Concerned families in Umuogali village, Oba in Idemili South Council Area are asking Anambra State Government to immediately stop the registration request by Increase Estate Limited who claims he had acquired the Ugbo Umuogali farmland in Oba Community.
The indigenous owners of the land made the appeal after a meeting with the State Commissioner for Lands and the purported developer at the Ministry of Lands, Awka.
Our Correspondent who has been monitoring the matter, gathered that the land in question which measures over five kilometre square, borders Obosi in Idemili North, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo and Odekpe in Ogbaru LGA.
The fresh water swamp which houses the Ose Abosi, Ose Uruagu and Ose Uzoubi, also has water canals that can lead to these places and is the same basin of Ogwuikpele and Oguta in Imo State.
The Umuogali Development Association had issued a resolution of on the 23rd of June, 2017 against sale of Ugbo land and Mgbo Swamp.
It had also followed the action up with a Caveat/Public Warning to the public published on Daily Sun of June 14, 2017 against Sale/Purchase of the Ugbo land, Mgbo Swamp and their adjoining land to non-indigenes of Umuogali Village, Oba.
Reports have it that some youths in the community had for years taken over the place and prevented the rightful owners from accessing the land and afterwards sold the land to some estate agents including Increase Estate.
It was when the State Ministry of Lands made public notice of the registration request by Increase Estate Limited, that the owners uncovered the plot and approached the Ministry.
Investigations revealed that over 20 petitions contesting the appropriateness of the acquisition of the land by the owners, have been received by the Ministry.
Speaking to newsmen after a meeting in Awka, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police from Umuogali village, Mr Bon Azubuike recalled how their people were assaulted by the youths manning the land for the estate agent.
“Article 3.5 of Umuogali Constitution forbids such acquisition by a non-indigene of Umuogali.
“On the side of an environmentalist, that place is a fresh swamp area and not suitable for the kind of development the Increase Estate is bringing.
“You can see what is happening with flooding in Pakistan and that is as a result of mistakes of the past. That is what we are trying to avoid.
“And even if he rightfully acquires the place today, he can not change our ancestral name of our groove to something that does not relate to our existence. A tenant does not change the address of where he is living,” he said.
Azubuike narrated how the youths who supposedly sold the land to the estate agent had added terrorism to their activities and so tormented their people that the people cannot have access to the lands.
“We don’t even know when they sold the place.
“Anyone who is seen near the entire place is assaulted, macheted and maimed by the people who he claimed sold the land to them,” the retired ACP recalled.
He maintained that nobody is above the law and so, the law must be obeyed that no stranger should enter the land and ignorance of the law, is not an excuse.
Azubuike said; “The estate cannot say he is ignorant of the law precluding some people from acquiring the land.
“There is also the cliché ‘buyer beware’ in acquisition of property. It is the buyer that should beware and not the seller. If he buys from the wrong people, he should hold himself responsible.
“They should also allow our people access into their farmlands because our people even fear them more than the Fulani herdsmen because of the kinds of negative things they do.
“We also ask government to look into how it can organize us as cooperatives to return our youths to the farms because if our youths are returned to the farms, majority of the youths would have been pulled out of the negative venture of indiscriminate land sale and given a positive direction.
“Most importantly, Oba does not have land again. The land is the only farmland the community has because of the sudden development that came to the community so it is of great concern to them.”
The concerned stakeholder thanked the state government for initiating the meeting but urged them to sustain the meeting and ensure that the right thing is done.
On his part, a former Idemili South Council Chairman, Hon Edwin Egbobe from Umuogali village, made it clear that the concerned owners of the lands have not sold our lands and whoever sold or bought the lands did not consult them.
“The Caveat which we published in Daily Sun Newspaper in 2017, clearly warned that the Umuogali Oba portion of Mgbo swamp and Ugbo are common heritage of the people of Umuogali, which is a communal land.
“It also stipulated the clear delineations of the land being that it is bordered by a strip of land which is bounded by the Akwa Mgbo road known as five naira road in Umuogali Oba, which runs from the Onitsha/Owerri road to the bondary between Umuogali Oba and Aboji Oba.
“We went further in the CAVEAT to warn that any non-indigene of Umuogali Oba who buys or attempts to buy any portion of the portions of land afore-mentioned, is doing so at their own risk.
“The issue is that some people trespassed on our lands forcing our people not to enter their farmlands with thugs.
“They eventually sold our lands to the purported buyer who called himself Increase Estate Limited.
“We got the wind of a notice placed by the State Ministry of Lands that the person wants to register the land and we wrote petitions asking the Ministry not to register the Increase Estate because it was not legitimately purchased.
“That is what we are protesting that we, the concerned owners of the lands have not sold our lands and whoever sold or bought the lands did not consult us.
“Based on the protests, the state government invited us with the so-called estate agent,” he revealed.
Egbobe who expressed satisfaction that the government is intervening in the matter, said the meeting is also necessary to set the records straight.
“I feel comfortable with the meeting so we can make it clear to the so-called estate agent that maybe he has been duped and he should go and collect his money from them.
“We the owners are ready to any extent, to reclaim our inheritance. What we are trying to do is to stop the registration first because if you allow him to be registered, it will be medicine after death,” he said.
The former LGA boss emphasized that the lands are owned by individual families and not even communal land, insisting that the developer cannot say he purchased the land without the knowledge of the rightful owners.
“The entire Umuogali village who owns the Ugbo land in question, is made up of five quarters, Uruokokwu, Uruagu, Umuokpa, Okpuno and Umuagu.
“And they are quoting that people from Umuagu sold some portions to them, when the major portions of the land are owned by Uruagu.
“How is that possible?” he queried.
When accosted, the State Lands Commissioner, Prof Offornze Amucheazi declined comments, saying both parties have been told to meet to resolve the matter and come back on the 19th of next month.