By ANAYO OKOLI
UMUAHIA — SCORES of people, including youths, men and women from Nnono community, Oboro in Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State, last week, took to the streets to protest what they called non-payment of compensation by Federal Government for economic trees and crops destroyed. They said houses, economic tree and crops were marked to be destroyed to make way for the on- going National Integrated Power Project, NIPP, power line from Enugu to Akwa Ibom States.
They have therefore threatened to scuttle the smooth completion of the project which is aimed at ensuring uninterrupted power supply in the area. The Nnono people claimed that the contractor handling the project had not paid adequate compensation to those whose houses were on the right of way of the project and consequently, marked for demolition.
The placard-carrying community members called on the Federal Government to intervene to forestall possible breakdown of law and order. Some of the placards read: “We are homeless, settle us; stop using the military to intimidate us; There is no demolition without compensation.”
Mr. Chinedu Anthony, a youth leader and spokesman for the protesters, explained that their action was not aimed at stopping the project, which he said was good for them, but against the nonchalant attitude of the NIPP contractor who he alleged had ordered the helpless villagers to vacate their homes within two weeks.
According to him, the contractor created fear among the people by allegedly intimidating them with soldiers who they said patrol the community every day to ensure that the people did not ask for their rights. Also speaking, the Chairman of Oboro Clan Council of Traditional Rulers, King Larry Ogbonnaya Agwu, said that they were not against the project adding that if the contractor had no money to pay the people compensations, they should have diverted the transmission line away from their homes.
According to him, rather than direct the power transmission line through the forest where not much would be paid as compensation, they decided to run it through the community where much money was needed for compensation to the affected families. “What do they want these old people to do; to go and live in the bush, are we going to enjoy the light in our graves? Again, why are they using soldiers to intimidate us?” he retorted.
The traditional ruler called on the Federal Government to come to the rescue of the community by reviewing the contract to make provision for adequate compensation to the people. The people explained that among the people whose houses were affected by the project included the 76 -year old Mrs. Nwegeruo Chimbuo, who confirmed that they were given two weeks to vacate their homes even when compensation had not been paid. Others were Elder Ukanna Ogbonna and Peter Ekpemiro who said that the money they were paid as compensation was too small to buy a piece of land let alone building on it.