The Delta State Ministry of Lands, Survey and Urban Development, has dismissed allegations that the Commissioner of the Ministry, Chief Dan Okenyi, was convicted by a Kwale High Court over the non-disclosure of relevant documentation concerning some community land in the area, under the Freedom of Information, FoI Law.
A press issued and signed by Pius Mordi, Media Assistant to the Honourable Commissioner, titled : “No Court Summon was ever received on FoI Suit”, reads thus: “The attention of the Delta State Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development, Chief Dan Okenyi, has been drawn to a story in a section of the press and some online journals where it was reported that a Kwale High Court of Justice convicted the commissioner for failure to release relevant land documents to community leaders from Umu-Okpala Omai family of Umusam community in Kwale.
“As the report stated, there was no legal representation from the Ministry of Lands or any agency of government in Delta State at the court for the simple reason that no summon was received from any community or from the Kwale High Court. We state unequivocally that the office of the Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Development did not receive any summon from the Kwale High Court and is not aware of any litigation involving the said Umu-Okpala Omai family of Umusam community.
“The government of Delta State has utmost respect for the judiciary and is not known to have ignored any court summon. Request for documents associated with land allocation and dispute is a routine exercise in the Ministry of Lands and it does not require the intervention of the courts for them to be released.
“While the matter is now being handled by the office of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, we reiterate that access to land documents is not shrouded in secrecy and does not require lobbying to obtain. The office of the Commissioner for Lands has been actively involved in resolving disputes arising from lands allocated in the past and routinely avails every party with genuine records with a view to reaching amicable solution.
“The Honourable Commissioner for Lands is a law abiding citizen and will never take any action to demean the judiciary. However, we are amazed that a suit based on the Freedom of Information Act could get to the level of judgment with no discernible proof that court summons were actually delivered to the defendants on an issue the plaintiffs have an inalienable right to access the documents they sought.
“The Ministry of Lands under the watch of Chief Dan Okenyi as commissioner has actively aided many communities, especially oil-bearing communities in resolving disputes over land with oil companies. Reports of such successful interventions are on the public domain. Should the Umu-Okpala Omai family of Umusam community seek the assistance of the ministry, Chief Okenyi will, as usual, avail them of every necessary support”.
Media Assistant to the Honourable Commissioner