Hundreds of indigenes of Obeagu Awkunanaw in the Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State, on Wednesday, protested against the demolition of the community’s civic centre under construction and said to be worth over N100m.
They alleged that the demolition was carried out by one Kingsley Eze, a private estate developer and promoter of the Private Estates International West Africa, on December 15, 2020, with the backing of policemen from the Special Protection Unit.
The protesters, who marched peacefully to the site of the demolished centre, carried placards with different inscriptions and chanted: ‘Kingsley Eze, leave our land’.
Some inscriptions on the placards read: ‘Kingsley Eze your antics are known, stop confusing security operatives’, ‘Use of excavator to destroy our structure is the highest of criminality perpetrated by Kingsley Eze’, ‘Kingsley Eze stop instigating violence in Obeagu Awkunanaw’, and ‘Kingsley Eze Obeagu can never succumb to your pressure.’
The large expanse of land, measuring 1,097 hectares and christened the Centenary Estate was said to have been acquired by the estate developer during the Sullivan Chime administration.
But due to improper documentation and without recourse to the original owners of the land (Amechi and Obeagu clans) as well as suspected forged gazette, the current administration in the state revoked the certificate of occupancy.
Despite the revocation, the developer still held on to the land, while the traditional owners continued building their homes in their own section of the land.
The two clans, Amechi and Obeagu appealed to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to make the revocation legal by formally handing it over to them even as the area was cordoned off by a detachment of police and Army personnel.
The Obeagu community alleged that the company had on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, brought bulldozers to its section of the land and demolished the civic centre being erected by the community.
Addressing journalists shortly after the protest at the community’s playground, the President-General of the Obeagu Awkunanaw community, Chief Andy Egbo, lamented the demolition without respect by a company angling to acquire the indigenes’ ancestral land.
He stated, “Our community did not for a single day cede any part of our land to either the government or to any business organisation. Since 2012, we have been in court with this entity that called itself Private Estate International and its chief executive, Kingsley Eze. But we know that there is a masquerade behind him and upon investigation, it became very glaring that Eze is a front and remains a front.
“We are protesting because a few days ago, he went with an excavator and demolished our civic centre. The centre had been completely fenced and he demolished everything. We want the government to caution the company before we take the law into our own hands.”
When contacted on the telephone, Eze told our correspondent to go to the Ministry of Land, adding, “The Ministry of Land is the custodian of every land in the state.”
The Commissioner for Land, Dr Victor Nnam, said in a telephone interview that the state government had revoked the land and the estate developer had no right and authority to enter into the community to demolish any property there.
Nnam stated, “Sometime in 2009, the Enugu State Government allocated about 1,097 hectares to Private Estates West African Limited to develop a modern city.
“The purpose was to decongest Enugu city and manage traffic and other things happening there as at that time; so, the government approved the allocation as of that time. When the allocation was granted, the government deferred the premium. The purpose of deferring the premium was to help the firm to develop and sell the property in order to pay the government.
So, after about 10 years of selling the property and making billions of naira, Private Estates West Africa Limited has not paid one naira out of that premium to the state government. The promoters have been making money from it and they have refused to pay the state government. Land is one of the major sources of revenue for any government.
“Anywhere you go in the world, the major source of revenue for any government is land and that revenue comes from the premium, ground rent and other fees that people pay to the government.
So, after due consideration, the Enugu State Government revoked the Certificate of Occupancy granted the firm.”