By Ugochukwu Alaribe, Umuahia
Communities in Asa clan of Ukwa West council area of Abia State have accused the state government of using “intimidation and force” to acquire their land for Enyimba Economic City development.
The multi-million dollar economic city initiative of the Abia State government in partnership with some international bodies, including AfreximBank and IMF, already has the nod of the Federal Government, which secured 20 percent equity shares according to the state government.
The Enyimba Economic City project covers 9,803 hectares of land spanning across three council areas of Ugwunagbo, Ukwa West and Ukwa East.
However, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Asa clan has cried foul over the government’s attempt to acquire their land for the project.
But reacting to the claims of the Asa clan, Commissioner for Lands and Surgery, Suleiman Ukandu, accused the communities of resisting development in the state.
“Government condemns in unmistakable terms pockets of resistance from a few of the communities in Ukwa East, Ukwa West, and Ugwunagbo LGAs, hosting the Enyimba Economic City,” he said.
In a statement signed by Dr. Onwubiko Dike and Dr. Ik Ajuzieogu, President and Secretary-General of Asa Development Union, respectively, the people accused the EEC development team of the murder of Asa son on January 15, 2020.
The communities claimed that they no longer have enough land for farming activities and urged the government to take the project to other council areas, “like Obingwa” with huge landmass.
“We Asa people declare that agents of Enyimba Economic City have deployed intimidations and naked aggression against Asa people in their morbid quest for forceful acquisition of Asa land.”
They said: “The high point of this impunity is the incident that occurred at Ugwati Asa on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, where the visiting EECD team murdered Mr. Nwamaka Ogbuji through gunshots. The two other victims of the gunshots, Mr. Chetachi Ihemata, and Chika Nwankwo are in critical condition in the hospital.
“Ugwati people did not attack the visiting EECD team that fateful day to warrant the shooting, which resulted in the death of Ogbuji and terrible injury of two others.”
The Asa Development Union also dismissed claims by the EEC project Coordinator, David Akomas that Asa people had willingly surrendered their land to the government, saying there is a pending suit by the people against the government’s attempt to forcefully take over their land.
“That in the face of the subsisting court case against the acquisition of Asa land for EECD with suit no HUK/41/2019, it is absolutely reprehensible, repugnant and unconscionable for Akomas the feed the unsuspecting public with the fallacy that Asa people haven given their land freely to EECD.
“The abundant truth is that Ukwa West LGA has about the smallest landmass in Abia; and as the only oil-producing area in the state a substantial landmass of Asa people interspersed with oil pipelines such that a small patch of land is left out for agricultural activities from which majority of Asa people eke out a living. In essence, EECD should be taken to other LGAs like Obingwa with huge landmass.
“Asa Development Union is saying never again will Asa land be appropriated for patently ill-fated developmental projects by successive administrations that have been the lot of Asa people as seen in Obuaku City Development, Ogwe Golden Chicken, Umudobia International Market, and Omumauzor Abattoir Project.”