Elderly men, women as well and young people of Owalla, Uratta Autonomous community in Owerri North council Area of Imo state, on Sunday staged a protest calling on the Governor of Imo state, Hope Uzodimma, to investigate the forceful takeover of their lands by suspected government agents through the office of the Ministry of Lands.

The angry residents made their grievances known to newsmen while marching around the Owalla community in Owerri North LGA of Imo state.

They said they were forced to go on protest because hunger was ravaging them as a result of the destruction of their farmlands.

According to Mr. Michael Mbata, “On the 12 of August 2023,  we saw caterpillars driving into our community. Before you know it, we saw the caterpillar crushing our crops, and palm trees and brushing our lands. Our cassava, vegetables, we’re damaged. When we tried to enquire what was happening the security did not allow us. They teargas us, beat us, and ask us to leave our lands.

“Even our traditional ruler said he does not know about it. So, the Eze brought the commissioner of lands to see what was happening, The commissioner of lands, Noble Atulegwu, came and saw what was happening he told the caterpillar operators to stop work and they stopped. Immediately after the commissioner left, they continued work. We even got an injunction from the court but they refused to obey it and continued destroying our lands.

“We are in support of the government. We want Governor Hope Uzodimma to come back for the second term. But these people are trying to ruin the image of the government. We know one Malachy Emeghara, is working for commissioner of lands. And he said his working for the commissioner of land to take over our land. We are finished. The inheritance of our father they want to take it by force.

“They use the government’s name to take over our land. They beat our mothers and children. They shoot our young people and threaten to kill them. All our palm trees have been cut down. Our cassava has been uprooted. They say the government is interested in our land. They destroyed our crops. Some of us can’t afford money to eat. We are dying. You want us to be homeless. What do we tell our children? We have been sacked from our community.”

Adding his voice, elder Vincent Ahuekwe, said: “Our ancestral lands have been threatened and taken. They are threatening and grabbing our land. Our people are dying. One of the widows was brutalized and taken to the hospital and she is still suffering from the pains.”

Mr. Richard Omire accused those carrying out the invasion, “as a plot to rubbish the image of the governor. They want to destroy the good works of the governor. I suspect these people are working with the opposition to set our communities and state on fire.”

Reacting, the Imo state Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Noble Atulegwu, said: “These lands are government-acquired land and you know communities have been working on it until the time comes for government to use it for overriding public interest. There is no land you touch people will not protest.

“Even the traditional ruler and President Generals of the community called that I should allow them to come and do claim survey. I agreed with them before you know it they went to court. We don’t mean any harm.”

Source : Vanguard News


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