By Chimezie Anaso
Oba – Some indigenes of Oba in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra have called for the intervention of the state government over the use of the land acquired for building an airport.
The said the land initially acquired by the state government to build an airport was being sold by land speculators for building private residences.
The people, in a petition to the government, told newsmen in Oba that it was wrong for government to allow land meant for public good to be sold to private individuals without compensating the original owners.
They said since the airport project for which it was acquired had been abandoned, government should transfer it to the owners or use it for a purpose that would serve public interest.
Mr Henry Ezenwa, a former Chairman of the local government, said they were informed that 30 hectares of the land was given to shoemakers association in 2014.
Ezenwa, who is a son of the traditional ruler of Oba, said officials of the state Ministry of Lands gave the land to a speculator who sold it to private developers to erect residential buildings.
He urged Gov. Willie Obiano to investigate the matter, adding that the people would explore every legal means to get justice.
“Oba people gave government that land for airport project and the law is clear that when the purpose is no longer feasible such land should go back to the people.
“They said 30 hectares of the land was given to Emordi Shoe Association but it turned out that they are land grabbers who are just plotting the land and selling it to private developers.
“No compensation was paid to this community in the first agreement and no compensation is being paid now, moreover there is no legal document showing the fraud going on here.
“I have personally written the governor on this and no response, the State House of Assembly has invited Oba people, the Attorney-General and the Commissioner was not able to defend these illegal dealings,” he said.
Another indigene of Oba, Mr Chibueze Chukwuka said about 100 plots belonging to his family, including 25 plots he inherited from his father, should not be sold to others without his getting compensation.
Chukwuka said people of the town had been intimidated with soldiers and that every attempt by the people to openly demonstrate had been repelled by agents hired by the speculators.
He called on Obiano to intervene and avert bloodshed as the people of the town could no longer stomach the forcible takeover of their land.
Also, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, said it was unfortunate that the Oba airport through which he travelled to Frankfurt, Germany, in the late 1980s never saw the light of day.
Ezeonwuka said he was not bothered that he lost some plots he bought in 1978 to the airport project but expressed regret that some people had taken over the land and were selling it.
He said he had been writing various administrations in the state to use the area as a mechanic village to decongest Onitsha, Obosi and Nnewi but the advice was not heeded.
“It is unfortunate that Anambra airport, Oba, turned out to be a failed project but I have written government that the land should be used for a mechanic village which will also serve the public interest well.
“I see myself as part of this government and as an elder I have tried to calm the people but everyday things get worse and they see their land being sold and developed without recourse to them.
“I think there is need for government and the people to sit down and find a way out of this crisis instead of intimidating them,” he said.
When newsmen visited the site four trucks of heavily armed soldiers were seen in strategic locations guarding the area.
Col. Idongesit Akpan the Commander of 302 Artillery, Regiment, General Support, Nigerian Army, Onitsha, said his men were in the area on the request of the state government to ensure that there was no breakdown of law or order.
Akpan said the soldiers were not in the area to harass anyone and urged the people of Oba to settle their matter with the government as the Army would not meddle in any civil dispute.
Efforts that NAN made to reach the Commissioner for Lands in Anambra, Mr Okey Morka, were not successful as did not respond to telephone calls and text message sent to him nor did he welcome a correspondent who visited him.