-Landowners threaten legal action
For over seven years now, Governor Anayo Ethelbert Okorocha has been riding roughshod and grandstanding over the docility and complacency of Imolites who it was said gave him a blank cheque to do with public resources as he wishes. Apart from his inability to give account of his stewardship, he is known to have amassed several acres of landed property at Owerri and else where in the state claiming “all lands belong to him”. Of course the land use act is very clear about acquisition of peoples land.
Though Egbeada and Mbieri people whose Spibat Quarters, he willfully acquired had kept dead silent over such wanton depravity as well as those of Otammiri sprawling estate said to be owned by his wife, Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha, who is fast becoming the highest property owner, east of the Niger, his Umuchima, Obohia and Ogboko people have collectively warned Okorocha to steer clear of the landed property where the called Eastern Palm University situates, for over six years now. In a press release issued 26th December 2017, by the Eastern Palm University’s host communities, they stated that the press conference was predicated upon, the brazen acts of intimidation highhandedness and ill-treatment meted out to the host communities, original land owners of the sites of Eastern Palm University which had inadvertently started as permanent site for Imo State University.
They regretted that their son and brother could willfully, acquire their lands for this purpose without properly consulting the host communities. Continuing, the host communities comprising Umueshi, Umuchima Obohia, Ogwume, and Ogboko stated that they cannot continue to sit by and watch helplessly while Okorocha tramples upon their rights hence their decision to embark on a protest so as to ventilate and register their discontentment, over the development.
Okorocha was accused of subjugation of the people to all forms of psychological trauma all these past six years. Moreso when there are limits to human endurances “we as a people have for the past six years, been exercising all forms of dialogues known to history, to get our son and brother the Governor, to see reason to do the needful, by way of assuaging the ill-feelings of our people through the consummation of the Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U.) the proposals of which have been channeled to him, through the Lands Ministry, without any result. This we have done, in order not to be seen as spoilers or anti-administration of our brother, yet here we are – no attention, no consideration.
The Ibeagwa Communities in Nsukka, Enugu State, are today making progress because of the scholarships, employment opportunities infrastructural facilities they attracted as donors of the lands when University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) is sited, because of the consummation of Memorandum of Understanding with government, to mitigate their losses as alternatives. Same applies to Ifite Awka Communities in Anambra State. The examples are endless. The albeit normative question to ask is “why is our own different”? Any law that lacks universality of application, is a bad law, reprehensible, retroactive ill-tempered and ill- conceived. Such law has no place in civilization hence our protest today.
“While the communities above were leaking their wounds on tha cataclysmic consequences of the government actions, which were carried out in total defiance to due process of negotiation or consideration, they resorted to mount feable resistance which culminate in the election of ten man committee of the land owners, headed by Hon. Chief G.I. Okwara (JP), to quickly intervene and open up negotiation with the government, with a view to determining the fate of the land owners and their life benefits as last resort. This flowed from persuasive approaches to the communities by Hon. Chief Kelvin I. Amuka, who represents Ideato South State Constituency and some eminent sons of the communities who sued for dialogue and understanding.
The committee gallantly engaged the Lands Ministry of Imo State, headed then by Hon. Chief Uche Nwosu, the present Chief of Staff to the Governor as Commissioner and extracted some understanding which disclosed that a Memorandum of Understanding should be consummated between Imo State Government and the affected communities, and also, that the damaged crops and economic trees, should be compensated for.
As we speak, the University has metamorphosed from Imo State University, to the Imo State/European University and ultimately, to Eastern Palm University contrary to our original oral understanding with the government which prompted our conceding the lands abinitio. To worsen things, the university has completed recruitment of staff-skilled and unskilled, without reference to the land owners or their inputs; most of their appointees are friends and well wishers drawn from outside, who have no visible stake in terms of ownership of lands in the’ university and to make issues worse, concluded admission processes in “the university without ceding any quarters to the communities for their children. The university communities could not boast of any single infrastructure- Electric poles, good roads, etc., to assuage their losses.
It is because of the above developments, that we are here today, to tell the whole world, that except the government resorts back to do the needful, i.e. The signing and implementation of the M.O.U, which proposals are with them for the past two years, the university should remain a product of litigations in the years to come and even after the current life of the present administration in Imo State. This is because the principles upon which we acceded to the forceful conceding of our lands, have been brazenly eroded. We no longer know the true owners of the university and have not sold our lands to anybody-corporate or government.”