Protest in Awka over trespass on communal land

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BY VINCENT UJUMADU

AWKA — HUNDREDS of people, including aged men and women, yesterday, protested the alleged forceful takeover of their large expanse of communal land at the Aguaba layout in the Anambra State capital by an indigene of the area, calling on Governor Willie Obiano to intervene.

When Vanguard visited the disputed land, all the cash crops planted by some women had been uprooted and beacons used in demarcating the land destroyed. Caterpillars were also at work, but the protesters had to forcefully stop the land clearing exercise.

The women sobbed uncontrollably when they saw bulldozers running over their farms and destroying crops.

However, the man who was accused of confiscating the land, Chief Austin Ndigwe, a former local government chairman in the area and a chieftain of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, said the land in question was earmarked for cattle market.

He said he started the construction of the market during his tenure as local government chairman but subsequent administrations in the local government later abandoned the project.

The protesters, who waved green leaves, said they had plotted the land for the family members who originally owned it, insisting that there was never a time the state government acquired it for any project.

Chief Dilim Okafor, who doubles as the chairman of Land Management Committee for the community said: “Our people have been calling from all over the world when they were told that the largest private estate in Awka was being confiscated by one of us. We have made enquiries and found out that Governor Obiano did not know about what the man is doing.

“We are making efforts to calm down the youths and the women so that they would not do anything that could lead to breakdown of law and order. There is so much tension in the state capital because of this development and the earlier the state governor intervenes, the better for everybody.”

However, Ndigwe said in a telephone interview that following the selection of the site as cattle market, he began the construction during his tenure as chairman of Awka South Local Government Area.

He said the project was later abandoned, but the incumbent chairman of the local government, Mr. Azubuike Ilo, had decided to resume the work.

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