By Jude Atupulazi
Some elders of Umuneri Village, Isuaniocha, Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State, have condemned what they term the forceful takeover of their entire lands by the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation Awka, led by Arc. Willie Okafor.
The elders, who said they had placed a caveat emptor on the land for buyers to aware of the situation to avoid regrets, asked all intending buyers of the 54.27 hectares of land Green Valley Housing Estate, among others surrounding it, shun doing business with the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation Awka, with regard to the land until all matters pertaining to it was resolved or risk losing their investment.
They described as treasonable felony, fraudulent and wicked, the invasion of the entire Umuneri Village land by the Housing Development Corporation to build an estate against 54.72 hectares being negotiated with them by some of its people, but could not recognize the ancestral owners of the land.
The elders, within the age range of between 100 years and 80, were led by Chief Lawrence Ofulume, a 100-year old from Iruoje Kindred; Chief Sylvester Aniefuna, 96-year old from Iruowelle Kindred, and Chief Augustine Nwankwo Okafor, 82-year old from Iruonukwu Kindred.
The elders, speaking through, Chief Augustine Nwankwo Okafor, wondered why the estate in their land should answer Green Valley Housing Estate, Awka, instead of Green Valley Housing Estate, Isuaniocha, Awka North. He therefore said the fraud in the land acquisition could not stand.
Chief Okafor who is a former Umuneri Village chairman for 19 years before handing over 6 months ago, said Isuanocha had boundaries with Okpuno Community at the Obibia Stream and also with Enugu-Agidi, and had nothing to do with Awka. He therefore expressed surprise that Awka was claiming their land and the Housing Development Corporation giving them attention.
They called on Governor Willie Obiano, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, and the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, CP John Abang, to intervene as they did previously to forestall the impending danger signal coming from the land dispute, by directing the Corporation’s MD to initiate peaceful resolution with rightful owners of the land by resolving all issues pertaining to the forceful take over.
The elders also appealed to the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, CP John Abang, to ensure his men were not used by the Housing Development Corporation or anyone, to intimidate and humiliate their children and wives going to their farmlands.
They alleged that currently some thugs and cultists were laying ambush in their land and beating, chasing them out of the land, as well as threatening to shoot them if they entered the land to farm.
The elders however noted that even if there was any land given to the Housing Development Corporation without their knowledge as claimed by the 54.72 hectares, the agency had reneged from its agreed obligations with its subjects, when it was handed over to them, hence the deal was now, null and void and of no effect.
They wondered why the Housing Development Corporation should not pay them the N5 Billion being special and general damages for trespass on their land, comprising their economic trees, timber trees, agricultural crops, medicinal shrubs, herbs, deities and shrines located in their farmland but, destroyed when Housing Corporation invaded it with impostors from Ezinano Village, Awka Community.
The elders further petitioned the new Awka North Peace and Reconciliation Committee set up by the Anambra State Government for Awka North LGA led by Rev. Fr Dr Matthew Attansey with members drawn from indigenous clergy in the ten communities of the local government to ensure the injustices against the people of Umuneri, Isuaniocha was reversed.
Reacting, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, CP John Abang, appealed to all parties to eschew violence, but to seek all legal avenues to resolve the impasse.
He assured that the police in Anambra were determined to safe guard the life and property of the citizens.
Governor Willie Obiano, it will be recalled, had earlier warned land grabbers in Isuaniocha Community to desist from the act. He spoke while receiving a report from Isuaniocha Community School Land Encroachment Panel, led by Igwe Rowland Odegbo of Nteje.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C Don Adinuba, has directed further inquiries to the Commissioner for Housing and Urban Renewal, Hon Mike Okonkwo, and Commissioner for Lands, Physical Planning and Urban Renewal, Mr Bonaventure Enemali.
However, efforts to reach them as at press time proved abortive and the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, could not respond too.
But in his reaction, the Managing Director, Anambra State Housing Development Corporation, Arc Willie Okafor, decried the attitude of Umuneri people over the land he said the Anambra State Government had paid them compensation, wondering why they should be lying.
‘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 said, accusing them of destroying government’s property for no justification.
Arc. Okafor could however not give the details on specifics like the actual amount of compensation paid, among others. He requested that the true copy of the consent judgment be obtained from the High Court or an application be made to the Housing Corporation for the specifics.
When obtained, it was noticed that the consent judgment had no information on the hectares of land acquired with terms and conditions appropriate for the community, as well as the amount paid as compensation to Isuaniocha Community or any other person or community.
Earlier in a petition to the Governor and Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, by Chief Lawrence Ofulume, had on behalf of others, through his lawyer, Chief I.C. Machie Esq, warned that any trespassing into their land would be resisted and trespassers driven away with anything at their disposal through due process of the law.
They warned that any land to be released in lease or sold must be with the consent and approval of Umuneri General Assembly and its principal members like the elders.
Meanwhile, Umuneri Village Assembly had dragged the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation Awka, Arch Willie Okafor; Managing Director of the Corporation, Mr Anthony Nwofor; Estate Director in the Corporation, Anambra State Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and Anambra State Ministry of Lands, Survey and Town Planning, before an Awka High Court presided over by Justice D.O.C. Amaechina, on Suit No. A/243/2019 for invading the land of Umuneri, Isuaniaocha, with dangerous weapons.