Tension in Awka as indigenes protest forceful takeover of land, seek Obiano’s urgent intervention

Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 23 June 2014 | 4,171 times

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Hundreds of Awka indigenes including youths, old men and women in Awka yesterday protested the alleged forceful takeover of their large expanse of communal land at the Aguaba layout in the Anambra State capital by an indigene of the area, calling on Governor Willie Obiano to intervene urgently before the matter gets out of hand.

A visit by News Express to the land in dispute showed that all the food crops planted by the women had been uprooted and beacons used in plotting the land. Caterpillars were also at work, and the protesters had to forcefully stop the land clearing from continuing.

The women were seen sobbing uncontrollably as bulldozers ran over their farms, destroying yam, cassava, corn and other crops.

However, the man accused of confiscating the land, Chief Austin Ndigwe, a former local government chairman in the area and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), said the land in question was earmarked for a cattle market. Ndigwe said he started the construction of the market during his tenure as local government chairman but that his successors abandoned the project before the incumbent chairman, Mr. Azubuike Ilo, decided to resume work on it. Ndigwe accused the protesters of causing confusion, advising them to retrace their steps.

The protesters, who waved green leaves, said they had plotted the land for the family members who originally owned it, insisting that there was never a time the state government acquired it for any project.

Anambra State Government Gazette No. 29 dated 2nd August, 1990 describes the 118.66 hectares of land as a private property.

It was based on the status of the land as a private property that the Anambra State Ministry of Land, Survey and Town Planning, in a letter dated March 12, 2013 and signed by the then commissioner, Mr. Okoli Akirika, revalidated it, saying the import of the revalidation was that Aguaba layout situates outside state government acquisition.

Speaking on the matter, Chief Dilim Okafor, who doubles as the chairman of Land Management Committee for Awka Community, accused Ndigwe of being in the habit of confiscating people’s land and reselling same. He said that as somebody from the family that originally owned the land, Ndigwe knew that government did not acquire the disputed land.

According to Okafor, “Our people have been calling from all over the world when they were told that the largest private estate in Awka was being confiscated by one of us. We have made enquiries and found out that Governor Obiano did not know about what the man is doing.

“We are making efforts to calm down the youths and the women so that they would not do anything that could lead to breakdown of law and order. There is so much tension in the state capital because of this development and the earlier the state governor intervenes, the better for everybody.

“It is obvious that our people are being provoked, but we are optimistic that the state government will call Ndigwe to order because all the documents relating to the land are with us.”

“The community would articulate all the damaged crops with a view to dragging Ndigwe to court over the matter.”

•Photo shows Awka indigenes protesting the forceful takeover of their communal land, yesterday.

Source: News Express

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