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Monday, July 22, 2024

Another Land-related Protest Rocks Anambra, As Ifite Villagers Seek Soludo’s Intervention


By Izunna Okafor, Awka

The people of Ifite village in Enugwu-Agidi, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, have called for the intervention of appropriate authorities in the State over what they described as a lingering land-related cases in the village, involving some affluent individuals in the State.

The villagers made their concerns known during a peaceful protest in Awka the Anambra State capital on Thursday, during which they also indicted the Management of the GSS Real Estate and Investment Limited; the MD/CEO of the Blue Shield Security company, Ọzọ Jeff Nweke, and other influential individuals, as parts of those trespassing into their communal lands.

Recall that Ọzọ Nweke is currently remanded in a correctional centre in the State, few after a similar protest from the people of Mbananọ Community of Enugwu-Agidi who accused him of forcefully trespassing into their land, as well as intimidating them with the officials of his security company, among other crimes he was accused of.

It was barely one week after the well-attended protest that another group of individuals, now from Ifite Village of the same town, rose again in protest, accusing more individuals of another land trespassing case and alleged forceful use of their security operatives to intimidate the masses.

The protesters also accused the State’s Commissioner for Lands of aiding and conniving with the alleged trespassers to re-register the land in question, which, they said, had long been registered in 2021 as Trans-Obibia Layout, gazetted, and also published in the Anambra State Official Gazette No. 8. Vol. 15, December 2005, on Page B197 — B203.

Numbering over 200, the protesters, comprising the old and the young, were seen wielding placards with different inscriptions, such as: “Soludo, Please, Give Solution to Our Land”, “Registration of Dubai Estate within Ifite Village Land Is Illegal”, “Commissioner for Lands, How Much Were You Given to Sell Our Farmlands?”, “Dubai Estate Does Not Have Any Land within Ifite Village Enugwu-Agidi”, “Dubai Estate Obey the Court Order”.

Other inscriptions on the placards include “Commissioner for Land, Respect the Order of the Court”, “Commissioner for Land Cannot Sell Ifite Village Enugwu-Agidi Land”, “Dubai Estate Has Not Secured Any Land within Ifite Village, Enugwu-Agidi”, “Members of Ifite Village Enugwu-Agidi Are Law-abiding Citizens”, “G.S.S. Obey the Court Order”, “Trans-Obibia Layout of Enugwu-Agidi Does Not Belong to Any Estate Developer”, among other such inscriptions.

The protesters, who marched from the State’s Ministry of Lands to the State’s Government House, also chanted some solidarity songs as they marched.

Speaking on behalf of others, the spokesperson of the group and former Vice Chairman of the Village, Mr. Benjamin Nwanneka Ejinaka explained that the major essence of the protest was to express their grievances and dissatisfaction over what has been going on in their land, as well as seek the intervention of the appropriate authority, to ensure the right thing is done.

He went memory lane to narrate how the land case started from nothing to its current status where he alleged that some people now ignore court order and trespass into their land, despite the land being a subject of suit before the court.

According to him, sometime in 2001, and consequent upon the promulgation of Trans-Obibia Layout Planning Scheme Enugwu-Agidi Approval Order 2001, Anambra State, published in Anambra state Official Gazette No. 8 Vol. 15, December 2005 at Page 3 197-8203, the Trans-Obibia Layout was created and established in Enugwu-Agidi.

He explained that the creation came after due surveying, parcellations and procedures approved by the appropriate authorities, including Bureau of Lands, Survey and Urban Planning Awka, Anambra State Urban Development Board (ASUDEB), as it then was.

While noting that the indigenes of Ifite Village in Enugwu-Agidi were the allotees/grantee of the Trans-Obibia Layout, he said it was allotted/granted to them in 2015 by the Mbanano Community, adding that the members of the village were granted a total of 338 plots of land out of the plots and the area of the Layout, the Trans-Obibia Layout.

According to him, the ownership of the 338 plots of within Trans-Obibia Layout by the members of lfite Village Enugwu Agidi has never been contested or challenged by any person or group of persons, as everybody knows they were the rightful owners of the land.

He revealed that after receiving the allotted portion from the Mbanano Community, the leadership of Ifite village allocated to each eligible adult male member of the Village, plots of land, as well as also issued each of them allocation certificate to enable them take immediate possession and exclusive ownership of the plot(s) of land granted/allotted to them without the interference of any person, group or individual.

According to Chief Ejinaka, while the people had concluded a survey and worked out a master plan for the development of the land, they were beginning to develop and enjoy the benefits of their land, only for them to see the Management of the Dubai Estate (a subsidiary of the G.S.S. Real Estate and Investment Limited), as they surfaced from nowhere and began resurveying and parcellating the said land, with a view to mutilating its master plan and also rename it from Trans-Obibia Layout to Ifite Ogbanadiji Layout, all without the authorization of the land owners.

Continuing in his narration, he said they confronted the Dubai Estate over their action and also petitioned the then Surveyor General of the State, Surv. Emma Nwabude, urging him to warn the Management of the Estate to desist from the unlawful invasion and resurveying of their land.

He said when they saw the Dubai Estate carrying on with its activities on the said land, they initiated a civil suit against them before the Anambra State High Court, with the suit number NN/23/2021, and consequently secured a court order in February 2022 at the Anaocha Judiciary Division of the Court, restraining them from trespassing into the said land henceforth, let alone carrying on any further activity thereon, pending the hearing and determination of the suit.

A copy of the court order

Ejinaka said it amazed them to notice that while the suit was going and while the restraining order still subsists, the Dubai Estate applied to the Anambra state Government through the Ministry of Land, for the registration of the said area of the land as a valid and registered Estate in the State, despite the restraining court order and despite the land still being the subject of the pending suit.

He explained that when they noticed the alleged surreptitious move, the people of Ifite Village severally wrote to the Commissioner for Land and also served him pre-action notice, informing him of the pendency of the suit and the restraining order of the Court on the land. He said they also had several meetings with the Commissioner to that effect, where he assured them that the Ministry had taken note of their concern and would not betray that — an assurance, Ejinaka said, they obliged to as law-abiding citizens and in confidence that the Ministry would live by its words and respect the court order, as an entity of the State government.

He, however, said that to their greatest surprise, the Commissioner and the Ministry of Land, despite all their assurances, recently went on and re-registered the said land as Ifite Ogbanadiji Layout as well as registered/approved the establishment of the Dubai Estate thereat. These, he said, gave the Management of the Estate the backing and boldness to trespass further into the land, resurveying and parcellating it, as well as destroying the economic trees thereon and its original master plan with the number DRG No. /AWK/65.

Ejinaka alleged that the Management of the Estate had severally bullied them with security operatives on the land, and had gone forth to forcefully take over their land and establish the Dubai Estate thereon against their wish, while the villagers, who are predominantly farmers now lack and beg around for lands to farm to provide food for their families.

These, he said, made them to leverage their rights of peaceful demonstration to seek the urgent intervention of the State Governor, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo on the matter.

When asked their requests from the government, Mr. Ejinaka said the owner of the Blue Shield Security company, Ọzọ Nweke, had also trespassed into some parts of the land, and hence re-emphasized the villagers’ request for the immediate cancellation of the said re-registration approved by the Ministry of Lands, as well as the instant return of their land to them. He further reiterated the need for the Governor’s urgent attention and intervention on the matter.

Addressing the protesters on behalf of the Lands Commissioner, the Surveyor General of Anambra State, Surv. Anthony Idigo assured them that their grievances and demonstration had been noted and would be treated with utmost consideration. He further assured that the Commissioner would, as a matter of urgency, schedule a roundtable discussion with the people on the concerns raised during the protest, for a more comprehensive and fruitful deliberation, and initiation of necessary actions towards addressing their grievances.

At the Government House, Awka, where the protesters also took their demonstration to, a three-man delegation from among them, were engaged in an instant roundtable discussion with the Chief Security Officer to the Governor shortly after they were generally addressed by the Admin Police Officer of the Government House, SP Obiora Onyemauche, while the people went home full of expectations.

When contacted by this reporter for his reaction, one of the Directors of the GSS Real Estate and Investment Limited, Mr. Anthony Chukwudi Ezenwa said they followed all the necessary procedures to procure the said land, and further hinted that the land in question did not even totally belong to the community (but government), except a very few portions that belonged to few individuals in the village, and which he said they also paid for.

He said they did not receive any court order restraining them from developing the land or registering the Estate thereon. He, however, hinted that one of the villagers, who owned about two plots of land out of over a hundred hectares of land where the Dubai Estate is situated in the Ifite Village, had gone to court to seek a review and a redress on the process of the acquisition of his own portion — a matter, he said, was still in the court before the people took to the street to protest. He also hinted that the said court order presented by the protesters did not restrain them from developing or venturing into the over 100 hectares of land.

Mr. Ezenwa further told this reporter, Izunna Okafor, that the protesters may not have had good knowledge of information regarding the said land and how it was transacted, adding that this was not the first time the people were agitating over the land.

He further decried the rate of recurring protests and periodic agitations on the land, which, he said, is not encouraging and supportive of the government’s clarion call and advocacy for Think Home Philosophy, as, according to him, some people who came home in the State to invest keep encountering such agitations and what he described as name-calling from their host community from time to time. This, he said, is not encouraging and healthy for their brands and investments.

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