By Vincent Ujumadu – Awka
A community in Anambra has filed a suit against the state government for allegedly destroying four shrines and three deities.
The people of Isuaniocha in Awka North local government area of Anambra State have sued the state government, claiming N5 billion as general damages for allegedly trespassing on the community’s land.
Joined as defendants were the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation, Anambra State Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Anambra State Ministry of Lands, Survey and Town Planning, as well as Messrs Willie Okafor and Anthony Nwofor.
The said land was allegedly acquired by the state government for the developing of a housing estate in the area.
In the Suit No A/243/2019 filed at the High Court of Anambra State sitting in Awka, the plaintiffs were also claiming N200 million special damages for alleged destruction of 2,000 economic trees at the rate of N200000 per tree, N30 million for 300 timber trees, N500000 for medicinal shrubs, N10 million for agricultural crops and N4.75 billion for four shrines and three deities.
Messrs Geoffrey Udeh, Basil Ezeike, Jude Okoye and Anthony Nwogbo, who filed the suit on behalf of Umuneri village in Isuaniocha also urged the court to grant a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their privies, agents and or cohorts from further trespassing on the said land.
Part of their 31-point affidavit read: “In May 2019 the Anambra State Housing Development Corporation and the other defendants engaged thugs, cultists, and some mercenaries and moved them into the plaintiffs’ said land to protect the bulldozers caterpillars, etc they put on the land and to ward off the plaintiffs from their land.
“The bulldozers, caterpillars, etc damaged the agricultural crops, economic crops, medicinal shrubs, timber trees, shrines and juju (deities). The massive damage done on the plaintiffs’ land by the defendants and their agent and cohorts was very massive thereby impoverished the plaintiffs beyond measure.
“The plaintiffs were prevented from further cultivating on the land, reaping from the economic trees on the land, making use of the medicinal shrubs and trees, worshipping and consulting shrines and juju on their land which have been giving signs of wrecking havoc on the plaintiffs and the defendants that desecrated them and other persons involved in the desecration directly and or remotely.”
According to them, a petition was written to the Anambra State Commissioner of Police through the plaintiffs’ counsel, complaining against the massive malicious damage, regretting that the CP failed to investigate the petition to date.
The plaintiffs said that after the malicious damage/trespass, the defendants engaged surveyors who conspired with them in plotting the land and installing beacons without the plaintiffs’ authority and installed signposts with the inscription:- “This land belongs to Anambra State Housing Development Corporation …… keep off” all over the plaintiffs land, which are still standing on the land.
They added: “The governor of Anambra State did not revoke the interest of the plaintiffs in the land and the land was not compulsorily acquired by the governor, or by other authority, including the defendants. The plaintiffs, on their part, did not consent to any acquisition or revocation and or trespass.
“The plaintiffs have been prevented by the defendants from making use of the land i.e, farming on same, reaping the economic trees thereon, burying the dead on the dead on the area designated as a burial ground, consulting their shrines, deities, etc since May 2019.
“The plaintiffs, who are predominantly farmers, have been suffering from undue hunger arising from massive damage to their agricultural crops, economic trees, etc and who have been prevented since May 2019 from accessing their land for their agricultural activities. They are suffering colossal damage by reason of activities of the defendants on the land.”
They prayed the court to declare that the plaintiffs, as owners of the land, were entitled to the right of occupancy over the piece of land.