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Community threatens protest as fresh controversy hits Anambra airport project

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Host community of the Anambra Cargo Airport project has threatened to take to the streets to protest against the alleged plans by the Anambra State Government to eject them from their homes to enable public officials to grab their land.

The project, which groundbreaking ceremony was performed by Governor Willie Obiano last week, is located at Umueri in Anambra East council.

The three villages –Umuopu, Umuinu and Enuagu – making up the community had alleged that the state government had gone beyond the 729, 606 hectares of land they donated towards the project, accusing government officials of selling part of the land.

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In an interview with The Guardian yesterday, the former National President, Umueri National Youth Forum, Chibuzo Ekwenye, said the community originally donated the land marked Parcel A to Orient Petroleum Resource Plc which later went into partnership with the state government.

He alleged that government officials in connivance with the project’s executors had created Parcels B, C and D, adding “they have started selling plots of land for estate development against the airport it was originally agreed upon”.

Ekwenye said: “They are destroying and amassing the land for their personal use. They are grabbing a lot of land at all cost and have even marked out the portions for demolition.

“The only thing left now is for them to force out of our ancestral land so that our future generations will not have any inheritance.

“We are naturally and occupationally an agrarian community, and if the government feels the original purpose for which we donated the land has been defeated, it should return the land to the originally owners instead of turning us into Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) simply because we donated our land towards the economic development of our nation.

“They are taking advantage of our vulnerability to grab our land. We have written to the governor, Commissioner for Works and security agencies, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Our women have also protested, but government is allegedly fanning embers of disunity. The next line of action is for the community to take to the streets to protest.”

According to him, there is tension in the community over the issue and sought the governor’s intervention.

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“We therefore appeal to Obiano who is our neighbour and thoughtful of bringing the laudable project to our community to intervene and restrain the people in order to save us from threat of banishment,” he said.

Chairmen and secretaries of Umuopu, Umuinu and Enuagu villages three months ago claimed in a statement that “there was an orchestrated plan by some government officials to swindle the people out of their heritage while flaunting the airport project.”

In the statement, Chibuzo Ekwenye, Uchenna Ndumanya, Basil Ojide, Titus Nwoye, Uzochukwu Dieli and Innocent Igwedinma contended that “when the idea of citing the airport in the area was mooted, Umueri people received the news with joy and jubilation, believing that it was bound to improve the economic status of the state and the community, but regretting, however, that events that followed had dashed their expectation”.

Efforts made by our correspondent to get comment from the state Commissioner for Works, Marcel Ifejiofor, were not successful.

The Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba, had said the land for the project was properly acquired.

He denied that the state government acquired an additional land for the project.

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