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Inhabitants of Umuejechi Community, Nekede, in Owerri West Local Council of Imo State have sued the state government for what they described as ‘forcible and illegal entry into their ancestral land,’ comprising the land housing former Agriculture Development Corporation (ADC) in Nekede.
In a letter written and signed by their counsel, Ugochukwu Okoro a copy of which was sent to The Eastern Updaets, the community said the government disregarded the court order, which had declared them the owners of the said land, and restrained further encroachment by the state government.
They insisted that no amount of intimidation, assault or harassment would make them concede the land to the state government, ‘unless and until judgment granting them ownership and possession of the land is upturned.’
They criticized the state administration for using armed security guards to intimidate and harm its citizens. To prevent a violation of community peace, law, and order, they urged Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Alkali Baba to look into the situation and instruct his men.
The letter partly read: “Our clients have been having a running battle with the government of Imo State over their ancestral land comprised in the former Agriculture Development Corporation (ADC), Nekede, leased to the government of the then Eastern Region in 1956 but inherited by the Imo State Government.
“Our clients sued the government of Imo State in Suit No. HOW/603/2018; Dr. Etofolam Osuji & 3 Ors V. Governor Of Imo State & 2 Ors in a claim for a declaration of title over the land.
“By a judgment delivered on 27/5/2019, the trial court declared our clients the owners of the land and restrained the government of Imo State from disturbing our clients in their possession and ownership of the land.”
“Dissatisfied with the judgment of the court and the consent judgment, the government appealed against same to the Court of Appeal in Suit No. CA/Ow/222m/2020; Governor Of Imo State & Ors V. Dr. Etofolam Osuji & 3 Ors.
“On 17/2/2023, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of the government and affirmed the judgment of the High Court declaring our clients the owners of the land.
“Dissatisfied again, the government of Imo State filed an appeal at the Supreme Court which appeal has not even been entered, much less heard.”
“The above represent the present legal status of the land, but to the chagrin of our clients, the government of Imo State, through the Commissioner for Lands, broke and entered into the land with brute force and commenced the clearing of the land, removing all the structures and economic trees on the land without the consent or approval of our clients, the owners of the land.
“Our clients protested the mindless usurpation of their right to ownership and possession of their land, and the Government of Imo State deployed over 100 well-armed policemen, hooded and wearing masks, who came and beat up our clients and chased our clients away from the land threatening to shoot anyone they see on the land.”
When contacted on behalf of the state government, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Communications, Collins Ughalaa promised to respond but until the time of filing this report, no response was received from him.