CLO raises alarm over illegal demolition of houses in Anambra •Calls for probe of OCHA Brigade

Posted by News Express | 13 May 2017 | 2,363 times

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The South-East zone of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has called for an investigation into the activities of Ocha Brogade, while drawing attention to the massive demolition of residential buildings at Okpuno Ezi Nkwele in Anambra State.

In a statement issued on Thursday in Onitsha, Comrade Aloysius Attah, Zonal Chairman of the organisation in the South East, pointed out that landlords and residents of Okpuno Ezi–Nkwele Estate in Nkwele-Ezunaka in Oyi Local Government Area of the state are passing through the most traumatic period of their lives.

He also revealed: “Widows and distraught property owners in the area including scores of Anambra indigenes who ran home from the Boko Haram ravaged parts of the North are experiencing another tragedy worse than what they suffered in the North owing to the wanton demolition of their properties by the Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra a.k.a Ocha Brigade purportedly acting on the executive orders of Governor Willie Obiano.”

It narrated that “What started as mere threat to the people of the area to contribute a certain amount of money to ‘regularise’ their property standing with the government snowballed into a full blown devastating experience since 24th April 2017, when the Ocha Brigade Commander, Kenneth Okonkwo moved into the estate with an excavator, bulldozer and bevy of security agents including the Police, Army and Naval officers, mowing down buildings and throwing men, women and children into panic and psychological torture.”

According to the statement, some of the property owners who spoke to the CLO alleged that Okonkwo said he was acting on the instructions of the Governor to raise N2 billion from the Estate owners for the Governor’s second term re-election bid.

“The property owners ran helter-skelter when  they realised that Okonkwo meant ‘business’ as their buildings were being ‘cannibalised’ and had allegedly raised about N39 million so far to Okonwo while frantically running around to meet up with more demands.

“Apart from collective demand paid by the Landlords Association, individual property owners were alleged to have paid amounts ranging from N500,000 to N1,000,000 to Okonkwo and his aides for their buildings to be spared in the ongoing demolition exercise.

“When the CLO visited the estate, it was observed that the demolition was being carried out in a haphazard way lending credence to the fact that some were actually spared when some palms might have been actually ‘greased’.

“Enquiries by the CLO actually confirmed that some portions of the said area were given to the government on lease for Agricultural purposes in the year 1937 during the colonial era.  Indigenes of the community said successive governments in the state have often defaulted in the payment of royalty to the community for a cumulative period of 77 years.

“Plots of lands belonging to the United Ezi-Nkwele Landlords Association is clearly detached from the Agric farm land but the indigenes told the CLO that government has not been forthcoming in delineating the boundaries between the farm land and the remaining plots. But the landlords’ association was duly registered with the CAC while government turned the other eye when they commenced developing the area over ten years ago, built houses, constructed roads and installed electricity with streets also approved by Oyi Local Government Area.

“We therefore view the present demolition exercise as not only callous, insensitive but a manifestation of excesses of government aides emboldened in their acts by the liberalism of the state chief executive whom some corrupt minded individuals have been exploiting for their personal gains knowing that they will not be reprimanded or punished. The action is condemnable by the CLO.

“Chapter 2 Section 14b of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government and (c) “the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.

“Responsiveness is one of the core cardinal characteristics of good governance. The silence of the government of Anambra State since this ugly development started is totally condemned. The Governor has also not deemed it necessary to visit the estate or grant audience to the affected property owners in the area thereby leaving them at the mercy of name-droppers and aides who have instead reaped bountifully from their problem. Why carry out a demolition exercise at this period without proper notification and laid down rules?

“For those who ran back to their states from the North owing to insecurity and fear for their lives from the activities of insurgents to still suffer the same fate in Igbo land, (Anambra State) sends a very wrong signal and such doesn’t cast any positive image on the present Obiano administration even when he is seeking re-election in office.

“We call for the immediate halt of any further demolition in the said area and also total evacuation of any vestiges of the demolition machines in the area. This will calm frayed nerves and lead to a drop in the blood pressure of most of the residents of the area who have been at the verge of suffering several health complications since the demolition started.

“This is the time to curtail the excesses of Ocha Brigade and its Commander.  In the course of this inhuman demolition, scores of people were arrested and dumped in DSS custody.  It still baffles the CLO on the link between the DSS and Ocha Brigade and how people who were not arrested with weapons were dumped in a Secret Service cell.

“The government should order for a full scale investigation into what transpired in the demolition exercise and the role played by Mr. Kenneth Okonkwo and his aides in the whole saga most especially on the issues of exchange of money.

“The Governor and Government of Anambra State should come out and make a categorical statement stating all the facts on the allegation of collecting N2 billion for the Governor’s re-election project.

“Let the government set up a panel of enquiry made up of people of impeccable character that will not only come out with a clear delineation of the boundary between the Agric farm land and the other estate but ensure that all allegations of bribery, intimidation and selective implementation of the demolition exercise will be clearly addressed.

“Justice must be served on this anomaly and we demand that those whose houses have been demolished already shall not be made sacrificial lambs in this case. Some of the affected widows should be rehabilitated immediately.”

Source: News Express

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