A Community In Imo State Is Up In Arms Against Gov. Rochas Okorocha Over Alleged Forceful Take-Over Of Their Ancestral Lands
The people of Ogwume autonomous community in Ideato South Local Government Area of Imo State yesterday trooped out to the community centre to protest the alleged illegal acquisition of their ancestral land by Governor Rochas Okorocha.
As early as 7 am, the people including the aged, youths, women and even children, gathered from various parts of the country where they reside to fight against the alleged intimidation by the governor, who they also accused of using his principal secretary who is also a native of the community to perfect his plan of illegally acquiring their land using government apparatus.
The people, who sang solidarity songs, carried palm fronds and placards with various inscriptions such as “This is wicked acquisition of land”, “where do you want our children to live?”, “Our land has been hijacked by thieves”, among others.
They accused the governor of forcefully taking over their lands under the guise that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration wanted it for the building of a police college. The protesters told journalist that they sensed fraudulent takeover of their land as there was already an existing police college at Isu in Nwangele LGA also in the same senatorial zone.
They argued that it is not possible to have police colleges in a particular senatorial district. Speaking during the protest monitored by the traditional rulers of Ogwume and Obiohia communities, a native of the community and one of the people whose land was forcefully collected, Surveyor Pascal Okwaraogu, described the governor’s action as a disrespect to the people of the community.
“They have trampled on our right as a people. They entered our land without any recourse to our traditional ruler, his cabinet members and our community leaders. By this, government of Owelle Rochas Okorocha has shown grave disrespect for the people of this community”, he said.
Okwaraogu, argued that by virtue of Land Use Act, government reserved the right to acquire any land, maintaining however that there are laid down procedures for acquiring people’s lands.
He stated that in a place where there is genuine acquisition of people’s land by the government, the ministry of lands officials would be involved and while the land in question would be valued according to cash crops on them for the purposes of compensation.
“But, in this place, the land was not delineated with crystal beacons and it was some of our people in government that came to claim that the land is being used for Police College without any government documentation.
We will not stop at this protest until things are done properly”, he said. Others including Comrade Jude Adimele, Jude Emeka Metu and village chairman of Umuokwaraudu, Chief Ferdinand Umeh, stated that they were not against development of the community by the government, but “such things should be done with due process and with full knowledge of the land owners”.
They noted that the governor succeeded in acquiring a piece land where the army occupied more than four decades ago without much resistance from the people, stating that coming to the other side of the road to collect thousands of hectares of land without the knowledge of the people was the height of disrespect.
They insisted that the protest would continue irrespective of the amount of intimidation with the police and army because according to them that is the only place available for the people to build houses and also cultivate as farmland.
Reacting to the protests, traditional ruler of Ogwume community, HRH Eze Ethelbert Ifeanyi Ajaraogu noted that the government reserved the right to acquire any land but before doing that the people must not be left behind. He called on the government to do everything within its reach to come and discuss with the land owners so that peace would return to the once peaceful community.
The monarch commended the people for their peaceful demonstration and assured them that the state government would come and discuss with them.
– Damian Duruiheoma, Owerri