… Comrade Ogah Wades into that of Constituents
…Residents Call for Govt Intervention
By Okereke Wilson Ogbonnaya, Nwogha Ndubuisi Andy and Israel Mbam
The people of Agba and Imama, two villages out of the component units of Oziza Autonomous Community, Afikpo North LGA, are currently facing serious struggle against each over the ownership of a mining site established in the area.
This is as the member Representing Ezza South/Ikwo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Chinedu Ogah, in keeping with his promise of promoting peace among his constituents has waded into the dispute between Ohankwu in Ndufu Alike and Amana people in Ezza South over the ownership of mining a site in the area.
Agba youths under the auspices of Agba Liberation Movement, had taken to protests to the mining site instructing the company in the site to stop work.
The leader of the group, Mr. Igweoko Kelechi told Citizens’ Advocate that they were expressing their anger following their right of inheritance allegedly seized by their neighbouring village, Imama people in connivance with the Chinese Company.
He said, “Around November, 2019, we noticed that construction work was going on, then we were not perturbed due to the fact that both the structures and installation of industrial machines fall within the territory of Imama Village but to our surprise, early this year, the expatriates encroached into our area and immediately began to blast rocks without our approval.”
Mr. Igweoko who is also the secretary of Agba Development Union claimed that his village is in possession of some official documents which were obtained around 1950s indicating that the land in dispute belongs to them, they thereby appealed for government’s intervention so that all the company’s operations would be halted.
The Secretary of Agba Liberation Movement, Mr. Francis Okpor Eluu disclosed that upon their discovery on encroachment, they reported the matter to the Traditional Ruler of the community, whom after hearing from both parties gave order for suspension of every activity at the site but following alleged defiance nature of Imama people, the injunction was not obeyed.
Mr. Eluu said, “We are ever ready to prove our right of ownership over the property at all times with the documents issued to our forefathers at the Supreme Court of Nigeria some decades ago.”
He therefore appealed for government’s meditation into the matter so their land would not be seized by other people.
The Chairman, Agba Development Union, Mr. Ekuma Gabriel Akpu said that the protest was prompted by the need to make their displeasure known to the public over the confiscation of their land by Imama people.
He further gave a brief history about their occupation in the area by stating that Agba people came from the lineage of Egu people, the original settlers in the entire Afikpo land while Imama people allegedly migrated from some places like Ikwo, Ohaozara and Ntezi.
Mr. Akpu said, “To buttress my point, the distance between my people and the site is not more than 2 kilometers unlike Imama village where one will cover a distance of about 20 kilometers.
“With this illustration and the map drawn by a professional surveyor, Mr. P S Anosike in the year 1961, people will know that Imama residents are deliberately trespassing on our land.”
The Chairman of Imama Village, Mr. Emmanuel Agba in his reaction said that his people share borders with the following places: Akpoha, Ugwuegu and Amaorie villages, former place of Agba people before they relocated to their present settlement after they encountered some problems.
He pointed out that during the olden days, Agba residents had attempted to harvest their palm fruits but encountered stiff resistance from his people, an action which clearly showed that the place belongs to Imama Village.
According to Mr. Agha, around 1957, there was a similar strife between the same villages which eventually resulted to court case and in the long run some documents were handed over to them indicating that they are the rightful owners of the land.
He said, “During that period, we had wanted to eject them out but we were told at the court of law that since they (Agba) had occupied the place beyond 20 years that such decision could not be permitted by the law.”
“Let me make it clear that any issue concerning land struggle is not a matter that one easily dabbles into because such action has grave consequences, thus with these facts, I am saying that right from time immemorial, Agba people are our tenants”, he said.
Mr. Agha further said that after they had introduced the Chinese Company, Agba people fumed, they went and reported the matter to their Traditional Ruler who later summoned both parties and following the development, all the concerned persons moved to the area in question for clarity over the boundary.
He disclosed that their collective approach was later rejected by Agba people as they went ahead and petitioned his people at the Office of Commissioner for Solid Mineral and Internal Security, Border, Peace and Conflict Resolution.
He said, “I am surprised over the protest because we have neither exhausted all avenues for peace initiative nor exchanged harsh words against each other and based on this, I am advising everyone to lie low as we all wait for government’s intervention” he said.
In the same vein, Comrade Ogah, speaking when he led a high powered delegation on a peace meeting with stakeholders of the two villages, the federal lawmaker assured the people of his readiness to enthrone peace in all parts of his constituency, adding that the development does not thrive in an atmosphere of rancour and violence.
Comrade Ogah who advised the two villages to allow peace reign by cooperating with the committee that is set up to look into their matter frowned at the action of Amana stakeholders and youth leaders who boycotted the peace meeting.
He however called on the two parties to strictly obey the state government’s directives not to enter the said portion of land in contention, pending final resolution of the issues.
Ogah who further advised them to see themselves as one, implored them to appreciate God’s gift in their land, rather than allowing those sponsoring crises among them to succeed.
On his part, secretary of the committee set to resolve the issue, Rev Fr. Ifeanyi Ogodo pleaded with the two brother villages to give peace a chance as the committee members will not side any party in determining the true boundary of the land in contention.
He advised the youths of the area not to allow politicians or investors in their land to succeed in sowing seed of discord and violence among them and their neighbours.
Responding on behalf of Ohankwu Village, the national President of Alike Development Union, Apostle Emmanuel Mbam eulogized the peace initiative of Comrade Ogah and assured him of their readiness to cooperate with him, the peace committee and the State government in ensuring final solution to the dispute.
The peace committee made up of five members has Rev Fr. Mathew Isukpa as chairman while Rev. Ifeanyi Ogodo is the Secretary.