The farming community of Awba-ofemmili in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra state yesterday embarked on a peaceful protest where they raised alarm over what they described as “the invasion and occupation of their land by agents of the neighboring Ibite-ollo, community in Ezeagu LGA backed by the Enugu state government.”
The natives numbering above one thousand, comprising men, women and children chanting songs and with placards of various inscription critical of the Government and people of Enugu state trooped to the location to meet face to face with the invaders, a contracting firm.
At the farming location, known in the community as Ndave Okpu village land, the placard-wielding lot confronted the site Engineer who gave his name as Mr Chike Ilechukwu.
He said he appreciated their peaceful disposition, but told them that his company was sent by the Enugu state government to construct a World Bank-backed irrigation system to enable the farmers there plant crops three times annually. That it was part of the Enugu state FADAMA agriculture project.
The Awba-Ofemmili community spokesman, Hon Sebastian Okoye told the contractor and his workers that the community want them to stop whatever they were doing forthwith peacefully because the land belongs to them and that they have no discussion with any one on the irrigation project. That it was not possible that Enugu state government would send someone to build anything on the land belonging to an Anambra community without prior understanding.
The community pointed out that the latest move if it was truly on the promptings of the Enugu state government need to be viewed seriously as an act of undue aggression and intimidation.
They admitted that some years ago, about 2005/2006 their neighboring Ibite Ollo, a community in Enugu state encroached on the said portion of land but was repelled by the people of Awba Ofemmili and the resultant tension brought the officials of the National Boundary Commission to the area.
Incidentally the incumbent traditional ruler of Awba Ofemmili, HRH Igwe Ezekwesili Maduagwuna was the chairman of Awka North Local Government Area then and he recollected that they worked painstakingly with the Boundaries Commission, though the final report or White Paper was yet to be published. The Commission had mandated both communities to maintain the peace and keep every activity within the bounds they were used to before the outbreak of hostilities. Awba-Ofemmili and Ibite Ollo were charged to keep and maintain the initial distance, while Awba people continued farming on the land without going beyond the set bounds. Same with Ibite Ollo until now that the irrigation project contractors encroached on the land again, contrary to the wise counsel of the Boundaries Commission.
The Awba Ofemmili monarch confirmed he has briefed the state Governor-Willie Obiano, the security agencies and the Chairman of the Awka North LGA with a view to nipping the impending crisis in the bud. He urged the government and the security agencies to take up the matter immediately, to beef up security in the area to avoid breakdown of law and order. He charged his subjects who were visibly sorely provoked to maintain the peace.
However, neither the Anambra state government, Police nor the Enugu state government have reacted as at the time of filing the report. But a source within the Anambra governor’s office confirmed they have received the petition from the community.
However the contractor has agreed to suspend further activities on the troubled land until things get sorted out peacefully in the interested of all.
Some of the placards read “keep off our land”, “we don’t need no war”, “this is our age long ancestral land, stay off”, we don’t want any bloodshed here, go”