By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
Isuaniocha Community in Awka North LGA of Anambra State has sued the state government, claiming N5 billion as general damages for allegedly trespassing on the community’s land.
The land was allegedly acquired by the state government from Awka for the development of a housing estate in the area.
The suit by Isuaniocha Community has as defendants, the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation; Anambra State Ministry of Housing and Urban Development; Anambra State Ministry of Lands, Survey and Town Planning, as well as Messrs Willie Okafor and Anthony Nwofor.
In the Suit No A/243/2019, filed at the High Court of Anambra State sitting in Awka, the plaintiffs are claiming N200 million special damages for alleged destruction of 2000 economic trees at the rate of N200, 000 per tree; N30 million for 300 timber trees; N500, 000 for medicinal shrubs; N10 million for agricultural crops and N4.75 billion for four shrines and three deities.
Messrs Geoffrey Udeh, Basil Ezeike, Jude Okoye and Anthony Nwogbo, who filed the suit on behalf of Umuneri Village in Isuaniocha also urged the court to grant perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants, their privies, agents and or cohorts from further trespassing on the said land.
Part of their 31-point affidavit read: “In May, 2019, the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation and the other defendants engaged thugs, cultists, and some mercenaries and moved them into the plaintiffs’ said land to protect the bulldozers, caterpillars, etc., they put on the land and to ward off the plaintiffs from their land.
“The bulldozers, caterpillars, etc., damaged the agricultural crops, economic crops, medicinal shrubs, timber trees, shrines and juju (deities). The massive damage done on the plaintiffs’ land by the defendants and their agents and cohorts was very massive, thereby impoverishing the plaintiffs beyond measure.
“The plaintiffs were prevented from further cultivating on the land, reaping from the economic trees on the land, making use of the medicinal shrubs and trees, worshipping and consulting shrines and juju on their land which have been giving signs of wreaking havoc on the plaintiffs and the defendants that desecrated them and other persons involved in the desecration directly and or remotely.”
According to them, a petition was written to the Anambra State Commissioner of Police through the plaintiffs’ counsel, complaining against the massive malicious damage. They regretted that the CP had failed to investigate the petition to date.
The plaintiffs said that after the malicious damage/trespass, the defendants engaged surveyors who conspired with them in plotting the land and installing beacons without the plaintiffs’ authority and installed sign posts with the inscription: “This land belongs to Anambra State Housing Development Corporation … keep off”, all over the plaintiffs’ land, which, they said, were still standing on the land.
They added that the Anambra State Governor did not revoke the interest of the plaintiffs in the land and the land was not compulsorily acquired by the governor, or by any other authority, including the defendants. The plaintiffs, for their part, did not consent to any acquisition or revocation and or trespass
“The plaintiffs have been prevented by the defendants from making use of the land i.e, farming on same, reaping the economic trees thereon, burying the dead in the area designated as burial ground, consulting their shrines, deities, etc., since May, 2019.
“The plaintiffs, who are predominantly farmers, have been suffering from undue hunger arising from massive damage to their agricultural crops, economic trees, etc., and who have been prevented since May, 2019 from assessing their land for agricultural activities. They are suffering colossal damage by reason of activities of the defendants on the land,” the affidavit read.
They prayed the court to declare that the plaintiffs, as owners of the land, were entitled to the right of occupancy over the piece of land.
The statement of claims read in part,: ”The Plaintiffs are natives of Umuneri Village in Isuanaocha Town, Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State; particularly the 1st plaintiff, 2nd plaintiff, 3rd plaintiff who are also the chairman, vice chairman, secretary respectively of Umuneri Village meeting while the 4th plaintiff is one of the outstanding principal members thereof.
”The Plaintiffs have the authority and consent of the principal members of Umuneri Village Isuaniocha Town to file and prosecute this suit on their behalf.
”The 1st defendant is a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal meant to commercially purchase, lease or otherwise acquire, hold dispose of lane, etc.
”The 2nd defendant is the Managing Director of the 1st Defendant while 3rd Defendant is the Estate Director of the 1st Defendant.
” The 4rd defendant is a Ministry in Anambra State which handles housing and urban development matters in Anambra State while the 5th Defendant is in charge of lands, etc., in Anambra State which Ministry the 1st and 2nd defendants claim, allocated the land in dispute to the 1st Defendant.’’