The people of Isuanaocha community in Awka North Local Council Area of Anambra on Tuesday embarked on a protest alleging the illegal acquisition of their land by the state government.
The protesters, who stormed Government House, Awka with placards were not less than 200 and are mostly farmers from the agrarian community which makes up part ofthe state capital.
Some of their placards read “farming is our only source of livelihood; land provides the means,” “People who signed the power of attorney are 419ners” and “we say no to land speculations.”
The President-General of the community, Mr Alfred Nkwonta, who informed security operatives in front of Government House, Awka about their mission, was however directed to the ministry of lands.
Nkwonta said that they received a notice of revocation of right of occupancy on Oct. 2, 2014and subsequently,a letter of acquisition of Otoko, Umuelom and Umudunu village farm lands.
According to him, the said farm lands contain an area of approximately 108. 462 hectares planned for acquisition at N80 million by the government for the construction of housing estate.
“The community does not even have land so much as to give out over 108 hectares; more so when it was done without proper consultation with the villagers.
“If Gov. Willie Obiano who takes food production as the main pillar of his administration forcefully acquires the land, we the affected villages cannot survive as local farmers.
“Again, the affected villages did not mandate any person to negotiate or carry out transaction with government.
“We plead with the government therefore to stop further dealings or transaction with any person relating to the said land,”the president-general said.
Reacting however, the state Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Planning, Mrs Stella Onuorah, contended that the land was acquired legally and compensation paid appropriately to the original land owners.
“We must appreciate the fact that the governor has the right to revoke any land for overriding public interest.
“Gov. Willie Obiano felt that there was the need to create satellite towns because housing is one of the enablers of his four pillars of development,” she said.
According to her, after the acquisition the community appointed an estate valuer, Mr George Lynn who worked with the ministry of lands and some members of the community to evaluate the land.
Onuorah said that Nkwonta, Mr V.N. Okonkwo,Chief Donatus Okeke, Mr Lawrence Okoye and Chief Cosmas Okonkwo were all served the acquisition notices.
She argued that it was after the acquisition that the governor was written for possible compensation which was approved and handed over to Lynn and some people from the area.
“The day we gave out the money, it was announced and reported in the media for all to know what was paid and who received what as the government had nothing to hide about the process,” she said.
Onuorah however said from reports gathered, the money had not been disbursed because the estate valuer later found out that another community is laying claim to some parts of the land.
“So he decided to delay payment to ensure that the matter was resolved in favour of proper land owners,” the commissioner stressed.