SDF'S MBAH NDAM IMPLICATED IN LAND GRAB: ABUSE OF POWER?
By Franck Felix Gutenberg, US Africa News. Updated 2015-05-20
On the face of it, this looks like one of the many land disputes that are unfortunately so prevalent in our community today. On a closer look it is a lot more than that. This case portrays the plight of ordinary Cameroonians and the challenges they face when those in authority abuse power and betrays the public trust they all swear to uphold. It is a story of deceit, of fraud, threats, conspiracy, intimidation and theft of property by a public official. It is a story about standing up to a bully, and above all, of a family’s effort to dismantle an axis of corruption so rife and so refined with crooked machinations that will give even the most skeptical a reason to pause. This is a story of how an honorable MP Mr. Joseph Mbah Ndam, a peoples representative will stop at nothing to get a priced piece of real estate, to construct his Petrol Station. A story of how a man entrusted with power has built a web of corruptible banking, police, and a public officials in a delicate network of deceit designed to frustrate and extort property from unsuspected citizens.
A lot of questions abound as to the source of the arrogance and power that is wielded by a young college dropout Mr. Mbah Assi of Batibo. Many wondered how a young man with no grits, will so blatantly and so openly defy and disrespect the popular Fon of Batibo His Royal Highness Fon R.A.M Tebo II. It is reported that the Fon after a careful review of a complaint filed by the Ndamukong Estate, and on appraisal of the land by the traditional council, had ruled that the said Mr. Assi should immediately desist from encroaching on the Ndamukong land, under threat of a ban from the Royal Palace and palace activities. When the Fon and his traditional council reviewed this issue a year ago, Mr. Assi’s contention was that the Ndamukong home had a little extension on his side of the land. Fon Tebo II and his council upon evaluation ruled against Mr. Assi. Today, his contention is for the entire land. He now says the entire land belongs to him. Mr. Assi has since continued to harass tenants of the Ndamukong Old Park residence, humiliating them, detaining them in police custody, requesting rents payment to him - all thanks to the support of some crooked local officials very close to Mr. Assi, and a secret big brother with a business interest in establishing a Petrol Station on that same piece of land, and enough resources to buy the loyalty of corruptible officials to whom these victims can turn to for help. One of those officials is Police Officer Ndeh Chriysanthus Boma, a piece of Assi-Mbah Ndam network. He has in the last month alone issued more than 10 convocations to members of the Ndamukong family and their tenants, accusing them of issues as petite as collecting rents on their property that they have owned for more than 60 years, and tenants for failing to pay rents to or evacuate the property on orders of their new landlord Mr. Assi. This piece of land the former family home of the Ndamukong is strategically located in a new business district of the Batibo Old Motor Park, along Trans-African Highway.
We have been investigating this very contentious and acrimonious dispute, a conflict that has pitted families and traditional authorities against one of its most prominent citizen, and is tearing a close-knit community apart. Our investigations have uncovered a sinister force most likely the source of the young Assi’s clout. This force is no other than the SDF’s Honourable Joseph Mbah Ndam, a leading opposition figure, a vice Speaker of the parliament, the parliamentary Representative at the Commonwealth, a close cousin, adviser, confidant and the executor of Mr. Mbah Assi’s fathers heavily contested will. Neighbors have reportedly seen Mr. Mbah Ndam survey this piece of land in dispute, and have heard him encourage Mr. Assi to keep up the fight, even after the Fon decision. “The Fon has done his job”, Mr. Mbah Ndam is quoted to have told Mr. Assi, “It is now time to do yours, and I will take care of the rest”. A group of people from out of town visited the property a day after Mr. Mbah Ndam left.
Our findings indicate that the parcel of land in question is the former home of the late Hon. L.M. Ndamukong the former Secretary of State of Education and Social Welfare, who also held several other ministerial portfolios in his days. Hon. Ndamukong purchased this land from Mr. Assi’s grandfather in 1955, constructed his first family home on it, and the Ndamukong Family has since owned and occupied this property for over 60 years. In his will, Hon. Ndamukong bequeathed this property to his sons Roger and Daniel Ndamukong. The Ndamukong home constructed in the 1950s is still there and is occupied by tenants. The current Fon of Batibo recalls visiting this Ndamukong home many times as a child. It is hard to find any indigene who does not know the Old Ndamukong family compound in Batibo. Some of their loved ones are buried there. But, the story of the Assi – Ndamukong land dispute only begins to make sense when viewed from the prism of Hon. Mbah Ndam’s quest for a suitable location within the Batibo municipality to construct a petrol station. It is not uncommon to hear stories of blood-brothers with daggers drawn in land disputes instigated by Mr. Mbah Ndam, whenever he takes an interest in a piece of land. Stories of families torn by land disputes with an MP Mbah Ndam caught in the middle.
Not long ago, an allegedly bitter rivalry ensued between two brothers in Mbungei Batibo after the Hon. Mbah Ndam reportedly contacted one brother and enticed him to accept selling a priced family piece of land next to the new weighing station in Mbungei, Batibo, along the N6 Highway a potentially good spot for petrol station. The battle that ensued between those brothers was bitter and public. Mr. Mbah Ndam decided to pull out of any potential agreement with the greedy brother because of possible political fallout from his involvement. There was an election not far away and the risk of exposure was probably not worth it.
Mr. Mbah Ndam’s attention immediately turned to another piece of real estate. This time it was an Old Petrol station in operation located around the Batibo Motor Park. It was owned by the late Mr. Frederick Acha, a man who had previously resisted selling the same Petrol station in question. I talked to Mr. Eric Acha. London-based Eric Acha, the son of the late owner of the petrol station confirms that it is true representatives of a Yaoundé based group affiliated to Mr. Mbah Ndam contacted him with a request to purchase the said petrol station but he had made it clear – a sale was not an option. Ironically, a piece of land that is also a subject of the current dispute is owned by the Acha family. Mr. Acha wondered how someone could secure a title for a piece of land that already has a title. He expressed frustration with the incessant harassment his family has received from Mr. Assi and his collaborators and was confident Mr. Assi’s bogus land tittle will be revoked in a court of law. He noted it will be very worrying and disappointing if the allegations that the force behind Mr. Assi is his MP Mr. Joseph Mbah Ndam. He stated the role of a member of parliament is to seek peaceful resolutions of conflicts rather than being a perpetuator with greedy intents.
Twice disappointed, Mr. Mbah Ndam turned to yet the most blatant and outrageously bold effort. Through use of a surrogate, his cousin Assi, somehow a land certificate has surfaced including the land of three neighbors – the Ndamukongs, the Achas, and the Assumbus. This land certificate that was obtained in violation of all set procedures does not mention the existence of the Ndamukong Family home on the land, in spite of the fact that the compound has been there since the late 50s. Indeed, it did not even mention the Ndamukongs as neighbor. The Acha parcel of land had a land title dated in 1987, but this did not deter the Assis from obtaining another land title for that same piece of land. Mr. Mbah Ndam is the executor of his late cousin Crispus Assi’s will.
Mr. Acha recalls that as soon as his father Mr. Fredrick Acha passed away two years ago, and even before his burial, his home was ransacked and looted by what was initially thought to be petty thieves. Strangely enough, the only things stolen were all his documents and files relating to his properties and ongoing land disputes. Efforts by the Acha’s to retrieve a copy of the land title which their father had safely stored at that Batibo Credit Union are yet to materialize. Batibo Credit Union manager Mrs. Agnes Tingwei reportedly berated an envoy Mr. Acha sent to collect a copy of the land title. Mrs. Tingwei later told Mr. Assi of the attempt to retrieve the land tittle and Mr. Assi went on to look for and verbally assault the envoy. Mr. Acha Fredrick Jr. left school in Yaoundé to Batibo get a copy of this land title after their envoy was humiliated. The Bank manager had told the envoy that he is not entitled to a copy because he is not a son of the late Acha. When Jr. Acha got to the Batibo Credit Union, was told by Mrs. Tingwei that his father had given the land title to the Credit Union for a 700,000 FRS loan, and she will not give him the requested copy until the loan is fully paid. This is the first time the Acha family had heard of a loan since their father died almost 2 years ago. She did not provide any documentation to show a loan was actually made. Needless to say, the young man returned to Yaoundé empty handed, but will be going to the Land and Survey Department in Mbengwei to seek a copy.
Speaking with the head of the Ndamukong Clan, Mr. Emmanuel Ndamukong stated his utter disappointment with the Hon. Mbah Ndam and Mr. Assi. He expressed no surprise at allegations that Mr. Mbah Ndam is in collusion with Mr. Assi to steal his family property and expressed confidence that the illegally obtained land title will be revoked sooner rather than later in a court of law. He pledged to fight this battle all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Mr. Ndamukong whose Lawyer Mr. Henry Ajime had sought an order of injunction to stop any development action on the land or further harassment of its tenants, expressed dissatisfaction that the process is taking too long to go through the system. Our investigations has uncovered, that in spite of assurances to the Ndamukong Estate Administrator Mr. John Amaya that she will be fair in reviewing this incursion and will support a request for an injunction while the case is being reviewed by the court, the head of the Legal Department of Land and Survey Mrs. Mbah Miriam wrote to the court, according the Ndamukong lawyer, Mr. Henry Ajime, requesting that the court should deny the Ndamukong request for an injunction on any development on the land or harassment of the tenants while an action is pending in the Bamenda Administrative Court. She had pleaded with Mr. Amaya to take the case out of court to no avail.
Asked how he could be sure of Mr. Mbah-Ndam’s involvement, Mr. Ndamukong recounted Mr. Mbah Ndam had called him as soon as he learned the Ndamukong Estate had filed a law suit to challenge the bogus Assi land title. His request was that the Ndamukong Estate should withdraw the law suit. Mr. Ndamukong recalled, Mr. Mbah Ndam posed as a big brother with some kind words trying to convince him not to take the case to court but to settle it peacefully out of court. In their interaction, Mr. Mbah Ndam could not say what he would do if someone were to present a land title for his family compound, trying to claim the entire compound with loved ones buried there. Mr. Mbah Ndam told Mr. Ndamukong he had verified the legitimacy of the title and can assure him that it is legitimate. Mr. Mbah Ndam said, knowing Cameroon to be what it is, he can attest to the legitimacy of the tittle because he knows how the system works. Mr. Ndamukong said he was extremely disappointed in his member of parliament, and instantly suspected Mr. Mbah-Ndam was up to no good. Upon telling the MP that the land title obtained by Mr. Assi will be revoked in a court of law, the MP cautioned his cousin Mbah Assi is very ‘fatalistic and he (Mbah Ndam) doesn’t want anyone hurt’ over this piece of land. Mr. Ndamukong considered that as a subtle threat or a desperate effort to intimidate him, and was more determined to proceed with the case. He made that clear to Mr. Mbah Ndam. Mr. Ndamukong pledged to exhaust every legal avenue to get Assi and his collaborators to atone for their travesty, and to revoke the Assi’s fraudulent land title.
Mr. Mbah Ndam’s involvement in many land disputes during his 20 years as a member of parliament, and his covert support of his wayward cousin’s land-grabbing and harassment of indigenes is well documented. It is widely known that in broad-daylight, the late Crispus Assi, tore down the home of his neighbor Mr. Godlip Anyang and seized his land. A distraught and homeless Mr. Anyang died shortly after. His heirs still contest that land, which is also included in this fraudulent land title
I was led to another family separated by yet another bitter land dispute with Mr. Mbah Ndam at the center. The Tah family is a small polygamous family from whom Mr. Mbah-Ndam secured a massive piece of real estate on which he is building his retirement mansion. As, reported, when the N6 Highway was being constructed, Mr. Mbah Ndam contacted a corruptible quarter-head Mr. Boniface Njogho, who was manager of a large laterite site in his quarter. That piece of land was owned by the Tah brothers and was being leveled for laterite for road construction. In exchange for cash and some favours from the MP with his legal troubles which could easily have fetched him some prison time, Mr. Njogho conspired with one Tah brother to sell the entire family land to Mr. Mbah Ndam without the knowledge of the other brothers. The other brothers contested the sale when they learned of it and even took the matter to the traditional council. In an unexpected ruling, the traditional council sided with the MP. The family was devastated. Mr. Mbah Ndam is the President of the Batibo Cultural and Development Association, and wields influence.
An action is currently pending at the Bamenda Administrative Court filed by the Ndamukong Estate to revoke the land certificated obtained by Mr. Assi without the knowledge of his neighbors, and in spite of an existing land title for some of the property claimed by Mr. Assi’s title. Related actions are pending by the heirs to the Acha Estate the Assumbus in other administrative divisions. As of now, all Mr. Ndamukong and Mr. Acha expects from the MP is for him to desist from instigating this young man, shelve his greedy ambition, and advise his cousin to abstain from harassing and locking up tenants, requesting rents, vandalizing or trying to develop the property until the court rules on this issue. How and when the Hon. MP will get land good enough for his petrol station remains a question. For now, a contentious battle rages.