By Mmaduabuchi Onwumelu
Over 300 hundred indigenes of Awka, comprising men, women and youths, under the auspices of Ezinano, have shutdown expressways and streets to protest over alleged encroachment on their lands by some communities with the assistance of the Anambra State Police Command.
The protesters, who hailed from 20 out of 33 villages in Awka, which included Amikwo, Eziawka, Agulu and Umuokpu blocs, blocked the Awka axis of the Enugu/Onitsha Expressway for about an hour, bearing placards of different inscriptions, some of which read, ”Police stay away from our fathers land”; ”Police go for security, not our land”; ”Anambra State Police CP, leave our land alone”; and so on.
The youth president of Ezinano, Mr. Tochukwu Nwosu, while addressing the media, alleged that some of the communities laying claims over the land had reportedly contracted the police to construct a post on the land, as well as develop it for the contenders.
Nwosu further maintained that the land under contention was part of those they shared boundary with Enugwu-Agidi, Nawfia, Isuaniocha and Okpuno, adding that they had contracted some contractors to develop the property only for the police to chase them away without explanation.
‘The land is owned by Ezinano Community, comprising 5 villages in Amikwo; 7 villages in Ezi-Awka; 7 villages in Agulu-Awka; and one village of Umuokpu. We have a boundary with Okpuno (Awka South Local Government Area); Nawfia and Enugwu-Agidi (Njikoka LGA). We learnt that the police want to construct a police post at the place and to help one of the communities in developing a part as an estate.
‘That is why we are kicking against it. We don’t need a police post on it. We have our own developers but the police chased the contractors away, seized their property and so on. This land belongs to us. We have been to court with Enugwu-Agidi and won. We have been to court with Isuaniocha and Okpuno and won.
We are currently at the Supreme Court. We want the police to stay clear of the land. We have written to them but no reply. We have written to the Anambra State Government too,’ he added.
But addressing the protesters at the Anambra State Police Command Headquarters in Amawbia, the State Police Commissioner, Mr Aderemi Adeoye, denied the involvement of the force in any land matter, explaining that they were only trying to stop the breach of law and order.
‘Protest is part of democracy. You have no problem. You have behaved in a civilized manner. On this matter of land between you and Enugwu-Agidi, it is possible there is a communication gap. When the complaint was brought to us, we tried to bring peace but gunmen opened fire on us. We have arrested those hoodlums and charged them to court. We have called for a meeting over this land but 34 people from Enugwu-Agidi came but none from you.
‘We have received correspondence from your lawyers. We saw that the matter is at the Supreme Court. We don’t know who took you to the Supreme Court. We are assuring you that we are not going to take away any land. Kindly go home and rest.
We are not in Anambra State to take away people’s inheritance but to maintain peace, law and order. When a request came for us to construct a police post to help wade away gunmen operating around the area, we came. But when we received a letter from Ezinano people to keep off, we stayed clear,’ Adeoye said.