By Vincent Ujumadu
Awka- HUNDREDS of placard-carrying men, women and youths from Ozzu –Ndiukwuenu community in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State on Monday stormed the Government House in Awka to protest the alleged ceding of part of 8,500 hectares of Mamu River Forest Reserve in the area to an individual by the Anambra State Government.
Their argument was that their common inheritance was being cornered by the said individual, with the support of the state government officials, at a time the Forest Reserve was still in dispute between Anambra and Enugu states.
South-East Voice gathered that the issue of determining the rightful owners of the land is being handled by the National Boundary Commission, but instead of waiting for the matter to be resolved, some government officials connived with an indigene of Ndiukwuenu to deny the people their land.
They were even more worried that the person who got the land was selling them as plots to individuals from outside the community, who were threatening them with guns and dangerous weapons on daily basis.
According to the protesters, the ancestors and even unborn children of Ozzu-Ndiukwuenu would never allow those behind the sale of the land to enjoy any peace and urged Governor Willie Obiano to intervene in the matter immediately by cancelling whatever agreement reached with the person who is selling the land and using the proceeds to fight the community.
The protest letter which was signed by their leader, Chief Peter Nwafor and handed to the Senior Special Assistant, SSA, on Security to Obiano read: “We are protesting the grave injustice done to us, our ancestors and unborn generations by agents of your government, who have forcefully taken over our land and bestowed the rights to same in the hands of known criminals from within and outside our community. This single action of empowering and rewarding criminality has led to the deterioration of security situation in Ozzu-Ndiukwuenu, such that the community has become inaccessible beyond 8.00pm, as okada riders are scared to access it due to the nefarious activities of the group of people your government has empowered.
“Your Excellency, may we call your attention to the fact that while our neighbouring communities sold their land to the colonial government for the purpose of Forestry, Ozzu-Ndiukwuenu community donated theirs after reaching some terms of agreement with the colonial government.
“It is unacceptable to us that your government gave approval to the de-reservation of some portions of this land, shared it among some powerful agents of your government and known trouble makers in Anambra State in total disregard of the terms of agreement reached by your predecessor government.
“The leadership of the community was neither consulted, nor informed of this grave decision that will affect the life of the community in many ways. Those involved use forged and fraudulent documents in selling the Mamu River Forest Reserve lands and we hereby plead for their investigation and immediate prosecution.
“We also remind Your Excellency that the ownership of Mamu River Forest Reserve is still in dispute between Anambra and Enugu states and the present action of your government has opened us to fresh attacks from agents of Enugu State Government.
“We therefore plead with Your Excellency to revoke the approval given for the de-reservation of any portion of Mamu River Forest Reserve, pending the resolution of the substantive case before the National Boundary Commission, NBC. In the event that the case is resolved in favour of Anambra State, the government, as a rational agency, must follow due process in the de-reservation of any portion of the forestry and not the current regime where our land is given out as a reward to greedy people.”
The people also complained about the alleged government neglect of Ndiukwuenu community, citing the case of the abandoned Ndiukwuenu road project and the pitiable situation at the Community Secondary School, Ndiukwuenu.
They said further: “It is an irony that while government pays teachers in secondary schools in rich communities across the state, poor Ndiukwuenu is made to recruit and pay teachers from its meagre resources, if children in the community must go to school. This is despite the fact that Ndiukwuenu is the most educationally disadvantaged community in Anambra State. These are the things that matter to us and not the gifting of our land.”