Last may not have been heard over Area K land saga at the World Bank Area of Owerri regarding its real onwership as another group has emerged laying claim to the same land resulting to a bloody clash between the disputants where all sorts of dangerous weapons were brandished and used freely.
It would be recalled that the present administration led by Owelle Rochas Okorocha had earmarked Area K for its monumental projects – A twenty five storey five star hotel, Akachi, the proposed tallest tower in Africa and Ecumenical Centre. No sooner had the Imo State Government cleared the land in question that people of Owerri nchi ise of Owerri Municipal invaded the land claiming it was their ancestral home. For almost one month, they had succeeded holding Government to ransom as the contractors had withdrawn their equipment for fear of vandalizing them.
Friday, May 12, 2012 the people of Umuguma, the host community to Owerri West local Government Headquarters, under the aegis of “Concerned Umuguma Stakeholders and Landowners” stage a protest at the Imo State Government House where they besieged the main entrance to the State House for almost thirty minutes before they were dispersed and asked to go and stage their protest at a distant spot to avoid a security bridge.
The leadership of Concerned Umuguma Stakeholders and Land owners led by Hon. Ben Ibemere had deposited a nineteen page petition with what it called historical facts to the Governor of Imo State through the Office of the Chief of Staff, as back up their claim.
Speaking with Hon. Ken Ibemere, the leader of Umuguma group, he said they had come to protest encroachment and illegal occupation of area K and other World Bank Area, which he said they are the rightful owners. He further said they will not sit and watch Owerri nchi ise destroy the developmental projects coming to their area and revealed their support for the said monumental projects of Owelle Rochas Okorocha since it will create jobs for the people, which will alos yiel revenue for Owerri West and entire Imo State. In their claim, it reads in part:
“Perhaps, it is appropriate to recall that Owerri West/Owerri North and Owerri Municipal was one Local Government before 1996. Though One Federal Constituency till date, Late Gen. Sani Abacha in his transaction programme split the Local Government into three (3) namely: Owerri Municipal Owerri North and Owerri West in 1996.
The Area Map of proposed Owerri West Local Government Area was drawn and certified by the Surveyor General of Imo State. You are aware your Excellency, our application was publicly defended by our people during the panel’s verification visit to Imo State. There were no objections from anybody, nor had earlier asked the panel to constitute them into Owerri Municipal Council.
The Status of Owerri as the Capital Territory of Imo State has over been in doubt. The Edict that defines the extent of the Territory is available for Public Scrutiny. It would be pertinent to inform your Excellency that the name Owerri encompasses a clan made up of so many communities including Owerri Nchi-ise (ie Owerri Municipal), Umuguma, Obinze, Nekede, Avu etc. (now in Owerri West).
In line with its capital Status, Owerri has various installations which are located at suitable locations based on availability of Land and need in accordance with the Capital City Layout plan. The aim of locating these establishments in their present Locations is not to deny the Owners of the Land the right to their Lands or benefits accruing there from.
On Area “K” Land issue, we wish to categorically restate that the entire length and breath of Area “K” is owned by Umuguma. Out of magnanimity, and due to brotherly Love and inter-marriage bond between Umuguma and Owerri Nchi-Ise purely for farming purposes only. On the 25th March, 1999 there was a joint Boundary inspection brokered by the Ministry of Lands Survey and Urban Planning between Umuguma and Owerri Nchi-Ise (See photocopy of letter of invitation).
The then Commission for Lands Barr. C.I. Udegbe, promised to release compensatory plots to Umuguma Land owners but we are yet to receive the plots in Umuguma (See minutes of meeting of 22nd March, 1999).
Additionally, the entire World Bank Housing Area “A”, “L”, “M” and “N” belong to Umuguma Community (See the 2005 Boundary Adjustment Panels Reports for your perusal attached)”
What happened at Area K calls for worry as most observers yesterday had sought Government intervention during the said fracas. This reporter had followed protest of the Umuguma people from Government House to the land in question.
The ugly situation reared its ugly head when the Umuguma placard carrying group had gone to the Area K land either for their campaign to regaining their purported ancestral land.
They had in their group moved around the land, then made entrance into the land when strange looking youth that had been camping at the land came out in their numbers brandishing all sorts of dangerous weapon.
The violent action packed movie like incident degenerated when the Umuguma leaders and their youth maintained their stand with their placards in the course of their claim, the supposedly Owerri nchi ise group attacked their unwanted visitors with Saw, Matchets and long pieces of rods, clubs and other dangerous weapons. Having been attacked and overwhelmed by the ready-to-devour youth of Owerri nchi ise, the Umuguma group had no choice than to run for their dear lives.
This reporter further traced the youth to their community in Umuguma and was lucky to meet with HRH, Dr. George Nnamdi Ugorji who claimed that the land in question is their ancestral land. He howeverrevealed that their forefathers in their magnanimity had allowed the people of Owerri nchi ise access to their allowed just for farm purposes and do not see the reason for the claim.
He further traced the problem to one Diala of then NECON who had fraudulently apportioned electoral wards in Umuguma to Owerri Municipal for whatever selfish gain who was unlucky to be transferred back to Owerri west.
“….We started fighting that injustice. A Boundary Adjustment Committee chaired by J.T.U Nnodum, SAN was constituted and at the end of the day, that report has not been made public for whatever political issue then Governor, Chief Achike Udenwa had to trade off.
And for the wards, under Maurice Iwu, the proper adjustment was done. We are only asking that justice be done. Owerri nchi ise should vacate our land for there to be peace. And I am calling on the present Government of Owelle Rochas Okorocha to look into other areas where they have been unjustly treated.”
He however frowned at the violence meted out to his people in their peaceful protest to the government and warned that nobody has a monopoly of violence. He reiterated his belief in peaceful co-existence, which should not be taken for granted, he enthused.
For George Obi, the Youth leader of Umuguma clan, he called on Owerri nchi people to swear to an oath if they are the real owners of the land and see if they would not meet their untimely death.
Meanwhile, the neighbours of Area K are calling for timely intervention at the area to avoid security of life and property as it seems those at the land may not have any relationship with land in question fearing a contagious dimension.
This reporter’s effort to get at McDonald Ebere proved abortive as the stage was charged with uncertainty. Effort to get him on phone proved abortive.
Written by : Mba Ogbonnaya