Posted by News Express | 15 June 2020 | 579 times
By PAMELA EBOH, Awka
Elders of Umuneri Village, Isu-Aniocha, Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State on Sunday decried the forceful takeover of their ancestral lands by the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation, Awka.
They described as treasonable felony, the fraudulent and wicked invasion of the entire Umuneri Village land by the state Housing Development Corporation for the purpose of building an estate.
The elders who are between the ages of 80 and 100 said the Corporation had earlier negotiated 54.72 hectares of land with some people without recourse to the ancestral owners of the land.
Led by 100-year-old Chief Lawrence Ofulume, Chief Sylvester Aniefuna, aged 96 and Chief Augustine Nwankwo, 82-year-old, the elders said they have placed a caveat emptor on the land for buyers to beware of the danger signals.
They called on intending buyers of the 54.27 hectares of land for the proposed estate to avoid doing business with Anambra state Housing Development Corporation Awka until all matters pertaining to it is resolved to avoid losing their investment.
Speaking on behalf of the elders, Chief Augustine Nwankwo Okafor observed that Isu-Aniocha has boundaries with Okpuno Community and Enugu-Agidi and has nothing to do with Awka for anything in its environs to have the label name of Awka.
He wondered why the estate in their land should be answering Green Valley Housing Estate Awka instead of Green Valley Housing Estate, Isu-Aniocha, Awka North.
Okafor, a one-time chairman of Umuneri village for 19 years, declared that that “the fraud in the land acquisition cannot stand,” adding: “It’s strange for Awka to be claiming our land and Housing Development Corporation is giving them attention.”
The elders further called on Governor Willie Obiano, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, and the Anambra state Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Abang, to intervene as they did previously to forestall impending mayhem that may arise from the land dispute.
They called for a peaceful resolution with rightful owners of the land to resolve all issues pertaining to the forceful take over.
“We appeal to the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abang, to ensure his men are not used by the Housing Development Corporation or anyone at that to intimidate and humiliate their children and wives going to their farmlands to farm.
“Currently some thugs and cultists are laying ambush in our land and beating, chasing our people out of the land, as well as threatening to shoot them if they enter the land to farm.
“Even if there was any land our people gave out to the Housing Development Corporation without our knowledge as claimed with the 54.72 hectares, the agency has reneged from its agreed obligations with our people the land was handed over to them, hence the deal is now, null and void and of no effect.
“Why is the Housing Development Corporation not paying us the N5 billion general damages for trespass on our land. We have economic trees, timber trees, agricultural crops, medicinal shrubs, herbs, deities and shrines located in our farmland, but all were destroyed when Housing Corporation invaded it with impostors from Ezinano Village, Awka Community.”
While noting that they have no other land to farm in line with the mandate of Governor Obiano’s directive to Anambrarians to return to agriculture, they decried a situation where their women and children would have their farm produce taken away from them and chased away from their ancestral land by armed thugs and security agents sent by Housing Development Corporation in connivance with Awka people laying claims to all their ancestral lands.
The elders also petitioned the new Awka North Peace and Reconciliation Committee set up by the Anambra State Government for Awka North Local Government area led by Rev. Fr Dr Mathew Attansey.
In his reaction, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abang gave reassurance that the police in the state were determined to safe guard lives and property of the citizens.
He urged all parties to eschew violence as it does not pay, but rather tow all legal avenues of resolving the impasse.
CP Abang, who spoke through the state Police Public Relations Officer, said: “Let them explore the legal avenues and eschew violence.”
Recall that Obiano while receiving report on Usu-Anaocha community school land encroachment panel warned land grabbers in Isu-Aniocha Community to desist from the act.
The Managing Director, Anambra State Housing Development Corporation, Arc Willie Okafor, on his part regretted the attitude being put up by Umuneri people over the land, insisting that the State Government had paid them compensation for the said land.
He said: “They are lying. Part of their land was validly acquired since 2015, they went to court to challenge the acquisition and we had a settlement that formed the judgement of the court, after months of dialogue.
“They have collected their compensation. Some of those people are criminals on rampage selling government land to unsuspecting speculators and trying to thwart every government effort towards development, but the law will catch up with them.”
Okafor accused the people of destroying government property for no justification, but did not go into details.
Though he declined to mention the actual amount paid for compensation, he suggested it be obtained from the High Court or an application be made to the Housing Corporation for the specifics.
But the consent judgment obtained by our Correspondent had no information on the hectares of land acquired with terms and conditions appropriate for the community, the amount paid as compensation to Isu-Aniocha Community or any other person or community and by who earlier in a petition to the Governor and Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Chief Lawrence Ofulume on behalf of others, through his lawyer, Chief I.C Machie Esq, the elders warned that any trespassing into their land will be resisted.
They warned that any land to be released in lease or sale must be with the consent and approval of Umuneri General Assembly and its principal members like the elders.
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