BARRISTER ROBERT NSO FON
MBUFONZAK Law Firm
P.O Box 673 Bamenda
North West region, Cameroon
Tel: 237 77 75 55 59
A REJOINDER TO THE COMMUNIQUE OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BAMENDA ABOUT THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY LAND IN NDZAH VILLAGE DATED 09/4/14.
I first had the opportunity to listen to portions of the communiqué of the Archdiocese of Bamenda on their position about the CATUC land of Ndzah village read over CRTV Bamenda at 5.30 am on the 11th day of April 2014. I later in the day got a copy and read the entire communiqué of eight paragraphs dated the 9th day of April 2014 and signed by Rev. Father Humphrey Tatah Mbuy, the Director of Communications of the Archdiocese of Bamenda.
From the communiqué, I read that in 2010, Arch Bishop Cornelius Fomtem Esua in his capacity as the Chancellor of the Catholic University of Cameroon, CATUC, requested for land from the Fon of Ndzah village who accepted same and a piece of land indicated to him and all administrative procedures to officially acquire the land was respected, which resulted in Arrete No.000947/ k.6.1/MINDAF/D13 of 2nd September 2011 wherein the then Minister of State Property and Land Tenure made a formal Grant to His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua of 46.38 hectares of land in Womse-Ndzah for the construction of the Catholic University. That the Arch Bishop paid the sum of 13,916,940 FCFA to the state Treasury and 13 Mbororos were later compensated to leave the land to a new resettlement site except Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada who did not collect his own amount of 1,056,960 FCFA.
That by the end of 2012, Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada objected to all that had been agreed on and on the 31st day of July 2013 the Court of First Instance of Bamenda delivered a judgment wherein all the previous arrangements with the Fon of Ndzah, the Traditional Council of Ndzah, the Mbororos of Ndzah, the administrative authorities of Mezam and the Minister of State Property and Land Tenure were upheld. That on the 19th day of March 2014, the Director of lands of the Archdiocese was on his way to the site to begin work accompanied by a camera man when a certain Fon Christopher Achobang and a crowd of Mbororos and Bambili people attacked the caterpillar, a vehicle of the Archdiocese as well as the Director of lands who ended up in hospital and on the 4th of April 2014, Friday night at about 7,30 pm, some 30 Mbororos(men, women and children) invaded the privacy of the Cathedral Parish until the intervention of the Administration.
The communiqué of the Archdiocese of Bamenda ends by saying that it would be wrong to give the impression that the Mbororos of Ndzah have been treated unfairly and that the Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Bamenda stands for justice, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.
From my cultural background, it is very difficult to say that an elderly person is telling a lie, talk less of a Reverend Father and an Arch Bishop. I will however give a true picture of what happened as the lawyer of Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada and who has closely followed the events in Ndzah between the Bamenda Archdiocese and the Mbororos from 2010 till date. It is not ethically correct for me as a Lawyer to report on a case that is pending determination in court but I am forced in the circumstances to make certain clarifications without touching on the legal issues pending determination in court.
Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada is the traditional ruler of the Mbororo indigenous cattle herders of Ndzah village in Bamenda III Sub Division in the North West region of Cameroon. The Ardo’s residence is situate on what is popularly called the “Mamada Hills” in Ndzah village. The late father of Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada in the person of Ardo Mamada, settled on the Mamada Hills around 1905 during the German Administration of Cameroon and he provided land to the people of Ndzah to settle where they are presently and he was buried in the Mamada hills in Ndzah village where the present Ardo lives. Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada is recognized as such by the administration of Mezam Division.
Sometimes in 2012, the Arch Bishop of Bamenda, His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua, went to Ndzah village and laid claim over all of the Mamada Hills, and said to belongs to the Catholic University of Bamenda. When Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada tried to question the Arch Bishop’s claim over their ancestral land, he was arrested by elements of the Gendarmerie Brigade Researche in Mile 4 in Nkwen, severely tortured and detained. He lost a tooth and has permanent sight problems as a result of the torture inflicted on him during and after his arrest. He was later charged to court in the Court of First Instance of Bamenda in suit No CFIBA/798C/12 following a complaint from the Archdiocese of Bamenda. Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada was accused of having on or about the 3rd day of September 2012 at Ndzah village in the Mezam Judicial Division, without being so empowered, used land belonging to the Catholic University of Bamenda and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 8(4) (5) of Ordinance No 74/1 of 6th July 1974 to establish rules governing land tenure in Cameroon. The charge against Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada was thrown out of court after about ten adjournments because the prosecution witnesses will not come to court to prosecute the matter.
Meanwhile Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada being so embarrassed and frustrated with the treatment he received from the Arch Bishop, and who could not understand how he could be charged to court for using land his family has occupied since 1905 and all of a sudden is said to belong to the Catholic University, instituted suit No CFIBA/15CM/2013 in the Court of First Instance of Bamenda against the Catholic Archdiocese of Bamenda and the Catholic University of Bamenda. In the said suit, Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada prayed the court for an eviction order, evicting the Catholic Archdioceses of Bamenda from their ancestral land.
In reply to the suit referred to in the preceding paragraph, the Arch Bishop of Bamenda through his Lawyer filed a Counter Affidavit on the 27/02/2013 wherein they attached Arrete No 000947/K.6.1/MINDAF/D1/D13 dated the 2nd day of September 2011 as Annex “A”, where the Honorable Minister of State Property and Land Tenure made a Grant of 46 hectares, 38 acres and 98m of land in Ndzah to the Catholic University of Bamenda, represented by Arch Bishop Cornelius Fontem Esua to justify their claim over the land. Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada saw the Arrete for the first time in court in February 2013.
It is worthwhile to explain here what is a national land and which land can be allocated as a Grant to anybody or an institution in Cameroon. Ordinance No 74-1 of 6th July 1974 to establish rules governing land tenure in Cameroon defines national lands in its article 14. Article 14(1) provides that national lands shall as of right comprise lands which at the date on which the present ordinance enters into force, are not classed into the public or private property of the state and other public bodies. Article 15 goes further to state that national lands shall be divided into two categories;
Lands occupied with houses, farms and plantations and grazing lands manifesting human presence and development;
Lands free of any effective occupation.
Decree No 76 – 166 of 27 April 1976 to establish the terms and conditions of management of National lands in Cameroon makes provision on how a piece of land can be allocated to an individual or corporate body as a Grant. Article 1 of the above Decree provides that, national lands which are unoccupied or unexploited shall be allocated by temporary grant of right. Article 2 of the same Decree provides that temporary rights shall be granted for development projects in line with the economic, social or cultural policies of the nation. Article 3 stipulates that the duration of the temporary grant may not exceed 5 years, and in exceptional cases, it may be extended on reasoned application by the grantee.
From the above provision of the laws, a temporary grant in Cameroon can only be made over unoccupied or unexploited national land. How the Arch Bishop of Bamenda succeeded to cause the Minister of State Property Surveys and Land Tenure to issue a Temporary grant to him over occupied and exploited land in Ndzah village only God alone knows. When the Arch Bishop says that the administration of Mezam has made provision for a resettlement site to the Mbororos of Ndzah and that he made financial compensated to 13 of them, that only goes to justify the fact that the land allocated to the Catholic University in Ndzah village is occupied and exploited land.
On the other hand, on the 31st day of July 2013, the Court of First Instance of Bamenda delivered its ruling in suit No CFIBA/15CM/2013 instituted by Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada to evict the Arch Bishop and Catholic University from their land. While dismissing Ardo Adamu’s application, the presiding Magistrate advised as follows;
“This court’s advice to the applicant is simple; having found that the land in question falls within the definition of occupied and exploited national land, he should seize the competent Minister of state property and land tenure that made the grant or the competent administrative court”.
Meanwhile when Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada was served with a copy of the counter affidavit in suit No CFIBA/15CM/2013 and he saw Arrete No 00947/K.6.1/MINDAF/D1/D13 dated the 2nd day of September 2011 for the first time, his lawyer whom I am immediately challenged same with a petition addressed to the Minister of state property, surveys and land tenure in Yaounde. After three months, the Minister did not reply to the petition and as required by law, the Minister’s non reaction was considered as rejection and Ardo Adamu instituted the matter in the Administrative court of the North West Region in Bamenda in suit No NWAC/R/CF/004/2013. Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada also filed an application for a stay of execution of the Minister’s Arrete pending the determination of his suit challenging the legality of the said Arrete.
On the 7th day of March 2014, the Arch Bishop of Bamenda served Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada and other Mbororo family heads of Ndzah village with a 2nd “Quit Notice”, requesting them to quit their lands on or before the 14th day of March 2014 as any date thereafter, a caterpillar will destroy their houses and farms without further compensation. In the same vein, the Divisional Officer of Bamenda III Sub Division, served a letter on the Ardo and his subjects captioned “Occupation of your respective parcels on the resettlement site at Ndzah”. In his letter, the Divisional officer requested the Mbororo family heads of Ndzah village to immediately move to a new resettlement site as the ancestral lands they presently occupy had been allocated to the Archdiocese of Bamenda as a Temporary Grant. I immediately replied to the “Quit Notice” of the Arch Bishop and the letter of the Divisional Officer of Bamenda III, by reminding them that the legality of the Minister’s Arrete is pending determination in the Administrative court of the North West Region in Bamenda in suit No NWAC/R/CF/004/2013. I even attached a Certificate of filing of the suit in the Administrative court, signed by the Registrar-in-Chief of the court, attesting to the fact that Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada has instituted suit No NWAC/R/CF/004/2013 challenging Arrete No 00947/K.6.1/MINDAF/D1/D13 dated the 2nd day of September 2011.
On the 19th day of March 2014, the Arch Bishop of Bamenda sent a caterpillar to Ndzah village to destroy the houses of the Mbororo herders. I called the Senior Divisional Officer of Mezam by phone to find out whether his administration had sent a caterpillar to Ndzah to destroy the houses of the Mbororos and he insisted that he had given firm instructions to his subordinates not to interfere with the lands of the Mbororos in Ndzah untill the matter is resolved by the Administrative court of the North West region and the administration was not aware of any caterpillar going to the Mamada Hills in Ndzah.
The Mbororo herders of Ndzah came out like one person and successfully prevented the caterpillar from destroying their houses. It resulted in a squabble wherein the Arch Bishop’s representative and Director of lands in the archdiocese was seriously injured and the windscreen of a Toyota Hilux vehicle of the Archdiocese of Bamenda was shattered. Fon Christopher Achobang who sympathizes with the plight of the Mbororos of Ndzah had an injury on the head said to be inflicted by the Arch Bishop’s representative. One Abdu Karimu took elements of the 2nd Police District in Nkwen to the site to calm down the situation. Ironically, he was arrested the following day with one Mallam Yunusa on the strength of a Warrant of arrest and detained at the Judicial police for eight days and charged for having attempted to kill Mr Cosmas Njoban, the Arch Bishop’s representative and Director of lands.
On Thursday the 3rd day of April 2014, the Arch Bishop of Bamenda accompanied by about 30 seriously armed Gendarmes went to Ndzah village with a caterpillar and supervised the destruction of the houses of the Mbororos in the Mamada hills. The houses were completely destroyed on the 4th of April with Rev. Father Bibi supervising and Gendarmes guarding. I personally went to the site during the demolition exercise in the period of lent and took pictures of the destruction with women and children crying and a reverend father giving instructions as to the next house to be destroyed. The Mbororos of Ndzah from the 4th of April 2014 were rendered completely homeless by the Arch Bishop of Bamenda and at about 7,30 pm, those who had no family relations to go to, went to the Big Mankon Cathedral for shelter. When the Arch Bishop was informed, he called the Gendarmerie officers who guarded the caterpillar during the destruction exercise within the day who immediately went to the cathedral and tortured the Mbororos and sent them out of the cathedral compound. The Mbororos with little children started sleeping by the get into the cathedral while Gendarmes were inside preventing them from entering.
|(We have been displaced by the Church) placard says|
On the 7th day of April 2014, the Senior Divisional Officer of Mezam convened an emergency crisis meeting in his office with all stake holders in attendance and the agenda was to look for an immediate solution to the land dispute between the Mbororo community of Ndzah and the Archdiocese of Bamenda. The S.D.O later the same day set up a commission to move to the site and come out with the limits of 46.38 hectares of land allocated to the Arch Bishop as it was alleged that the Arch Bishop was occupying more than the land allocated to him . The commission moved to the site the following day and I was present when the Arch Bishop’s representative when requested by the commission, presented their site plan which shockingly to me, shows that the surface area of their land is 64 hectares and not 46 hectares. The commission however came out with the limits of the 46 hectares allocated to the Catholic University through the Arch Bishop and the Mbororos left the gate of the Big Mankon cathedral and occupied the remaining lands in the Mamada hills. The Ardo’s compound just like many other compounds destroyed are presently out of the 46 hectares occupied by the Arch Bishop.
I sincerely thank the S.D.O of Mezam for resolving this matter as a seasoned administrator. 10 family heads of the Mbororos of Ndzah had their compounds destroyed within the 46 hectares allocated to the Catholic University. 7 family heads including the Ardo had their compounds destroyed out of the 46 hectares allocated to the university. The Mbororos of Ndzah are presently struggling to build hurts in the Mamada hills to replace their destroyed houses pending the coming of the next dry season when sundry blocks can be made to build permanent houses. They have refused to go to the resettlement site which is a conflict zone between the Bambili and Ndzah villages.
My appeal is for the loving population of the North West region especially the Roman Catholic Christians whom I know are God fearing, to make free will financial contributions to the Mbororos of Ndzah through my office so that by November 2014, we can collective assist them with zinc to reconstruct their houses in the Mamada hills in Ndzah village.
It is for the population to judge whether the Archdiocese of Bamenda meant what they wrote in their communiqué that it would be wrong to give the impression that the Mbororos of Ndzah have been treated unfairly and that the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Bamenda stands for justice, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.
Done in Bamenda this 12th day of April 2014.
Barrister Robert NSO FON
Ardo Adamu Bi Mamada’s Lawyer,
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