September 27, 2017

Akama-Oghe: Enugu community troubled by land acquisitions

Akama-Oghe: Enugu community troubled by land acquisitions

A dilapidated cashew processing plant at Akama-Oghe

By Dennis Agbo

ENUGU — Akama-Oghe is one of the communities in Ezeagu local government area of Enugu State, whose expanse of land were acquired for developmental projects but not without ripples among members of the community.

The community is known as hosts to the premier cashew industry in the old Eastern Nigeria region under the then Premier, Dr. Michael Okpara. That cashew industry is now a shadow of its self with relics of what used to be an agricultural/industrial hub of the then fastest growing economies of the world.

A dilapidated cashew processing plant at Akama-Oghe

Cashew industry

Recently, another expanse of land estimated at over 600 hectares was acquired by a private firm, Lion Business park, for what was disclosed as integrated industrialization, but some members of the community have some reservations over the recent acquisition.

Seventy five years old Chief Chinze Uzoechi, a native of the community said he was in the northern region by 1949 when the cashew industry was brought into the community. He said he was in Kano when he learnt about a certain European called Mr. Harrison who came to plant cashew in the community.

He said: “I came back in 1954 to see the cashews functioning very well, yielding money and we asked how come. It was said that Akama, Neke and Oyofo contributed the land with two-thirds of the land belonging to Akama. Later, Chief Clement Emehelu who brought cashew to Akama died and the fortunes of cashew in Akama began to dwindle.

“It was said that a certain amount of money should be paid to the host communities yearly but since after the civil war we have received no money in that regard until the cashew industry came to a halt. Since then we have been calling on the state government to please come back to make the cashew industry work again but no way.”

The Enugu State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Sam Ogbu-Nwobodo, said that though the cashew industry is not directly under his supervision, he was aware that a plan was in the offing to reactivate the cashew industry through public, private partnerships.

But while the community groans on the collapsed industry with its vast land still trapped in the hands of a non-functional industry, another track area of land was recently acquired in the community for an anticipated industrialization, raising grumbles among some members of the community.

One of the community leaders, Chief Christian Akpata, who is protesting the recent land acquisition, said that the land in dispute was already a matter before an Enugu State High court, noting that the purported investors were tricked into the acquisition. Akpata in two separate letters said it beats his imagination on how a communal land could be unadroitly  tampered with by unauthorized persons, who he alleged do not represent the common interest of the community.

He said he was propelled to institute an action against the gladiators at the state High court in Suit No. A/10/2017 which he said is currently pending and a motion for interlocutory injunction had been slated for hearing on September 26, 2017.

President General of the community, Chief Celestine Ukwani, while reacting on the crisis had said there was no problem in his community, noting that in the instead it was only Chief Christian Akpata that is orchestrating problems in the community because he was not included in the land committee.

Ukwani said that the land in question was requested for by the Enugu State government, adding that it involves three communities of Eke, Ogwuofia-Owa and Akama-Oghe.

In a letter to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Akpata through his counsel, Alex Amujiorgu said: “We have been constrained to bring the above hard facts to your notice to be wary of the gimmick of these cabals who falsely represented themselves as acting for Akama-Oghe community. In hammering the point home, the people whom your government is dealing with, to part away with the communal lands of Akama-Oghe do not have any iota of locus standi to meddle into the said land and no money should be released to them whether in person or by proxy.

“Further take note that in the unlikely event that you fail to neglect and /or refuse to hearken to the above advice, be sure that as day follows night, that the only interest you have purchased in any portion of Akama Oghe communal land is a bag full of litigations.”

He said that as a reputable High Chief of Ezeagu who possesses an irrevocable power of attorney, his concern was for the future generation of his community who he said has no other land for residence except for the place now being sold out.

He also lamented that the hectares of land which his community donated to the old Eastern Nigeria government for cashew plantation had since been abandoned with no royalty accruable to Akama Oghe and wondered why some persons were bent on mortgaging the future of the community.