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Community leader, Anambra govt lock horns over farmland

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
15 November 2021   |   3:55 am
Crisis has erupted over the ownership of Ogbo Onwumili land, a farmland in Ifite- Nteje, Oyi Local Council of Anambra State between a community leader, Chief Sam Ikefuna, and state government officials.

Crisis has erupted over the ownership of Ogbo Onwumili land, a farmland in Ifite- Nteje, Oyi Local Council of Anambra State between a community leader, Chief Sam Ikefuna, and state government officials.

Also, a traditional ruler in the area (name withheld) is reportedly on the run over what has been described as a criminal trespass and damages to the private property situated at Nteje/Awkuzu area.

Ikefuna, according to investigation by The Guardian, reportedly acquired the contentious farmland in 2002, with agricultural Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) dated February 1, 1993, from the ancestral owners in Ifite-Nteje.

It was consequently secured under the auspices of Samzek Holdings Limited with Headquarters in Warri, Delta State, vide a Deed of Assignment executed in 2002.

Since the area was procured, fenced with an entry and exit gates, it had served agricultural purposes, as part of it is used for fish farming. Several hands were also employed to manage the expansive land.

However, last week, officials from the Anambra State Urban Planning Department (ASUDEB) and Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra (OCHA) Brigade descended on the property with some bulldozers and security officials and destroyed the multi-million naira farmland.

They claimed to have earlier marked ‘Remove’ on the walls, adding that the forceful takeover was to stop further encroachment on the land, which they claimed belonged to the state government.

Chairman of ASUDEB, Chike Maduekwe, confirmed that officials of the board carried out the demolition based on a directive from the Commissioner for Lands.

According to him, the commissioner had formally written to him asking that they recover the land said to belong to the state government, which somebody was encroaching on.

However, Ikefuna, who took reporters through the length and breadth of the land, said he acquired the land (about nine hectares) in 2002 for agricultural purposes, stressing that he applied and got all the necessary papers and authorisation, including a CofO.

“All these past years, I have never encountered any problem with anyone or authority over the land. I have also been farming there,” he stated.

Ikefuna expressed surprise that while on a business trip overseas, one of his aides called to alert him that some men stormed his premises and without any explanation, started marking ‘Remove’ on the wall.

“Unexpectedly, as they concluded the marking on the wall, their full convoy arrived in full force with two truckloads of armed soldiers, armed masked mobile police officers, bulldozers and some thugs, unannounced and started pulling down the walls,” he added.

He also wondered why the perpetrators used the bulldozers to further crush the blocks after pulling the long walls down, putting the total cost of damage at between N300 million and N500 million. “These include the cost of the fences covering the entire land area which was approximately nine hectares, three containers of imported heavy duty farm equipment, four buildings and two gates,” he said.

Ikefuna stated that after the hint from his aide, he quickly put a call to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Oyi Police Division seeking to know if he was in the know of what was going on in his land, since it was just opposite the police station across the federal highway.

“The officer quickly got there and saw more than 30 heavily armed soldiers, and other armed personnel with three bulldozers smashing every structure standing on the land. They dug them up from the foundation and used the rollers of the bulldozers to crush all block and cement works there, apparently to obliterate any evidence of buildings and walls there.

“I have petitioned the Anambra government as well as the police. This is to avoid any breakdown of law and order there,” he added, demanding full payment for the damage or he would seek legal redress.

It was gathered that the traditional ruler now on the run, allegedly renowned in land speculation and grabbing, might be involved in the whole drama.