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FUTO’s host communities protest, accuse varsity of slow land reconciliation process

By Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
21 April 2022   |   4:04 am
The 11 host communities of the Federal University of Technology (FUTO), Owerri, yesterday, protested near the institution, for what they called, undue delay and slow process of resolving the excision of over 1,000 hectares of land to them.

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The 11 host communities of the Federal University of Technology (FUTO), Owerri, yesterday, protested near the institution, for what they called, undue delay and slow process of resolving the excision of over 1,000 hectares of land to them.

The university had, about 39 years ago, got donation of about 4,500 hectares of land from the communities, through the instrumentality of government.

The communities, The Guardian learnt, have been protesting over the last four years, that part of their lands, earlier donated to the university, should be returned, claiming inadequate compensation by the institution, among others. The communities are: Avu, Obinze, Umuanunu, Umuoma, Dindi -Ihiagwa, Ihiagwa ancient kingdom, Eziobodo, Okolochi, Emeabiam, Obibiezena and Eziokele, all in Owerri West Local Council of Imo State.

Speaking on their behalf, the attorney to the communities, Chief Sam Anokam, said the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), on March 30, 2022, had, due to flaws recorded in the last Technical Committee’s draft report that led to inability of the contending parties to agree, including reports of “illegal invasion and misappropriation of the FUTO,” wrote a letter to the host communities, the Governing Council of FUTO, the Imo State government, the Department of State Security Service (DSS), the National Universities Commission, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Federal Ministry of Education, to nominate their representatives into a broad expanded committee to resolve the matter, expressing disgust that other bodies had sent their nominees except FUTO and Imo State government, leading to the postponement of the inauguration of the committee, from April 21 to 14, through a letter of reminder, issued by the Minister few days ago.

Anokam, also accused the authorities of FUTO of not utilising the over 1,000 hectares of land donated by the host communities for the building of the institution’s teaching hospital, but were rather used to “borrow pit” and Water Front, where commercial activities of sand miners are on going for alleged revenue generation.

The attorney lamented the above actions, noting that they were slowing the process of reconciliation.

The host communities demanded that the sand mining activities going on in the land be stopped and nomination of the representatives be effected if peace must be achieved, stressing that the 11 host communities were ready to resolve the matter.

According to the attorney, the communities have little human settlement areas available to them, wondering how their children and families would build while FUTO had large expanse of land unused, over 39 years (1982) the Federal Government acquired and handed over to them, sequel to the donation made by the host communities, without adequate compensation.

Anokam said: “As at Friday, all other bodies had sent their nominees except FUTO and Imo State government. A further letter of reminder shifting the inauguration from April 21; it was supposed to have been held on April 14, to give them opportunity to nominate their members of the committee.

He added, “So, I am urging the Imo State government and FUTO; if they want peace within the host communities; if their intention is not to intimidate the host communities and appropriate their land unlawfully, they should bring in their nominees. Let us trash out everything on the table and make a decision on it.”

“The matter is beyond the Imo State government. The matter is a national matter.

We cannot be confrontational at all. We want to tackle it with the best approach and due process.”

“We do no want anyone to create an environment of problem. We are saying enough of those threats. We have never associated ourselves with violence. We will not. We are saying, let them do the proper thing in this matter, and lawfully too. Conflict is not in our interest. I cannot be anti-government.”