THERE was pandemonium in Owerri, Imo State capital on Thursday as indigenes of Amawon Community in Owerri Municipal Council blocked major streets in the town to protest the acquisition of Area K Communal land and the Ekwema Boulevard behind the NNPC Filling Station by the Governor Rochas Okorocha administration.
The indigenes had earlier protested the acquisition of Area K before embarking on a full-scale protest on Thursday.
The protesters, led by their community leaders, one of which is a former Council Chairman, Mr. Macdonald Ebere, marched the streets of Owerri dressed in black attires and carrying a mock coffin to convey their grievances.
According to a community leader, Oguike Ugbaja, the Amawom people are pressed for space and barely have enough land for their children to build their homes.
The Ekwema Boulevard land had been in court since the previous administration under Chief Ikedi Ohakim and the community had made it abundantly clear to the government that they were not interested in compensation or selling the land which was part of the reasons the matter is still in court.
He said: “The government, against all entreaties, went behind the community leaders to deal with an individual, one Justin Emenyonu, who is said to have paid N4.5 million by the government on behalf of so-called land owners. We had told the government that our position is to wait for the court ruling but before we knew what was happening, the government moved into the land and commenced construction work on what is said to be a shopping complex. And this we view as an invasion and an assault on our rights.”
On Emenyonu who is alleged to have collected N4.5 million from the government, the community said he and his family members have since been ostracised from the community for his alleged betrayal.
The mock coffin paraded by the community has the name of Justin Emenyonu written boldly on it.
Some of the placards brandished by the protesters read: “Our lands are not for personal aggrandisement”, “Okorocha, we do not want your compensation!”, “Owelle, let the court decide what becomes of the land”, and “We cannot continue to be tenants in our own lands”.
When contacted, the Information Officer in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Planning, one Mrs. Vivian Okafor, declined comment and refused to take repeated calls put to her mobile phone.
A text message to her, inquiring the position of the ministry on the matter, was not replied.