Tension mounts between Anambra, Enugu states over land
Ibite-Ollo rejects Nat Boundary Commission intervention
as Awba-Ofemmili threatens to sanction ex-Commissioner, 2 others
From Chuks Collins, Awka
A former Commissioner for Agriculture in Anambra state -Mr Augustine Meko has accused journalists in the state of acting in concert with with his enemies in attempts on his life.
Meko who is enmeshed in long drawn disagreement with his Awba-Ofemmilli community in Awka North Council area of the state over a large expanse of land, had gone haywire during a press briefing he had scheduled to respond to accusations against him by the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Ezekwesili Maduagwuna.
The former Commissioner who personally chose the venue of the meeting and and time, failed to show up. So after waiting in vain for his arrival the journalists contacted him on the phone but he exploded, accusing the journalists of being part of the assassins sent to kill him.
This was coming on the heels of the palpable tension at the common border area between two neighbouring communities of Awba-Ofemilli in Awka North Council of Anambra state and Ibite-Ollo of Ezeagu Council of Enugu state may boil over soon.
The long drawn battle over a very large expanse of land which lies at the boundary between the two communities according to Igwe Maduagwuna had never been an dispute until few years ago.
He stated that the land was never in dispute as “all inhabitants of our two, hitherto peaceful co-existing communities know full well that it belongs to Awba-Ofemmilli.
“We had over the years, as good neighbours allowed people from Ibite-Ollo to farm and harvest crops on the land unmolested. It was until recently when we attracted a multi-faceted project for the land that they apparently were mischievously instigated to contest ownership with Awka-Ofemmili. We believed it was aimed at frustrating the life-changing project.
The traditional ruler alleged that, “sadly, we have discovered that some of our sons including Messrs Augustine Meko, Reuben Iloka and Coleman Ofoegbu amongst others chose to ally with them to derail and frustrate the development projects to be sited on that portion of land.
“We have committed huge human, material and financial resources trying to resolve it peacefully. But after each positive meeting they turn round to come up with more puzzling demand and arguments.
“For transparency and in clear demonstration of my community’s commitment towards peace, we formally wrote the National Boundaries Adjustment Commission(NBAC) to intervene. Curiously these trouble makers and their cohorts vehemently opposed the involvement of the NBAC.
Igwe Maduagwuna admitted that his community had made series of representations to Gov Willie Obiano and now urging him to reach out to his Enugu state counterpart, Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for a permanent solution so that Ibite-Ollo people stop disturbing them forthwith.
More so, the monarch noted that in her latest meeting the Awba-Ofemmilli leaders frowned at Meko -a former Commissioner for Agriculture in Anambra state for allegedly accusing him of having surreptitiously collected six hundred million Naira(N600m) for the land. “Whereas it was alleged that Meko had attempted but failed to successfully sell that land. Hence he (Meko) allegedly joined Ibite-Ollo people against Awba community, using his boys/foot soldiers to cause bad blood and misinformation in the community…” Coleman Ofoegbu, a reverend, Maduagwuna alleged was unfortunately deep into issues that causes strife and disunity in the community just like Meko.
But Meko in a reaction to the accusations described same as false. “I have no hands whatsoever in the crisis. The matter has been with the security agencies in the state…”
A visibly rattled and unstable Meko accused the reporters of bombarding him with series of questions for an issues that he was not part of, accusing them further of being sent as assassins against him. That he has not been sleeping in his home because that those his traducers who accused him of acting hands-in-gloves with Ibite-Ollo people have been harassing him with hired assassins.
But when acting taken up on the serious flippant accusation he was throwing on reporters who were merely performing their jobs, he became sober and melancholic, but refused further questions.
Ezekwesili said he had no dealings with anyone over the said land whatsoever. He also recollected that about early 2016 people of his community had embarked on a peaceful protest where they raised alarm over what they described as “the invasion and occupation of their land by agents of Ibite-ollo, allegedly backed by the Enugu state government.”
Awba-Ofemmili citizens numbering about one thousand, comprising men, women and youth chanting war songs and bearing placards with various inscriptions critical of the Government and people of Enugu state trooped to the land (Ndave-Okpu) to meet face to face with the invaders, which was a contracting firm.
The firm’s site engineer -Mr Chike Ilechukwu had commended their peaceful disposition, but told them that his company was sent by the Enugu state government to construct a World Bank-backed irrigation system to enable the farmers there plant crops three times annually. That it was part of the Enugu state FADAMA agriculture project.
The spokesman for the community, Hon Sebastian Okoye had in his presentation told the contractor that the people of Awba-Ofemmili wanted them to stop whatever they were doing and to leave the site peacefully because the land belongs to them and that they had no discussion with any one on the irrigation project. That it was doubtful that Enugu state government would send any firm to build anything on the land belonging to an Anambra community without prior discussion and understanding. More so, that the latest move if it was truly on the promptings of the Enugu state government need to be viewed seriously as an act of undue aggression and intimidation.
Okoye pointed out that some years ago, -2005/2006 the people of Ibite Ollo, had encroached on the said portion of land but were repelled by the people of Awba Ofemmili and the resultant tension brought the officials of the National Boundary Commission to the area.
Incidentally the incumbent traditional ruler of Awba Ofemmili, HRH Igwe Ezekwesili Maduagwuna was the chairman of Awka North Local Government Area then and he recollected that they worked painstakingly with the Boundaries Commission, though the final report or White Paper was yet to be published. The Commission had mandated both communities to maintain the peace and keep every activity within the bounds they were used to before the outbreak of hostilities. Awba-Ofemmili and Ibite Ollo were charged to keep and maintain the initial distance, while Awba people continued farming on the land without going beyond the set bounds. Same with Ibite Ollo until now that the irrigation project contractors encroached on the land again, contrary to the wise counsel of the Boundaries Commission.
The Awba Ofemmili monarch confirmed he has briefed the state Governor-Willie Obiano, the security agencies and the Chairman of the Awka North LGA with a view to nipping the impending crisis in the bud. He urged the government and the security agencies to take up the matter immediately, to beef up security in the area to avoid breakdown of law and order. He charged his subjects who were visibly sorely provoked to maintain the peace.