Crisis looms as Owerri community occupies land acquired by govt

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Okorocha1LEADERS and youths of Amaawom community in Owerri Municipal, Imo State, are set for an open confrontation with their Governor, Rochas Okorocha, over his decision to acquire their land for some public projects.

After protesting the decision but with the state government insisting on going ahead with its plan, residents of the community have moved their belongings to the affected area to prevent the takeoff of the projects.

When The Guardian visited the disputed land, the people had taken over the 320 plots of land, where they erected tents as their abode.

They vowed not to leave the land until Okorocha rescinds his decision to dispossess them of their ancestral property.

It was learnt that the community’s opposition to the government’s bid was informed by what befell them in the past when a former administration took their land to build a civic centre near Imo Concorde Hotel, Owerri.

Rather than using it for the purpose agreed with the people, top government officials, senators and politicians at the state and federal levels took over the land to erect their personal edifices.

This time, the people have vowed not to allow history repeat itself. They said allowing the government to acquire the land would amount to denying their children the right to have a place to build their houses in the future.

But not minding their opposition, the state government has insisted that development of any minutest area in the state remained its priority.

Consequently, Okorocha has directed that 320 plots along Onitsha Road, off Yar’Adua Drive, (Area K) be cleared for the construction of some public structures.

The state government had cleared the land for the construction of what Okorocha called a 25-storey hotel, ecumenical centre, among others.

But the elders and the youths from the community have carried their tents, canopies, cooking utensils and sleeping materials to the land since last week, insisting that they would not allow any equipment to enter the land for the exercise.

They also stood their ground not to accept any compensation from the state government.

Led by the leader of Renaissance Group, Mr. Mac Donald Ebere, they insisted that the matter of take over of the land by the government had been in court when previous administrations attempted to acquire it.

He said they had given plots for building of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) office, NITEL, NIPOST, two stadia, Old Stadium and Dan Anyiam Stadium, Imo Hotels, Police Quarters, High Court premises, Owerri, Holy Ghost and Government Colleges, Owerri Girls Secondary School, Assumpta Catholic Cathedral among others.

Former Adviser to the Governor on Technical Matters and now Chairman, Caretaker Committee of Ahiazu Local Council, Dr. Kachi Nwoga, said the land in question had been acquired by government in the past, adding that compensations were also paid.

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