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Ihiagwa community protest, over FUTO invasion of communal land, destruction of property worth millions of naira

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– Native women wear black attire, block roads with placards

By Anselem Anokwute

The people of Umuelem Ihiagwa in Owerri West Local Government Area, have protested over the continuous invasion and destructions of buildings, properties, and businesses worth millions of naira by the management and authorities of the Federal University of Technology Owerri, (FUTO).

 

The indigenes, who could no longer tolerate the encroachment and continuous repulsive action of the new Vice Chancellor, Prof Eze, trooped out enmass to protest against the invasion which has left the community with neither farmland nor building spaces, explained that the most destructive action came on wednesday, 24 January, 2018 when the Director, Social Duties and Security, of FUTO, Prof. John Ogolo led a group of hired men and bulldozers to destroy over 20 buildings belonging to individuals including their perimeter fences worth millions of naira.

Addressing newsmen during the protest at Ihiagwa, on Thursday 25 January, 2018, the Chairman of Umuelem village, Ihiagwa, Sir Goddy Nnadi, said the people of Agam/Adamoche in Umuelem have suffered losses in the hands of the FUTO management whom he said, has resolved to use federal government power to take over all their lands.

According to him, the community along with FUTO had a boundary dispute over the years, a matter that is in court and which the court had asked the FUTO management to resolve with them through dialogue. Instead of that the Director of Social Duties and Security, Prof. Ogolo decided to use jungle justice by hiring thugs including policemen and men of the Security and Civil Defence Corps, to invade their farmlands and ordered bulldozers to destroy people’s buildings, inspite of the prevailing economic hardship.

Sir Nnadi, also stated that the invasion of Ihiagwa community with guns and other destructive weapons does not speak well of the new FUTO management, adding that the 24th January invasion is the fourth time the institution had stepped on their toes, causing them untold hardship, grief and sorrow.

Also speaking, the youth leader of Umuelem, Ihiagwa, Comrade Onyinyechi Nwanaeri, said, the major reason for the protest is to stop FUTO community from further encroachment on, and invasion of their community lands and to as well alert the Imo state government on the issues as the people are now living in palpable fear, anxiety and danger, with their women threatened, beaten in the farm while the FUTO management has left their academic exercise for sand dredging as a business enterprise without informing the host community.

He stated also that the matter of FUTO encroachment and resort to illegal sand dredging has been reported to the police without any solution. According to him, “FUTO management should take the land we gave them and leave the only remaining inheritance and that of our children”. “Now that the FUTO management has chased us out, where do we go and where do we build our houses, so the Imo state government should please help us out before it is too late”, he stated.

In her speech, the Deputy Woman Leader of Umuelem community, Ezinne Rose Anah and Lolo Fidelia Ekenma expressed unhappiness, that since the new Vice Chancellor, Prof. F.C Eze emerged, it has been one trouble or the other as the VC was allegedly to have resorted to land speculation and agency, by selling lands to willing buyers, and has also not allowed peace to reign in the community. He has already confiscated all the lands including the farmlands and buildings that were not originally theirs, also encouraged demolitions of people’s property, which they allegedly said has caused great pandemonium and embitterment to the women as their children are not even given job opportunities to work as that should be part of the accruing benefits to the host community.

On the encroachment, and other allegations of sand excavation and land speculation, Ezinne Rose Anah, said that the FUTO community and Ihiagwa have a boundary agreement which FUTO management has continued to violate while their resistance has always led to series of court litigations at the federal high court, Owerri before the sudden attack on them recently, by the Prof. F.C Eze’s goons. 

When contacted, the Federal University of Technology Owerri, (FUTO) Director of Social Duties and Security (FUTO), Prof. John Ogolo accepted that they demolished the structures as directed by the federal government so as to create room for the institution’s expansion. According to him, the area rightly belongs to FUTO and was reserved for building of school hostels before the natives falsefully encroached on the land. When asked to measure the extent of damage done, Prof. Ogolo said that they are illegal structures and warned Ihiagwa community not to tamper with the FUTO land again.  

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