Loyse Vincent

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries says notices served to nine residents in the Crown Point area on December 10, was “premature.” The notices, formally known as section 5 Notices directed residents to vacate state lands within seven days. Through a release The Ministry states that the notices signed by the Commissioner of State Lands were served in respect of four parcels of land required for the ANR Robinson Airport Expansion Project, however the order to vacate was repealed as the Ministry plans to seek further discussions with the residents as part of the formal land acquisition process.

After the residents were served, they expressed outrage as they said the Member of Parliament for Tobago West Shamfa Cudjoe held a virtual meeting with them on December 1, where a representative of NIDCO agreed to meet with the residents and assess each case individually. Residents said the Minister promised that she would have a subsequent meeting with them in 2-3 weeks time.

Efforts to reach Cudjoe for confirmation were unsuccessful however she did address the matter on her social media page, which stated: “I am therefore taken aback by the actions of the Commissioner of State Lands, and I have consulted the Minister of Agriculture, to whom the Commissioner of State Lands reports, to investigate the matter and work towards employing the necessary corrective action so that the affected residents would be treated fairly and respectfully.”

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries’ release coincides with the post as the release makes specific reference to the meeting hosted by minister Cudjoe.

“The service of those notices in that specific area known as Block D was premature and violated an undertaking given to affected residents that during a 2-3 week period after December 1, 2020 further discussions will be held with affected persons before the acquisition process continued.”

One of the residents served on December 10, Wolwin Lovell says he has legal documents to prove that he is the rightful owner of the parcel of land he occupies. However the notice served to Lovell states “records indicated that he was “duly compensated and remains unencumbered to date.”

He too was directed to “deliver up possession of the parcel of state land,” within seven days.

According to Lovell, in 2018 NIDCO claimed he was compensated for his property. However he provided legal documents, which proved that he paid for the property, which is still in his name. He said he recently erected an additional building on the property

“This new building here is a town and country approved building which I did a mortgage loan through the Mt Pleasant Credit Union which also the lawyer Mr Gift they realised that the land is in my name.”

According to the ministry’s release the section 5 notices are part of the formal acquisition process for lands in the Crompstain area in Tobago and “some of the land was previously acquired and paid for by the state in and after 1996, the undertaking of December 1, 2020 should not have been broken.”

The Commissioner of State Lands has agreed to allow the affected residents to provide information and documents they wish to and the Ministry of Agriculture Land and Fisheries, the line Ministry for the Commissioner of State Lands, will pursue open dialogue with all affected as part of the formal land acquisition process.

Guardian Media contacted Lovell for a response to the ministry’s statement, he said, the matter is currently in the hands of his lawyer.