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Imo communities move to reclaim land from federal varsity

By Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
04 January 2021   |   3:08 am
Thirty-Eight years after the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) acquired some 4,455.768 hectares of land for its permanent site, the 11 host communities in Owerri West Local Council

Thirty-Eight years after the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) acquired some 4,455.768 hectares of land for its permanent site, the 11 host communities in Owerri West Local Council, yesterday, asked authorities of the tertiary institution to return over 2,000 hectares.

The communities, Avu, Obinze, Ihiagwa, Eziobodo, Okolochi Emeabiam, Nekede, Obibi-Ezena, Umuanunu, Dindi Ihiagwa, and Eziokele, made the demand during a protest summit organised by their attorney, Chief Sam Anokam.

According to Anokam, the meeting, which was attended by the Acting Chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), Victor Murako, hinted that the communities had received 1,200 hectares and needed more than 800 hectares for settlement.

The alleged encroachments, the attorney listed, included Ihiagwa – 157 hectares; Eziobodo – 56; Obinze – 83; Obibiezena – 6 and Umuahuhu-Obinze – 21.1.

Others are “757 hectares belonging to Obinze, Umuanunu, Avu, Umuezereokam, Umudoche, Mboke, Umuelem, and Umuchima-Ihiagwa.”

The legal representative disclosed that the host communities wanted “land in lieu of monetary compensation, no money, with a concession for admissions, employment, and contract, by the institution’s authorities.”

He added: “Upon my appointment as the attorney to FUTO host communities, I mobilised support from all the host communities and provided the necessary survey documents required at a cost borne by me to formulate the action plan. They are advocacy with FUTO and Imo State government; filing of suits in court; advocacy with the Federal Government authorities and sustained press war and public enlightenment.”

Anokam further said: “The struggle and demand for excision of some land culminated in the response of the Federal Government, which led to the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee that comprised the National Universities Commission (NUC), Federal Ministry of Education and the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.”

He noted that former Governor Emeka Ihedioha equally raised a committee to settle the matter but could not finish work before his removal from office by the Supreme Court, adding that the Governor Hope Uzodimma administration has continued from there.

In their remarks, the FRC boss, Murako, and a retired Permanent Secretary, Obinna Aharanwa, urged the indigenes to work closely for the achievement of their request.

But the university’s vice-chancellor, Prof. Francis Eze, vowed that no portion of FUTO would be excised illegally.