Residents of Normu Village in Enugwu-Agidi, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra has appealed the intervention of Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, over what they described as the ploy and plot by the President General of the community, Mr. Chukwuebuka Onuorah and the Transition Committee Chairman for Njikoka Local Government, Mr. Clement Aguiyi, to snatch the few remaining portions of their land.
This is coming barely two days after some groups of armed men purportedly sent by the PG and the LG Chairman, stormed the cynosural land at the popular Enugwu-Agidi Junction and served all the shop owners there less than 48-hour eviction notice to vacate the land.
This reporter, Izunna Okafor, who visited the said land, observed that the expanse of land is at the entry point of Enugwu-Agidi community from the Awka—Onitsha Road, and has another road on the other side that demarcates it from the Enugwu Agidi International Timber and General Goods Market.
It was also observed that welders, rod/iron dealers, wood sellers, cement dealers, and others were also displaying and trading their goods at the land before they were served the urgent eviction notice few days ago.
This reporter also saw some of the notices of eviction pasted on different shops and goods in the area. Although the date on the notices is August 4, 2023; shop owners in the area said the notices were pasted by the armed men at about 7.pm on September 5, 2023 (on Tuesday).
The reporter also obtained a copy of the letter presented to the shop owners by the armed men who were sent to paste the notice.
Although, the armed men were said to have claimed that the letter was a marching order given to them by the Governor to bulldoze, clear and level the shops and every other thing in the land and beautify the land; the original content of the letter showed that it was a letter from the Chief of Protocol to the Governor, in which the Governor simply directed the Local Government Chairmen of Onitsha South, Njikoka, Ogbaru, Idemili North, Oyi, Anambra East, Dunukofia, Akwa North and Awka South Local Government Areas, to distill the drainage, cut overgrown grasses, and ensure the regular neatness of the sections of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway that pass through their respective local government areas.
It was in the light of the above that the traders began to wonder why the PG and Local Government Chairman for Njikoka went extra mile to serve them eviction notice from their shops and the land where they were located, rather than focusing on the desilting of drainage, cutting of overgrown grasses and ensuring regular neatness of affected section of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway.
It was also gathered that the eviction and demolition notice was served without the knowledge and consultation of the Normu Villagers who are the authentic owners of the land; hence propelling them to hold a peaceful protest against what they described as the forceful and unwarranted invasion of their land.
During the demonstration, the protesters were seen wielding placards with different inscriptions, such as: “Local Government Caretaker Committee Chairman and His Enugwu-Agidi Leadership Want to Sell Our Land”, “Enugwu-Agidi, This Land Belongs to Normu Village”, “Land Thieves Leave Our Land for Us”, “There Is Enough Space from the Express Road to the Said Land”, “We No Gree, We Have Given Enough Land for Market. This is Farm Land”, among other inscriptions.
The protest also featured the helpless women of the village calling on God to fight the battle for them and deliver them from the hands of their oppressors.
Speaking to journalist shortly after the protest, the Chairman, Normu Village (Home Branch), Chief Lawrence Nwankwo, said the aim of the protest was to express their grievances over what he described as intimidation and uncharitable treatments being meted out to them (the members of Normu Village) by the President General of the Enugwu-Agidi Brotherly Union (E.B.U.), Mr. Onuorah, and the TC Chairman for Njikoka, Mr. Aguiyi.
Going memory lane to drive home his point, Chief Nwankwo said the duo who are both from Enugwu-Agidi community had translated their hatred and intimidation against the Normu Village into using Governor Soludo’s name to snatch their remaining chunk of farmland from them even after the Village had donated many hectares of land for the construction of the Enugwu-Agidi International Timber and General Goods Market.
He recalled that even after they dontated land for the construction of the market in accordance with its first master plan they drew, a new and more spacious plan was drawn for the market to upgrade it to an international standard, which necessitated the then Local Government Chairman, Mr. Emeka Onuora, to approach and request for additional land from the Normu Villagers for the execution of the project, and which they graciously granted.
He said, “This land is owned by Normu Village; and it was they that drew the master plan of this place and named it Agụ Normu Layout. Normu Villagers were also the people who drew the plan of this market you’re seeing there, and thereafter, willingly handed over the market to the leadership of Enugwu-Agidi, who in turn, handed it over to the Njikoka Local Government.
“…Since 1987 that the plan of this place was drawn, we have not had any issue with anybody on this land. And this portion you’re seeing now is not part of what we handed over to Enugwu-Agidi.
“However, because of the problem we recently had with our current President General in Enugwu-Agidi, Mr. Onuora, arising from his connivance with some ignorant youths to sell our lands on the other portion of the Layout, and the consequent anger he developed after all his several failed attempts to manipulate the case we have with him at the police to his favour; he then connived with the current TC Chairman of the Local Government, Mr. Aguiyi, with whom we also have a court case with case no.: A233/2017; and they both connived to snatch this remaining portion of land away from us, after all hectares of lands we have donated for the progress and development of Enugwu-Agidi and the Njikoka Local Government Area as a whole.”
Continuing, he said, “They said the Governor told them to bulldoze down and level every land close to the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway up to 100 meters from the Express. But we are aware that what the Governor has been advocating is 5 meters gap from the main road. So, why are they using the Governor’s name oppress us and take over our land, by saying that the Governor said, while the Governor did not actually say?”
While noting that they were never informed nor consulted by anyone concerning the use of the said lan Chief Nwankwo, who described the incident as a deliberate attempt by the PG and the LG Chairman to abuse their offices to intimidate and oppress them.
“Okay, even if they are truly doing the minds of the government, why did they not consult the rightful owners of the land before giving the occupants and shop owners eviction notice? Every government that wants to make use of a particular land belonging to people for whatever purpose, usually consults, discusses or negotiates with the owners of the land. But here, the reverse is the case, as no single consultation was made with the rightful owners of the land, only for their tenants on the land to be served a 48-hour eviction notice,” he lamented.
On behalf of the entire villagers, the Normu Village Chairman further re-echoed the call for Governor Soludo’s urgent intervention on the matter, while also urging him to “monitor, call to order, and keep a close eye on the PG and the TC Chairman for Njikoka, to check their excesses and ensure the they do not use his name and their privileged office to hunt their enemies and oppress the masses, for no reason.”
Contributing, one of the shop owners in the area and indigene of Enugwu-Agidi, recounted how the armed men who pasted the eviction notice stormed his shop on Tuesday night while he was waiting for his goods to arrive, surrendered him with gun, and even threatened to send him to a perpetual jail if he dared made any move. He said the people also locked up his shop thereafter and warned him to vacate the area the following day, as they would be coming to bulldoze the entire area, as (they said) they were directed by the Governor.
Chief Nwabufor, who is also the Chairman of the Enugwu-Agidi International Timber and General Goods Market, said the people also said the timber/wood dealers in the area should vacate their present shops located at the front of the market and go down the market side, while their shops/position should henceforth be occupied by welders; which he vehemently criticized as abnormal, irrational, and unfair given than the name of the market and the major goods sold therein.
“When this current Local Government Chairman, Mr. Aguiyi assumed office, we paid him a courtesy visit to congratulate and felicitate with him, during which we also robbed minds together with him on how to resuscitate and make this market buoyant enough, as Enugwu-Agidi had spent up to N1bn to set up this market.
“But surprisingly, since that day till date, that Local Government Chairman has never visited this market, let alone making any known move towards developing the market as we discussed with him. The only thing we have seen from him is to lock up our shops, serve us eviction notice, and order the timber/wood dealers to go down down the market for welders to take over their position,” he regretted.
Chief Nwabufor also wondered why the eviction notice was not served to the other people and shop owners in the same area who are not in Normu’s land, despite having the same distance to the road.
Speaking on behalf of the welders in the area who were also served eviction notice, Mr. Isaac Obasi, narrated how the PG of Enugwu-Agidi had earlier stormed on August 18, 2023, barricaded their shops, and thereafter summoned them to his place, where he told them to pay N300,000 for their shops to be unsealed, and to which they started bargaining, without actually being told any just reason why their shops were sealed. He said the PG also told them that they would pay one million naira (N1m) fine if they had removed the ‘Stop Work’ notice pasted by the Enugwu-Agidi Brotherly Union (E.B.U.) under his leadership.
According to him, it was just few weeks after they had paid and had their shops unsealed by the PG that the another group of people also similarly came and sealed their shops, with the same ‘Stop Work’ notice pasted on their shops and goods, now with order from the Local Government Area.
He also described the situation as a very serious distraction to their destinies and legit hustles as youths, while calling on Governor Soludo to come to their assistance and urgently do the needful on the matter, to avoid any breakdown of law and order in the community.
Speaking on behalf of the women, the Chairlady of Normu Village, Mrs. Eucharia Chedom, lamented that Normu no longer has farmland, despite being the head village in Enugwu-Agidi, and wondered if there was an ulterior motive to extinct them from the town.
“All our lands have been forcefully snatched from us. The worst is that we don’t even have somewhere to farm. If we are no longer part of Enugwu-Agidi, let us be told, than this kind of unwarranted oppression and intimidation. The Governor should please intervene and do something about the situation. We women are not comfortable at all with all this. Enough is Enough,” she said.
This reporter, Izunna Okafor, made efforts to get the reactions of the accused — the Local Government Chairman, Mr. Aguiyi, and the PG, Mr. Onuora, which all proved abortive.
While the Local Government Chairman, Mr Aguiyi did not respond to his calls and messages; the PG who responded to his own , said he would comment on the incident on Friday.