Uvwie women protest ‘illegal’ acquisition of land by Army

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By Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi & Ochuko Akuopha

HUNDREDS of women of Uvwie Kingdom, Uvwie Local Government Area, Delta State, yesterday, barricaded the Effurun roundabout axis of the East/West Road, protesting the alleged illegal acquisition and sale of over 185.20 hectares of their land by the Nigerian Army.

The protesters, who besieged the busy road at about 6 am, caused a traffic gridlock on the expressway for over three hours.

They also appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Bill establishing the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, FUPRE, which has been passed by the National Assembly.

They displayed placards which bore various inscriptions such as “Our land has been sold by soldiers”, “Give our land back to us”, “We have no land to farm”, “Mr. President come to our rescue” amongst others.

The protesting women, who were also joined by some men, chanted songs of disenchantment and called on the Federal Government to prevail on the Army authority to release their land to them.

Addressing the protesters, who also visited his palace and the Uvwie Local Government Council secretariat, the Ovie of the kingdom, HRM Emmanuel Sideso Abe I, said the Army had illegally acquired more than what was originally stated in what was given to them by the Uwvie people.

He said: “When I ascended to the throne, we made several attempts to get back some of the unoccupied areas by the Army. We generously gave the Army over 2000 hectares in 1974 with the aim of establishing the Nigeria Defence Academy, but unfortunately, the Defense Academy was moved to Kaduna.

“We then asked that the unoccupied part of the land be returned since the Defense Academy was no more here. We approached them but there was no response, rather my subjects have been deprived of even living in the place. Three years ago, they marked the villages to be demolished which was not part of the land given to them. They have illegally extended the land without our knowledge.”

Speaking during the protest, President General of the Uvwie General Improvement Union, Chief Austin Ukuwrere explained that the land in question was the unused piece of land after the completion of the construction and occupation of the 3rd Battalion Barracks,  Effurun in 1979 by the army.

Ukuwrere said: “The representatives of the Uvwie families as at then, seeing that not all the lands purportedly acquired were actually developed and occupied, requested that these lands be released to them for their farming activity which was their main occupation by the purported acquisition.

“Rather than release these unused portion/or the illegally acquired extra land to the Uvwie families, the various Commanding Officers of the Effurun Barracks in league with some serving and retired Army Generals have been converting the illegally acquired extra acres into private use by leasing, assigning or outright sale of the lands to private individuals and organizations through the instrumentality of the Nigerian Army Properties Limited.”

Spokesperson of the women, Mrs. Maria Odjobu decried that the land on which they have been carrying out their farming activities had been seized by the soldiers, saying “they chased us out of our farms and fish ponds from which we take care of our children. Now we are hungry and we have come out today to tell the soldiers to give our land back to us.”

Also speaking, former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Chief Victor Otomievwo said: “it is unfortunate that a government in Nigeria will steal a land from a people, turn it into a commercial venture and at the same time harass the same people with the intention of occupying land not included in the 1974 Gazette.”

On his part, the Assistant Secretary of Uvwie Traditional Council of Chiefs, Chief Samuel Ejenake, described the alleged illegal acquisition of the lands by the soldiers as primitive, saying “we are now in a situation where owners of the lands are now tenants and I think this is highly unacceptable.”

Secretary to Uvwie Local Government Area, Mr. Peter Agbaja who addressed the protesters at the council secretariat, said it was illegal and morally wrong for the soldiers to take their lands, advising them to be calm.

We have C of O— Army

Contacted, a senior Army Officer attached to the 3rd battalion Effurun, said they have Certificate of Occupancy, (C of O) of the land in dispute, saying that if the Uvwie people want their land back they should meet the Federal Government.

The Army Officer, who pleaded anonymity, the land was acquired for them by the Federal Government.

The post Uvwie women protest ‘illegal’ acquisition of land by Army appeared first on Vanguard News.

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