July 27, 2020

Anambra Cargo Airport: We’ve been turned to refugees, host community cries out

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…Govt has not gone beyond the acquired area — Information Commissioner

By Vincent Ujumadu

THE people of Umueri in Anambra East local government area, the host community for the ongoing Anambra Cargo Airport project, have accused the state government of turning them into refugees by forcefully going beyond the 729606 hectares of land the community donated for the project.

The development, they claimed yesterday, had displaced many villagers from their homes.

But the state government, through the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba  said government had not gone beyond the land area donated for the airport project.

The chairmen and secretaries of Umuopu, Umuinu and Enuagu villages, who were the original owners of the land, in a statement made available to Vanguard, said what they were experiencing was an indication that there was an orchestrated plan by some government officials to swindle the people of their heritage while flaunting the airport project. Those who signed the statement were Chief Uchenna Ndumanya and Chibuzo Ekwenye for Umuopu, Basil Ojide and Titus Nwoye for Umuinu and Uzochukwu Dieli and Innocent Igwedinma for Enuagu.

According to them, when the idea of citing the airport in the area was muted, Umueri people received the news with joy and jubilation believing that it was bound to improve the economic status of the state and the community, regretting, however, that events that followed had dashed their expectation.

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They said: “The people of Enuagu, Umuopu and Umuinu, the major donors of the land for the airport project, have been thrown into pains and agony because government agents saddled with the responsibility of executing the project have connived among themselves to dispossess us of our remaining portions of land as they have gone far outside the number of hectares agreed upon. They have even started selling plots of land for estate development against the airport it was agreed upon.

“By extending their hand into other portions of our land, what does the government expect us to survive with as we are just farmers? We have written, we have cried, we have pleaded and we have engaged in all forms of diplomacy to demand that government restricts itself to the agreed portion of land, all to no avail.

“But we refuse to be labelled internally displaced persons simply because we donated our land for the economic development of our nation. We therefore demand that Governor Willie Obiano should call his people to order.

“Our investigation revealed that apart from the aforesaid, some unscrupulous and greedy individuals from Aguleri across Omambala River have the agenda to grab the extra hundreds of hectares of our land and later share it among themselves. In fact, they are annexing our land using the instrumentality of the government.

“We are, therefore left with no option than to conclude that the governor, in trying to humiliate Umueri , is not leaving any stone unturned. It is also on record that up till date, there is no Memorandum of Understanding between our community and the state government for such a huge project and the absence of such an important document on the project is surely an indication that the state government wants to hide a lot of things from us and the world.”

Reacting on the allegation, the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Adinuba, said the acquired land for the airport was  properly gazetted, adding that there was no way anybody could go beyond the area mapped out for the project.

“The land for the airport was acquired even before Governor Obiano came into office and the present administration has not acquired additional land in the area,” he said.