The people of Umuakali Naze, in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State, have cried out to the state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha over alleged encroachment on their ancestral land and abuse of their fundamental human rights by people who claim to be agents of the government.
The community through the group Ezumezu Naze, fingered the member representing them in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Chukwuemeka Lloyd Obuh via newspaper publications on May 11, 2016 [via Nigeria Newspoint, Nigeria Newsbreak, White-Paper and Announce Express Newspapers] condemned what they termed ‘sudden and callous’ invasion of their ancestral land.
Through their spokesperson, Mr. Okechukwu Ajoku, the Ezumezu Naze said the lawmaker, Hon. Chukwuemeka Lloyd ordered people to bulldoze into the Nkporo Ancestral land which is the only remaining land the government has reserved for them.
They listed Otamiri South Layout, Otamiri South Extension Layout, Otamiri South Extension Annex, Naze Residential Layout, Naze Road North Industrial Layout, Naze Industrial Cluster, Naze Imo Modem Market, Naze Timber and Allied Regional Market, Naze Timber and Allied Regional Market Phase II and Naze Timber and Allied Regional Market Residential Layout as part of their land contribution towards the development of Imo State and wondered why government would be encroaching in the only portion that is left for them. It was alleged that those bbulldozing the land are agents of the government.
They people wondered why whosoever that had interest in the land never come until they had cleared the place with others erecting dwarf fences which were bulldozed by the agents of the lawmaker whom according to them are only working to acquire the land for themselves. They said they had performed necessary rituals to move the shrines and deities that have been occupying that area and just when the land had been confirmed safe for people to live in, someone appeared from nowhere to claim ownership of the land.
They fingered their kinsman, Chibo Mezu whom they alleged to have been guarded by the Police men at the site during the bulldozing, wondering why someone who is not an agent of the government should be getting such treatment if not that he is collaborating with Hon. Chukwuemeka Lloyd. They wondered how a reasonable person would be encouraging the government to take what rightfully belongs to him if not that they are doing it for themselves.
They also said that their initial resistance, saw three of their members arrested and detained for three days by men of the Nigeria Police after which the case was charged to court where the magistrate granted them bail and set the next hearing for June 6, 2016.
According to one of those arrested, who is Mr. Regis Akagha, a popular music producer based in Imo State, they were arrested by weekend and kept in the cell till Monday. He said that till date, they do not know who arrested them and who took them to court and while they were alleging that the case was being pushed forward by the Permanent Secretary of Imo State Ministry of Lands and Urban Development, Mr, Regis Akagha said that there wasn’t a single government agent in the court when the Judge granted them bail.
He also revealed that so far, the Ministry of Lands had never said anything as it regards to the land dispute and if the said ancestral land had actually been acquired by the state government, they would have seen the real government agents, rather than the faceless miscreants who are being sponsored by one of their own.
They called on the state government through the relevant authorities to intervene when the dispute had not escalated as they would do anything possible to protect the land their ancestors had handed over to them.
According to the newspaper publications, Hon. Chukwuemaka Lloyd denied involvement in the matter, saying: “I am a legislator and does not belong to the executive arm of the government, I couldn’t have acquired or invaded any land as it is not part of my legislative duty”
Meanwhile another group Izu Umunaze in the community through a publication on Nigerian Horn Newspaper, May 13-15 Edition, said the lawmaker had nothing to do with the land dispute, adding that the case belong to the Forestry department of the Ministry of Environment.
In the same publication, the group who cleared the lawmaker of wrong doings alleged by the Ezumezu Naze, admitted that the land belonged to the entire community and not the government.
“As a matter of fact, the said land in question is a communal land which position cannot be decided by these people [Ezumezu Naze]” they were quoted on the publication.
The Ezumezu Naze then asked why members of the community and others like Chibo Mezu and Iyke Okeigboanananwa who are not agents of the government will be guarded by the police while their land and properties worth millions of Naira were being bulldozed and while their lawmaker Hon Chukwuemeka Lloyd who was supposed to be the voice of the people have not spoken against the act.
They called on him to speak out on the matter and condemn it in words and action if he really has nothing to do with it. They then called on the state Ministry of Lands and all agents of the government involved, to act in time, before the case would escalate to another level.