The people of Obinagu village in Ugwuoba, Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu State have cried out for help over the forceful, unlawful and illegal trespass, encroachment and/or take-over of their only remaining ancestral land known as Ani Oma land situate at Obinagu village along Enugu Onitsha Express Road by Enugu State Housing Development Corporation (ESHDC) led by Mr. Chiemerie Agu; the Managing Director of the Corporation.
This was expressed in a statement signed by the Chairman Obinagu Village, Onyeka Madubuchi, dated Monday November 15, 2021.
It said this latest illegal invasion or trespass on the land occurred on or about the 20th day of October, 2021 when the land grabbers mobilized different types of earth moving machines and forcefully entered the land, cleared it and started digging foundations in furtherance of their desire to illegally parcellate and allocate the land to unsuspecting members of the general public who are not aware that the land validly belong to the people of Obinagu village, in Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu State.
“The Obinagu people wish to state that there have been unsuccessful attempts in the past by the people of Agolo/Okpuno Communities in Ugwuoba, Oji River to forcefully take over the said parcel of land (Ani Oma land) which prompted them to file an action in Court against Agolo/Okpuno Communities in Suit No. ORCC/18/98- Rev. Cannon Dr. J.O. Iloeje & 2 Ors. V. Innocent Ezeokafor & 6 Ors. It is however instructive to note that the Court in the suit held that the people of Obinagu village (Plaintiffs) are entitled to the customary right of occupancy over the land. The Court further made an order of perpetual injunction restraining the people of Agolo/Okpuno Communities (Defendants) their agents, servants and/or privies from further entry into the said Ani Oma land.
“On appeal to the Court of Appeal Enugu Judicial Division in Appeal No. CA/E/177M/99, the Court of Appeal set aside the decision of the Enugu State High Court delivered by Hon. Justice A.I Umezuluike and affirmed the Judgment of the Customary Court Oji River which held that the Obinagu people are the valid owners of the land.
“Interestingly, while the dispute over the Ani Oma land between Obinagu village and Agolo/Okpuno communities which started as far back as 1992 lingered on, and to the knowledge of the ESHDC, the self-same Corporation working in collaboration with the Agolo/Okpuno Communities contrived a Deed of Customary Grant where they purported to have acquired the Ani Oma land in dispute from Agolo/Okpuno Communities who are themselves trespassers per the judgment of the Enugu State Customary Court and as upheld by the Court of Appeal,” it said.
They further said, “Perhaps even more interestingly, despite knowing that the validity or otherwise of their title over the Ani Oma land rested on the outcome of the then pending suit between Obinagu and Agolo/Okpuno Communities on the question of which of the villages is the valid owner of the land in dispute, the ESHDC refused, failed and/or ignored to apply to be joined in the case as an interested party. Rather, it stood by, and watch the parties lock horns on the issue until it was resolved in favour of Obinagu Community up to the Court of Appeal.
“Needless to say, the Corporation by electing to stand by instead of applying to join as a party in the then pending suit, is deemed to have accepted to be bound by the outcome of the suit. This is because, being privies to the Agolo/Okpuno villages from whence it purports to have acquired its title over the disputed Ani Oma land, by virtue of the Deed of Customary Grant, the Corporation is by law not only bound by the judgments and orders made by the Courts in the suits, but also by the order of perpetual injunction which restrained her landlord or grantors from further entry on the Ani Oma land.
Unsurprisingly, on realizing the above correct statement of the law and being at the time, under the leadership of a Managing Director who is God fearing and law abiding, the ESHDC vide a letter dated November 10, 2014 wrote to Obinagu village acknowledging that the land belongs to Obinagu village and that her dealings with Agolo/Okpuno villages regarding the land are denounced and declared null and void.
“The Corporation thereafter solicited to re-acquire the land from Obinagu village but could not finalize their friendly approach with Obinagu village before the tenure of the then executives expired,” it added.
The community said that they are thus alarmed that instead of toeing the peaceful and lawful footsteps of the immediate past Administration, Mr. Chiemerie Agu has preferred the path of brigandage by threatening the people of Obinagu village with impunity.
“In furtherance of these threats, our people are witnesses to the mobilization of different types of machines to aid forceful and illegal entry into the land.
The people of Obinagu village in their usual peaceful and law abiding disposition, has refrained from taking laws into their hands but have rather commenced contempt proceedings against Mr. Chiemerie Agu and 5 other principal members of ESHDC.
“Yet, despite the pendency of the contempt proceedings, Mr. Chiemerie Agu and his cohorts without the consent and/or approval of the people of Obinagu village and in total and flagrant disobedience to the orders of the Court have forcefully entered into the Ani Oma land for the second time to resume construction works preparatory to allocation to members of the general public.
“Our people are worried that in spite of the huge damages land grabbing has caused in Enugu State with its attendant crisis, divisions and violence, Mr. Chiemrie Agu is hell bent on pitching the good people of Obinagu village against the Enugu State Government for his primordial and primitive interests.
“Consequent upon the above, members of the general public are therefore warned to desist from dealing with ESHDC or Mr. Chiemerie Agu in any manner whatsoever in relation to the Ani Oma land along Enugu Onitsha Express way. For the avoidance of doubt, whoever deals with them does so at his/her peril. Pursuant to the Judgments of the Courts, the land belongs to Obinagu village and it is not for sale no matter the amount or consideration,” they stressed.