By Festus Ahon
FACTIONAL groups in the lingering crisis in Idumuje-Ugboko, Aniocha North Local Government Area, Delta State, have stormed the State Government House, Asaba, calling on Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to intervene and restore peace to the community.
The two groups which arrived at the gate of the Government House in buses at the same time, armed themselves with placards which bore various inscriptions, pointing accusing fingers at key actors in the community as the cause of the protracted crisis.
One of the groups, Concerned Women of Idumuje-Ugboko, accused a former member of the House of Representatives, Ned Nwoko of foisting insecurity in the town, alleging that he forcefully dispossessed farmers of their ancestral land for a private commercial venture.
The group, in a protest letter, addressed to the Governor, said: “We consider it in the worst interest of the state and humanity to destroy food and cash crop farms and replace them with a golf course while leaving the owners with no alternative but a transition from being landlords to at best, tenants.”
The letter signed by Awolo Henrietta, Uzo Nwoko and eight others accused the local government council of “legitimising illegality through the issuance of Customary Rights of Occupancy on lands under customary dispute and legal litigation,” urging the state government to sanction the council chairman.
On their part, the other group of protesters alleged that the women were being engaged by Prince Chukwunomso Nwoko to frustrate the initiatives of Prince Ned Nwoko to bring development to the town
Speaking on behalf of the pro-Ned Nwaoko protesters mainly made up of youths, Friday Omesete said the land in question was legitimately acquired by Ned during the reign of Obi Albert Nwoko, with the purpose of building a university and golf course.
Omesete said that a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, was signed to cede the expansive land to Ned, with a caveat that the area must be developed within five years, a failure which the land would be revoked.
According to him, Obi Albert Nwoko who was party to the MoU passed on, alleging that his supposed successor, Prince Chukwunomso Nwoko was now claiming that the MoU is null and void.
He said: “As we speak now, the MoU is over three years old, and there is a massive project ongoing at the site of the university, where over N5 billion has been sunk. But some natives who supported Ned are being ex-communicated, some are being killed. Even most of the farmers who were affected by action have received compensation from Ned.”
Youth President of the town, Kogwuonye Chukwuka, described those against Ned as anti-development, adding that Ned was not involved in the incarceration of any suspect.
He noted that those who were picked up by the police had questions to answer after they allegedly destroyed properties in the town.
Addressing the groups of protesters separately, the State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Social and Community Development, Mrs Florence Alatan thanked them for their peaceful disposition, and assured that their grievances would be looked into by the government with a view to ensuring lasting peace.