While the disputed “Area K” land was being claimed by Umuguma people in Owerri West, there seem to have been an alliance among the communities in Owerri West to reclaim all the properties that had been hitherto been mistakenly being accounted for part of Owerri Municipal.
On May 21, 2012, the twist on the disputed Area K land was the emergence of Irete, Avu, Umuguma and Nekede communities that caused a blockade at World Bank Road in a peaceful protest asking that the Government intervene over vital issues matter as it concerns boundary and other sundry issues.
Meanwhile, in the early hours of today, a camera man who identified himself as Ifeanyi was visibly assaulted, beaten blue and black as his video camera was also impounded by the siege laying Amawom youth for coming close to the disputed parcel of land. Narrating his ordeal, the young man said the hoodlums had alleged his involvement in spying on them and frittering information to other claimants.
For Obinna Okolie, his was divine intervention. He said he was just passing by but was accosted by one dangerous looking stout young man who spoke in a croaky voice asking him to come and open his camera bag. Sensing danger, he requested knowing him and the reason for the search. Only for boy in question to give him a hot chase with other haggard boys also in his pursuit of him with planks. He called on the Government to quickly intervene as security of life and property around the neighbourhood may no longer be guaranteed.
The dramatic twist was the newly emereged communities’ quest for boundary delineation between Owerri West and Owerri Municipal for proper ascertainment for avoidance of continual clashes. This time, it was not only Umuguma, other aggrieved parties are people of Irete, Avu and Nekede. A man who preferred not to be mentioned said the injustices meted out to the neighbouring communities and local governments around Owerri Municipal might just cause what he called a mini civil war if not properly addressed by the Government. He further mentioned Mbaitoli as one of the Local Governments whose land had also been erroneously been ceded to Owerri Municipal.
Speaking with the newsmen over the reason Irete joined forces with Umuguma in protest over boundary delineation, Chief Iwunze Martins has this to say:
“The reason we join the campaign is to define things and avoid ambiguities. I t is a situation where people claim what does not belong to them. It is clear that our people have suffered so much in the hands of Owerri Municipal. There has been so much confusion over this boundary matter. It is our utmost desire that this matter is resolved once and for all. It will please us. This case of people coming to hijack what does not belong to them must stop. We in Irete donated over 290 hectares of land and we are left with nothing even in revenue. We have the largest stake even in Darugo layout, but we were completed excluded? Nothing. There was a compensatory plot of about sixty plots, we were completely sidelined and excluded. Our people look unto us to act. We can no longer continue to stomach all these. Except Owerri Nchi ise and their violent soldiers are ready to kill all of us”.
Back to Hon. Ken Ibeme in his words,
“Boundary delineation between Owerri West and Owerri Municipal is long over due. Historically, there is a given boundary between Umuguma and Owerri Nchi Ise or Amawom and to larger extent between Owerri West and Owerri Municipal.
In 1976, when the two local Governments in question were created, there was a clear cut boundary, all we are now saying is for Government to come in and define that boundary between Owerri West and Owerri Municipal to avoid incessant clashes that may result to huge loss of lives and properties. There was a Boundary Adjustment Committee set up by Achike Udenwa Administration.
Unfortunately, there is no white paper on it as it has not been made public. Be that as it may, we want Government to set up a Boundary Delineation Committee to define a boundary between the two Local Governments… There was an Administrative map drawn and certified by Surveyor general. It is for the Government to revisit that survey and possibly apply any adjustment if necessary but I doubt the need.
For the proposed Monumental projects by the Rescue Mission Government led by Owelle Rochas Okorocha, we are totally in support. We have prayed for it and it is about coming to fruition.”
For Mr. Victor Osigwe, former Councilor, Umuguma, his words were these:
“The land in question is ours. We have agreed with the Government that the project should go on since it is a good thing both economically and otherwise. Laying siege to the land by the Amawom people is an affront. We have always been at this issue of other people reaping from what is not theirs. During our administration, the then Owerri West Local government Chairman, Hon. Victor Muruako set up a committee to look into lands issues for proper reconciliation before we heard the State version of the same committee under Governor Achike Udenwa. The unfortunate thing is that their report never saw the light of the day. We are aware that the report vindicated our position but we can’t use that article since there is no public presentation on that. We are pleading with the present Government to either release the report or come up with another one.”
In Today’s drama, around 9 am another bloody clash was averted. Were it not for the intervention of the security operatives, heavens would have been let loose. The storm had gathered with the two divide of Amawom war lords and their counterparts from Umuguma, Nekede Irete and others had come face to face before the quick intervention of the Security agencies.
Face to face were the Youth president of Umuguma and the ultimate warrior of Amawom clan, Mcdonald Ebere. The Umuguma youth leader posed a question to McDonald Ebere asking the reason they have decided to tow the path of falsehood but the latter could not say a word. The Police Commander advised the warring parties to go back saying that their leaders should come together for a lasting resolution. The Owerri West people heeded the advice and left the scene.
Again, we got a tip off over the engagements of the Area K gladiators where some youths were wounded but what could not be verified were the wounded combatants’ camps. Again the saving grace was the rapid response of the security operatives. This evening, given the potential collateral damage that may be harvested from the confrontations, it seems, the security agencies may have woken up to their primary bits this time around.
Investigation by this reporter further revealed that the matter over Area K has been in the Court since 1999. It was purported that Amawom had taken some parties believed to have been laying claims to the land to court over the largesse from the government for which they felt they were short changed. Effort to getting a one time Commissioner for lands to speak on the matter proved abortive. He simply said that the matter is still in the court and would rather not say more than that.
Meanwhile, it was also said by some residents around Area K that Governments entrants into the land was the best that could have happened to the people as the land was taken over by miscreants who were believed to have a source of terror to the neighbourhood including motorists.
As it is no one knows which is which any more, who owns what and what the truth is any more. All over the world land dispute and its consequences has remained a source of worry and it is a cultural Universal though on the negative. Africans have always had a superior approach to settling such issues. I believe the Court should allow the proper Igbo traditional methods apply especially since the Government of the day is interested in utilizing the said land for the purposes of development. Amawom, Umuguma and all other stakeholders should rather bury their hatchets and go into talks with the Government. For those worms that feel it is an opportunity to feed fat from the blood of Imolites in the name of settling political scores, shame unto you!
I rest my case.