BY CHINENYEH OZOR
There is palpable tension at Agbani Nguru community in Nsukka local government area, Enugu State as an unknown state government agency allegedly invaded over 2,000 hectres of land of the community without prior notice to community elders.The community took to the streets of Nsukka chanting sorrowful songs over the alleged invasion of their communal land. The invaders destroyed cash crops, cassava and tubers of yam among others while clearing the land for whatever purpose they had in mind.
The protesters numbering over 500 said it’s illegal for any government, churches and agencies to enter any communal land without prior notice and an agreement with the owners before such agency or group of persons would mobilise and move to site.Some of their placards read “Leave Agbani Nguru land’; ‘Govt do not take land by force;’ ‘Abani Nguru land is communal land;’ ‘ Ministry of Housing, stay away from Nguru land”.Speaking during the protest, the Secretary, Nguru land committee, Mr Ugwu Bartholomew said it was surprising to the community to see a government agency forcibly enter the communal land without the consent of the community, clear hectres of land for an alleged housing estate.
Ugwu said the community trooped out in their numbers to see what the alleged government agency was doing in their land, only to see a large number of armed policemen on guard while a catapillar was busy uprooting cassava, tubers of yam and other cash crops cultivated on the land in question.“We were speechless as nobody approached the community for once before entering the land for any purpose.
The Ministry of Land had earlier entered the land; we went to court and obtained an injuction restraining government, its agency and proxies from entering the land till the determination of the suit. Now the state Ministry of Housing forcibly entered the communal land without notice to the owners,” he said adding“It is illegal for any government agency to enter any land without consulting elders of the land. The eldest man of Nsukka, Attama Ezeogudo who is the major stakeholder of Nguru community was not consulted nor was Nguru supreme general assembly.It’s inhuman and an abuse of rights to liberty and property.”
He called on the Ministry of Housing to quietly stop work at Agbani /Nguru land and broker dialogue for an agreement to be reached before any further work on the land, adding that the stop order of the community was to avoid break down of law and order.Also speaking, Mr. Obute Thomas, member Nguru Land Committee said the community has no business with any government except the Ministry of Lands and that the court advised us to go back to the drawing board to make peace, explaining that the community is still on the peace process when the Ministry of Housing with its commissioner, Chief Peter Okonkwo entered the land illegally.
“Ministry of Lands came to the left side of the land for occupation before the injunction was obtained while the Ministry of Housing came to the right wing of the land by force as they did not consult any member of the land committee before embarking on clearing the land.It’s illegal, let them respect the Land Use Act and vacate till we are able to dialogue with them peacefully. Government cannot forcibly occupy about 2000 hectres of any community without consulting owners of the land.
The Commissioner for Housing, Chief Peter Okonkwo is the brain behind Agbani Nguru land invasion”, he said calling on the Enugu State governor to intervene to save Nguru communal land, adding that the community is ready to partner with the state government provided it is through the right channel. He pointed out that the 2,000 hectres of land in question belongs to the entire Nguru community and due process has to be followed .