By Onyinyechi Kanu
The Attorney to Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) host communities and Owerri based estate surveyor and valuer, ESV Chief Sam Anokam has said that FUTO should pursue the matter though due process and legitimately and the essence why he is in this struggle is because he is fighting for injustice. He made this known to our reporter during a press briefing on the 23rd of February, 2022, at his office in Owerri.
Speaking to newsmen in his office, Chief Anokam said, ” I am in this struggle is because I am fighting for justice and in any way you look at it, you will see injustice clearly. When you also look at it in the sense of what land is and it’s importance to the host communities and Igbo people, you will find out that land means alot to us, and land itself is wealth, a deity and it shows God’s provision of a homestead to us. Land is also where God has given us settle, to procreate as demanded of us and we must protect it to avoid being wanderers”.
Continuing, he said “it is with this view of fact that I became convinced to commit my time, money and efforts to protect our people. I am not just a professional estate surveyor but also a stakeholder in the community and we must bequeath something for our children”.
But it is unfortunate that some people don’t understand the reason for this pursuit, while some have attached pecuniary interest to it.
According to him, there are people outside the host communities whose interest is to appropriate the land against the interest of the host communities in the guise of land acquired for public purpose by government. They have been making efforts to ensure that we don’t succeed in the struggle.
He explained that both Imo State and federal government have no record to show that compensation was paid. He noted that “FUTO should stop acting unconstitutionally and pay compensation or negotiate properly with the host communities for peace to reign because the proper thing to do is to follow the land use act which is acquire, pay compensation and take the land, but the recent clearing of the site, fencing and sign board placed tells us clearly that FUTO has ulterior motives.”
Again PPP Public-Private Partnership of using the land to pay a contractor is not tenable in this matter. “The land is not fully acquired, does not belong to FUTO and cannot be used to pay anyone. There is also a pending court action against them on that matter and currently the Inspector General of police is investigating activities there.
He further said that FUTO through Hon. Dr. Pascal Obi, member representing Ideato North and South in National Assembly moved a motion requesting for an increased budget to enable them fence their premises to wade off encroachment. According to him, they saw the action as having ulterior motive as well.
And in reaction to that, we have filed a petition in the National Assembly requesting a review of their resolution to that effect in the sense that there is no defined boundary between the host communities and FUTO for now to be fenced. The claim of FUTO having a land area is bogus which needs to be substantiated because if you claim you own a piece of land, you should prove by your title and payment you made. And as we speak, FUTO has no certificate of occupancy to the land because the land was acquired in 1982, while the land use act was enacted in 1978 and commenced operations. So the valid document from then till now is the CofO which they don’t have, so they can’t claim they own it, but only what exists is the letter of exchange between Imo State government and Federal government and at that stage compensation was not paid, it was just an exchange.
According to him, the action area which they are occupying now is about 1000 hectares, this is the area which they pleaded with the land owners to allow them enter, but now they are claiming everywhere. They also entered Port-Harcourt area, bulldozed, chased away and destroyed buildings and handed over to a company.
“We are not tired of fighting the cause, the matter now is being handled by the three arms of government; the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature right now and I have never subscribed to protest but expect the matter should be appropriately placed where it should be. I have never in my years of practice been arraigned before a court, but on FUTO and Orient Garden City’s trumped up charges of malicious damages, threat to life and threat to violence has arraigned me to court and are using that strategy to deter me. Currently, they are using DSS to invite me which I suspect as another trump card they have. Few days ago, I was detained at DSS for over four hours without anybody coming to tell me why I came and I left.
“What I am saying is that FUTO should pursue the matter through due process and legitimately, while we are in court, they should pursue the matter in court too, they should also meet us at the Executive where the matter is being handled as well as in the National Assembly.”
“We are not tired, no matter where they take us to because we are fighting injustice.
He also sounded a warning to some prominent people who want to take the land from the people based on overall public interest but for their own purpose, he added that FUTO and their collaborators should know that we are not deterred by any action they want to take to frustrate the struggle. He assured them that they cannot frustrate it because this is a fight for posterity.
He advised the current FUTO Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mrs Nnenna Otti to focus on academics and stay away from FUTO land matters which is best for her.