• October 21, 2021

Anambra Airport; host community accuses govt of land grabbing

… we have maintained Obi’s coordinates – state government

…govt has only settled for 729.6 hectares – lawyer

By O’star Eze

Over eight months after the host community of the proposed Anambra State Cargo Airport had written the state government complaining of encroachment by state government officials on their land beyond the area allowed for the airport, this reporter gathered that nothing has been done by the government to remedy the situation, save for a rebuttal of the allegation by the state commissioner for information, Mr C.Don Adinuba published on Vanguard newspaper, Monday, July 27, 2020. There, Mr Adinuba maintained that the said portions of land were only gazetted during Peter Obi’s administration. That the Obiano government had not gone beyond the coordinates provided by the said notice of revocation of right of occupancy.

It would be recalled that on November 28, 2019, Honourable Barrister S. O Chukwukelu (JP) of Eze-di-Ebube Chambers, Nkpor had written a detailed letter to Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, on behalf of the affected families in Umueri alleging that government beacons had been “planted just few feets from the residential buildings and primary school of the community.”

Also that eight days before the date of the letter, heavy earth moving machines were seen by the community members “maliciously destroying all their crops/cash crops, economic trees and farm huts for no reason but justification. The most heart aching aspect of the madness being that no prior notice was even given to them in order to enable them harvest their crops and remove all other valuables of theirs on the land assuming without conceding that the action was proper and genuine”, read the letter from Barrister Chukwukelu.

The solicitor’s argument in the letter was that the space of land already provided by the community for the government to build estimated at 729 hectares was ” big enough to accommodate any government’s project including the proposed refinery and cargo airport put together.” He therefore fingered “some self-centred greedy and selfish fraudsters and sycophants in the corridor of power of Anambra State government with some government officials” as masterminds of the alleged land grabbing.

Quoting the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the barrister noted that the government had not acquired the extra parcels of land legally as section 44 (1) (a) and (b) of the aforementioned constitution stated that “no moveable property or any interest in an immovable property of anybody shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purpose prescribed by a law that among other things requires the prompt payment of compensation therefore, e.t.c”

Investigation by this reporter revealed that while the present administration was claiming 4 parcels of land labelled A, B, C and D totalling about 1,868 hectares of land, a notice from Anambra State government to Umueri community on December 18, 2008, revoking the right of occupancy of the people to three parcels of land labelled parcel A, B and C had described the area as totalling 1665.901 hectares of land.

The notice which was signed by the former governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi described the parcels of land thus: Parcel A of site for Cargo Airport for Anambra State government of Ivite Umueri Anambra East Local Government Area containing an area of approximately 756.801 hectares…Parcel B of site of Cargo Airport containing an area of approximately 462.872 hectares…Parcel C measuring 446.228 hectares. The notice also indicated that the state government would “pay compensation for all the economic trees, crops and unexhaustible improvements there on.”

Comparing this description with that allegedly being claimed by the present administration totalling about 1,868 hectares of land, the reporter noticed that an extra 206 hectares beyond that already gazetted was being claimed by the present administration.

The solicitor also alleged in his letter that for parcel B, C and D, “no compensation has been paid to the owners of the lands and no notice of such acquisition has been served on them as prescribed by law.”

He therefore enjoined the state governor to “consider putting the people first in the implementation of any government policy,” adding that the letter was a pre-action notice as they might be forced to take legal action after three months of the notice if nothing was done to address the situation.

However, explaining why the Obiano administration has appeared unconcerned over the allegations, Anambra State Commissioner for Lands, Physical Planning and Rural Development, Honourable Bonaventure Enemali presented another government notice signed by Peter Obi and dated July 27, 2010.

Hon. Enemali, in a chat with the reporter via WhatsApp, stated that Peter Obi’s administration had written the community again after the first document and that the community members had their own copy of the notice. He added that they were duly compensated as stipulated by the law.

“Attached here is the approval of the revocation notice. It was duly served and the community stakeholders has a copy they signed off. The land was properly acquired.

“You can see that what is here is parcel A, B, C and D. I am not the one that made it up.” Enemali stated.

The figures in the said July 27, 2010 notice corresponded with the ones of the state government which the community was agitating against.

However responding to this state government’s claim, Umueri’s solicitor on this matter stated that of the three portions mentioned in the notice, it was only portion ‘A’ (729.6 hectares) that state government paid compensation for.

Barrister Chukwukelu also informed that Umueri community’s kick for impact assessment of the projects on the people by the state government has not been attended to, nor has any Memorandum of Understanding drafted between the two parties over the said projects.

In his words, “What was given was the one they refer to as ‘A’, a total of 729.6 hectares .
The one that is been referred to as ‘B” was when the abracadabra started. I could remember that a team was sent by Willie to see Igwe and Ivite Umueri stakeholders at the palace one time, to request for extra land for ‘Airport village/community’. Igwe told them to conclude the payment of the 729.6 hectares they already have before seeking for extra, though he welcomed the idea of the project. They later got the ‘B’ with the connivance of some persons anyway, but did not complete the payment for it till this agitation started.

“The ‘C’ they are talking about has never been given nor compensation paid for it.

“No impact assessment that has to do with pollution (noise, air, others) have been made nor has there been any Memorandum of Understanding discussed or entered between the government and the host community, as is normal in any place such project is being cited.”

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