Mokoko Moli gave him a piece of land. The land was leased to him for 15 years, and he was supposed to pay Eight Pounds each year. Mr Nomen paid rent for the first year and did not pay again for the remaining years. He was taken to the Traditional Council because he did not pay the rents for other years”. Mami Efetih Ewule, family head of the Moli family said.
Another daughter of late Isaac Moli, Namondo narrated that the late Nomen bought no land in their village. She also narrates she was surprised when the late man’s son showed up at her house and asked that she takes him to the site where his father bought land. The elderly woman, who is now visually impaired said the man kept coming to her house with armed soldiers, threatening her and her grandchildren. “I directed them to meet the Chief, but he refused saying that he does not recognise the Chief. He rather insulted the Chief and started bringing in soldiers who will speak and insult us. She said like others, Nomen dragged her police stations, brigades and court severally.
Hired Armed Thugs Say They Are Protecting Minister Mbah Acha’s 5Hectares Share Of The Land Grab
Though the Minister’s order effectively reinstated ownership of the land to the natives and villages who have owned and farmed on the land for decades, there are still armed men hovering around the village and concerned lands saying that they have been placed there to protect over five hectares of land owned by the Minister Delegate at the Presidency of the Republic in charge of the Supreme State Audit Office, Mbah Acha Rose.
The armed group is reportedly led by a former military commander Fobang Obadia who the villagers say is telling everyone that cares to listen that his boss is Mbah Acha Rose and that she cannot be challenged by anyone, including natives and the Chief. Using his connection in the system, the commander is reportedly having his way with arming a militia to scare off villagers and prevent them from going to work on their farms.
Chief Ewule however said when he confronted Minister Mbah Acha, she said she does not own land, but the former commander still maintains she owns five hectares which he has been placed to protect.
Locals also attest that as a middleman, the former Commander had bought land from Nomen and in turn sold to others, making a profit of about 200 to 300 percent. The people who bought the land from him are said to be on the man, urging him to give their money back, and as such, he has sworn that he will have to die on the land than see it slip away.
Locals like the Quarter Head of Unity Quarters, Beckly Nkongho, and others say they have had to evacuate their families for fear of what the armed militia can do to them. They however are hopeful that following the Minister’s decision, they will gradually get back their lands and farms.
Talking to the press, the Chief of Lower-Bokova says he is grateful that the government through Minister Henri Eyebe Ayissi has listened to the cries of the commoners and taken a decision that favours the people and their ancestral land. He said the action will allow them to have back their ancestral sites where they can visit their ancestors whose graves are found in the land that was taken, hostage. He said the process regain the land is a gradual process but is steadily on, and that community projects on the sites will resume.
On security in the village, Chief Ewule said “We don’t want to take justice into our hands, so I will be writing to the Attorney General to look into the issue of threats and insecurity in the areas. I will copy the Governor and others.”