By Dennis Agbo
Apprehension has enveloped the Amokwu-Affa community in Udi local government area of Enugu state, as the 82 Division of Nigeria Army Enugu and members of Amokwu-Affa community rob shoulders and ownerships claims to a parcel of land the Nigeria Army has designated for a training facility.
The community’s traditional ruler, HRH Igwe Bartholomew Ozulu, and the President-General of the community, Chief Festus Amadife in a joint Save Our Soul, SOS, petition accused the Nigeria army of seeking to forcefully acquire the ancestral land of the community.
The 82 Division of Nigeria however said it has documents of ownership of the land, noting that it was only Amokwu-Affa that previously owned the land before it acquired it, but also Ochima in Igbo-Etiti local government area of the state.
The Army also denied that it was forcefully taking over the land, nor was it developing the land for Ruga purposes, but had duly acquired the land over 40 years ago and now wants to develop it as a training facility.
The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations 82 Division of Nigeria Army, Major Abubakar Abdullahi in a statement said: “It must be emphasised that Nigerian Army Engineers are not constructing any Ruga Settlement in any part of Nigeria. Rather, the Engineers are currently constructing a military training facility between Ochima and Affa in Igbo-Etiti and Udi Local Government Areas, Enugu State. Upon completion, the facility will accommodate troops during training and aid to improve their efficiency in protecting law-abiding citizens across the South East.”
The traditional ruler of Amokwu-Affa, Igwe Ozulu however stated that the Army recently mobilised materials and equipment on the land, preparatory to building what members of the community are yet to understand, noting that the land in question has been in the exclusive possession of the community right from time immemorial.
According to the monarch, the people of the community presently have their farms on the land; and they have always harvested the economic trees on the land without being disturbed by anyone.
Igwe Ozulu stated that sometime in 2009, a portion of the land, which the Nigeria Army is now seeking to unlawfully and forcefully acquire, was a subject of crisis between the people of Amokwu – Affa and Umoka communities.
He said that the crisis resulted in the loss of life and properties; and that the Government of Enugu State under His Excellency, Sullivan I. Chime, had to set up a Judicial Panel of Enquiry to look into the crisis.
According to the traditional ruler, “the Panel of Enquiry had since concluded its assignment but its report has not been made public. Both the court case and the 2009 crisis, together with its attendant Judicial Panel of Enquiry were in the public domain, and I wonder why the Nigerian Army did not see any reason to either join in the court case or make any representation to the Judicial Panel of Enquiry if it had any interest whatsoever in the land now sought to be forcefully acquired.”
The traditional ruler accused the Nigerian Army of now coming all out to forcefully take over the Amokwu – Affa land without due process of the law.
He noted that the community’s lawyers had previously written protest letters to the Nigerian Army and to the Attorney – General of the Federation, demanding, on behalf of the community, that the Army should stay away from the communal land of his people.
He said that in his reply, the Attorney – General of the Federation promised to look into the community’s demand but never did anything in that regard to date, while the Nigerian Army maintained that the land belonged to the Army.
“Nigeria is a democratic society where the Rule of Law, and not the rule of force and might, ought to be the sole determinant of the actions and inactions of private and public entities, including the Nigerian Army. The laws provide for a procedure for the acquisition of land by government or any of its agencies from the customary owners; and that the laws demand that the Nigerian Army should not acquire the land of Amokwu – Affa community without due process of law and to the knowledge of the members of the community.
“Amokwu–Affa community were not consulted and did not negotiate the acquisition of their ancestral land by the Nigerian Army with anyone – be it an individual, a group or the government. We, therefore, pleaded with the Nigerian Army not to use the force of arms and intimidation to forcefully acquire our ancestral land. The government of Enugu State, the Public Complaints Committees of the National Assembly, the National Human Rights Commission and all other relevant bodies and agencies should kindly and urgently prevail on the Nigerian Army in order to prevent the ancestral land of our community from being forcefully and unlawfully acquired by the Army,” Ozulu pleaded.