By CHUKS EKE
The age-long land dispute between Ukpo community in Dunukpfoa Local Government Area of Anambra state and their neighboring Abba community in Njikoka Local Government Area of the state yesterday re-echoed at Anambra State House of Assembly, ANHA.
This followed a Save-Our-Soul, SOS letter to the Speaker of ANHA, Hon. Uche Okafor, by Abba people, appealing to him to use his good offices to save them from further harassment, intimidation and victimization of stakeholders of Abba community by Ukpo people, in collaboration with the personnel of the Nigeria police.
Consequently, the Speaker, Okafor mandated the House Committee on Public Petitions and Conflict Resolution to look into the matter with a view to resolving the conflict once and for all.
Acting on the strength of the mandate, the House Committee invited both parties for a dialogue and possible resolution of the dispute.
After listening to both parties, Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Emeka Aforka representing Orumba North constituency, advised both parties involved in the land dispute to abide by the decisions of the courts on the matter, as well as the report of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry set up by the state government, in the interest of peace and tranquility.
Aforka explained that since the matter had been considered by competent courts of law and the Administrative Panel of Inquiry set up by the state government for the matter, recourse should be made to the courts judgments and report of the panel.
The Committee therefore urged them to also adopt dialogue as alternative dispute resolution in resolving the case in the interest of both communities.
In their separate vote of thanks, while the Transition Committee Chairman for Dunukofia Local Government Area, Mr. Emeka Okonkwo, who was an observer, thanked the Committee for doing justice to the issue, his Njikoka Local Government Area counterpart, Mr. George Ozor, who also witnessed the meeting, advised the Communities to heed to the advice of the Committee and end the lingering land dispute.
Earlier, the House Committee had demanded from both parties a little brief about the stage of the matter, whether it had gone to court or not as according to them, the House has its limitations in terms of delving into matters pending or decided by courts of competent jurisdiction.
Briefing the Committee, counsel to Abba community, Ejike Efobi Esq., explained that Abba community is already in court challenging the legality or authenticity of a warrant of execution purportedly issued to Ukpo community by Anambra state judiciary to take possession of the land in dispute.
Efobi recalled that the Supreme Court had in February, 2019, ordered both parties to go back to the state High Court to sort themselves out because the record of the proceedings of the previous High Court was missing and could not be relied upon by the Supreme Court to decide which of the parties to award the ownership of the disputed land to.
In his own brief, counsel to Ukpo community, Tagbo Ike Esq., told the committee that they had won the matter at both State, Appeal and Supreme Court levels and were issued with a warrant of execution which a court bailiff levied, adding that with the victories at the various courts and the execution levied in favour of Ukpo, everything concerning land dispute have been foreclosed, as far as Ukpo people were concerned.
In the SOS signed on their behalf, by their President-General, Eng. B. C. Anaekwe, Abba people quoted the Supreme Court as saying in its ruling that “the loss of the record of the appeal is a factor that has vitiated and rendered the judgement of the State High Court invalid and it is in the best interest of the parties to go back to the trial court and sort out the mess”.
The SOS further stated that rather than going back to the trial court to sort out the mess, as ordered by the Supreme Court in February, 2019, Ukpo people resorted to subjecting Abba people to a series of harassment, intimidation and victimization since June, 2019, to the extent that on June 18, 2019, Ukpo invited policemen with over 15 Hilux vans to chase Abba out of their popular Oye Abba market and Abba Junction along the Enugu.Onitsha Expressway, using tear gas in order to mount a gigantic signpost with the inscription “Ukpo Junction” at that same spot known as Abba Junction for decades.