ENUGU, Nigeria – Elder statesman and former Governor of Old Anambra State Chief Jim Nwobodo has waded into the controversy rocking the revocation of a vast estate, the Enugu Centenary City by the State Government.
He spoke at his country home in Amechi yesterday when members and leaders of the two communities came to inform him of their earlier peaceful demonstration in support of Gov. Ugwuanyi’s decision to revoke the land.
The former Governor appealed to Enugu state government and other estate developers to hands off the communal land belonging to Amechi and Obeagu communities in Enugu South local government area.
Nwobodo said that the land which was converted to a sprawling estate, named ‘Centenary City’ by the administration of former Governor Sullivan Chime, but recently revoked by the current administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was originally acquired by him as Governor of old Anambra state 40 years ago with the intention of building the permanent site of then Anambra State University of Science and Technology (ASUTEC) at the place.
Nwobodo said that when he acquired the land, the size was 318 hectares, but expressed surprise that subsequent administrations illegally expanded the size of the land to 1,097 hectares.
The elder statesman said that he tried during his time but could not complete the process of acquisition and development of the permanent site of ASUTECH before the change of government in October of 1983.
“Some years later, Governor Chimaroke Nnamani fulfilled that dream by relocating the University to Agbani. It is indeed painful to realize that the land initially meant for that project is the subject of this protest,” he said.
Nwobodo noted that his investigation revealed that inconsistencies and contradictions in the documents being paraded by those who claimed to have acquired the land, is suggesting that such documents might have been forged.
He said, “Any acquisition, title, action, agreement, and or certificate of Occupancy over the land made and or predicated on the Anambra State of Nigeria Official Gazette N0. 12. II of 27th March, 1986 and the purported 1985 Enugu State University of Science and Technology (PLAN EN (A) 594) when Enugu State was not in existence is invalid, null and void”.
The elder statesman cautioned current governors and political office holders across the country against using their positions of authority to forcefully acquire peoples land and amassing wealth meant for the development of the society but to ensure the welfare of the people through building of industries and creation of job opportunities for the youths.
“This land thing is a very serious matter that should not be joked about. It is not politics. There are people whose parents, grandparents are buried in this land and you come and take their land without telling them on the guise of building a centenary city. What manner of centenary city? It is not fair. I gave out only 318 hectares and you have now increased it to 1097 hectares. It is bad,” he said.
Earlier the people and leaders of Amechi and Obeagu communities had staged a peaceful protest to the Government House and State House of Assembly to thank the state government for revoking the “fraudulent” Certificate of Occupancy of the land, which they claimed belonged to them; but urged government to further make a pronouncement that the land be reverted to the communities as owners.
In a joint memo addressed to Governor Ugwuanyi and Speaker of the House, Edward Ubosi, Sir Richard N. Nnamani and Chief Andy Egbo representing Amechi and Obeagu communities respectively, they demanded that those behind the use of law enforcement agents to intimidate the communities over the land should be brought to book.
The Director General, Conflict Resolution of Enugu State, Mr. Uchenna Ogbuu received the memo on behalf of the Governor and assured the people that the government would engage further with them to resolve the crisis.