Centenary City: Enugu communities cry out over demolition of ancestral land

Posted by News Express | 4 March 2020 | 1,282 times

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•Governor Ugwuanyi

The Amechi and Obeagu communities in Awkunanaw, Enugu State, have cried out over the demolition of their ancestral lands.

The people lamented that they woke up on Monday morning only to be greeted with the demolition of their houses where they said was their ancestral home.

The demolition was alleged to have been carried out by an estate developer, Private Estates International West Africa Limited (PEIWA), who they claimed had occupied their land illegally.

The large expanse of land, measuring 1097 hectares christened Centenary City or new Enugu City, was said to have been acquired by the estate developers during the Sullivan Chime administration but the owners Amechi and Obeagu communities claimed that the developers, in concert with the then government, annexed their ancestral land without consent.

They said that through improper documentation and without recourse to the owners of the land (Amechi/Obeagu) as observed in a document suspected to be a forged gazette, the current administration in the state revoked the certificate of occupancy from PEIWA.

Despite the revocation, the estate developers still hung on to the land while the traditional owners of the land continued building their homes in some sections of the land.

However, in the wee hours of Monday, bulldozers were drafted to the section of the traditional owners of the land to demolish buildings being erected by the people.

The people of the communities who came to the site later in the morning made a passionate plea to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to give the revocation of the land a bite and value by formally handing over their ancestral land back to them, adding that the “absence of this, is giving the estate developers the guts to hold on to the land and have the courage to demolish our houses erected on our ancestral home,” the community said through one of their leaders, Ozo Joseph Nnaji.”

Nnaji told reporters at the site of the demolition that the “this is our community land, our ancestral home where various families build their residential homes. Some have completed theirs, while others are still building.

“They came around 2am this morning with men in police uniform, and deployed bulldozers to demolish the buildings, fences and destroyed everything belonging to the community.

“The reason for demolishing our houses is that they will not want us to live here. They have been saying it, that we are poor. They said they don’t want poor neighborhood around here.

“They called us that they want us to negotiate with them. That they will pay us off. That we should relocate because they don’t want us here. That the way they want to develop the place, we cannot meet up with the standard. But we cannot not leave our ancestral home for them.”

Nnaji maintained that the estate developers do not have any legal authority to demolish their buildings because their occupation of the land was revoked in November last year.

“There was a time they brought something like a gazette that purportedly gave them authority over the land. That gazette turned out to be untrue (fake) although the matter is still pending in court.”

The State Commissioner for Lands could not be reached for comments but a senior official at the ministry who pleaded anonymity confirmed that the land “housing the Centenary Estate was revoked on November 27 last year.”

In its reaction through a statement signed by its chairman, Pat Utomi, and vice chairman, Norman Markgraaf, PEIWA states inter alia:

“On November 27, 2019, the Government of Enugu State, with no prior notice of any breach whatsoever, issued a Notice of Revocation of the 1,097 hectares of the land granted to PEIWA. Since there was no basis for this drastic act, PEIWA’s solicitors wrote the ENSG giving notice of their intention to go to court.

“PEIWA also reached out to the ENSG to ascertain the reason for the purported revocation and to complain that no notice of intention to revoke was served on it. Matters soon escalated when the ENSG despite the peace moves of PEIWA went on the land and put up signboards advertising the land for sale.

“The Board of PEIWA was therefore forced to seek legal redress from the High Court in Enugu State, and on 17/12/2019 an interim injunction was granted restraining the ENSG its agents and privies from taking steps to implement the said order of revocation.  The matter is still pending in court.

“But in spite of the interim court injunction, various persons claiming to be owners of the land, have invaded the land destroying structures running into hundreds of millions of naira.  The impunity with which these acts have been carried on, suggest some official encouragement and protection.

“Surprisingly, the ENSG has now ‘manufactured’ a Notice of Intention to revoke the C of O.  The notice of intention which is dated 30/10/2019 and gave PEIWA 21 days notice of its intention to revoke the C of O for non-payment of ground rent and premium.

“The notice of intention was allegedly delivered to PEIWA on 30/11/2019.  In other words, by the papers ENSG filed in the case in court, it revoked the C of O, three days before it delivered the notice of intention to revoke. There can be no clearer manifestation of fraud and ill-motivated malice.”




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