Sequel to the protest by some elements in Nimo Community in Njikoka LGA of Anambra State recently, Fides was among a team of journalists that encountered the traditional ruler of Nimo in Njikoka LGA of Anambra State, Igwe Maxi Ike Oliobi, (Eze Oranyelu) Owelle of Nimo, to get his side of the story.
Fides Mike Nnebuife, reports that communication gap may be responsible for much of the problem between the town and those elements as a visit to the contentious land called Obodo Oma Estate, will reveal that the leadership of town is actually on the verge of building a model city for Nimo.
With the total size of designed roads in the estate being over 31 kilometers, the estate will contain such facilities as hospitals, industries, churches, among others, with plans for enough water supply already made. It also contains a lake which the town intends to hand over to professional developers to handle.
Opposite the estate is Isiaku Medical Oxygen Plant that produces between 34 and 40 cylinders daily and heavily patronised by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Amaku, Awka and Nnewi. The product from the plant is also used for industrial use such as the cutting of metal and welding work.
But first, we needed to know why the community stopped the protest by a section of the town. Responding to the question, the traditional ruler of Nimo, Igwe Maxius Ike Oliobi, clearly vexed by the actions of the protesters, said, ‘I’m happy having you guys in my palace. I heard what was going on, that they want to protest but I said, yes, people have that right to protest but there must be a process so that the protest doesn’t turn into another thing.
‘Secondly, I looked at the cream of people who said they were protesting and I didn’t see any reasonable human there. They are charlatans. I have been in Nimo for six year and I have only gone to Abuja twice for the past six years. I have been in Anambra State and in Nimo.
I also want to mention that they said we are selling the land, pocketing the money. Is it possible for anybody to be selling community land and be pocketing the money for his private use? It is not possible, especially in Nimo. This is a town where we have the most number of educated people. We have medical doctors, technocrats and everything.
‘Coming to the land itself, Nimo Town Development Union, over sixteen to seventeen years ago, unanimously agreed what to do with the land. It is not Owelle Nimo, it is not Onowu Nimo. Nimo people have a place where decisions are being taken; whatever decisions taken there stand. The place is called Egwe-Egwe Nimo. Anyone that has a problem takes it to Egwe-Egwe. If you and any Nimo person have any issues, they leave it to be settled on Egwe-Egwe Day.
‘The Owelle that I succeeded set a committee with who he discussed and agreed on what to do with the land. Thereafter, the Owelle died. The chairman of the committee was Barr. Peter Afuba (SAN). They handed me over when I came onboard.
Some of the members of the committee that are dead were replaced, with the committee still headed by Barr. Afuba. They continued to hold meetings at Egwe-Egwe and every decision made during the committee meetings was relayed to the town members for their approval and it has been going on for four years before the real project commenced about two years ago.’
Fides gathered that the estate is split into such categories as lower density, medium density, higher density and executive plots. The high density is about 80%. ‘The agreement at Egwe-Egwe is that we will not sell to outsiders for now.
The one we are going to sell to outsiders are industrial plots which sixty percent of the buyers shall be Nimo indigenes. It was unanimously agreed in Nimo General Assembly. The Nimo General Assembly is usually attended by all Nimo men, including representatives of different branches,’ Igwe Oliobi elucidated.
He said that Engr. Tony Ozodinobi, the former Secretary of FCT, Abuja, is the person in charge of the projects, with every expenditure being authorized by three signatories and every money realized going to the NTDU account. Barr. Afuba and the engineer in charge gives rundowns of whatever that is going on, the Owelle disclosed.
He said he could not give the actual amount that had been spent because did not receive transaction alerts but he said a good survey of projects going on there would answer all the questions.
For the allocation of the land, Fides gathered that anyone who is interested in the land goes to the Nimo Town Development Union secretariat and obtains an application form after paying the sum of 10, 000 Naira into a First Bank account of the NTDU. The form contains account numbers where one can make payment for the land. The application is then processed and the land allocated.
About farming in the Land
Up to two to three percent of the public still farm on the land where development has not reached, and for where crops are affected due the development, the owners are compensated. But that does not prevent people from farming there, Fides learnt.
About the account of money realized and expenditures made
Part of the allegations against the leadership of Nimo Community is non-accountability. The story goes that they just allocate land and divide the proceeds among themselves without using such to develop the town.
But the Owelle said the account is always read to the committee at Egwe-Egwe at meetings and wondered how those accusing him of always dodging national meetings. ‘How can they know the truth when they don’t attend meetings?’ he queried.
Breaking down how money realized from the sale of lands there is managed so that the community benefits, he said some percentage of the money from the sale of the land went to the NTDU account, with three people signing, as agreed in the general assembly for development of the community and gave an example with the ongoing Civic Centre under construction.
On the allegation that the committee had realized N900m from the sale of the land and told the town that it spent N1.2b, the visibly annoyed monarch invited any doubter, and indeed, the journalists to go there, see things for themselves, and make their own conclusions as to whether the amount said to have been spent was worth it or not.
But Fides findings indicate that perhaps, those opposed to the development of that land may not have tried enough to be better informed or that the leadership has not communicated enough. But the Owelle said there was a time buses were brought after a general meeting of the town to convey people to the site but those who are protesting today shunned the invitation.
To many people who are more abreast of developments about the land, it is difficult to know why anyone will be opposed to it. One of them, Sir Pius Okoyeuzu, has this to say.
‘This issue of Ana Owa and the controversy surrounding it is what I cannot comprehend. I am a regular attendee of Nimo General Assembly Meetings, usually held on 27th December of every year.
The meeting of 28th December, 2020, (28 because, 27th was Sunday) where the final decision to enter the land was taken, was far reaching. Deliberation on this issue took Nimo more than 8 hours and the committee led by Chief P.
A. Afuba (SAN) was given the mandate to plot and sell some parts of the land to the Nimo indigenes so that we can take effective possession of the land. It was further agreed that the residential plots would be sold to Nimo indigenes while the industrial plots would be sold to both indigenes and non-indigenes.
‘The critics have not said the committee is working outside its brief. I am aware that this committee had since inception continued to report to both the NEC, NTDU and the Nimo General Assembly.
Those demonstrating do not mean well for Nimo. Otherwise where have they channelled their grievances to before going to the streets to demonstrate? They made no case to the Owelle’s Palace, the NTDU or even to the committee in charge of Owa Land. They do not even have any clear demand as far as I know.
‘Nimo agreed at Egwe-gwe that there would be no compensation except for those whose economic crops are damaged during the process. I am aware that those who lost their crops when Caterpillars entered the place were all paid as agreed at Egwe-gwe Nimo on 28th December, 2020.
‘The worst is that the so called leaders of this group do not attend Nimo meetings and it is difficult to actually know what their problem is. Obviously, Ana Owa cannot be a problem to any genuine Nimo man.’
Has this summed up the entire scenario? Perhaps.