The Anambra State Headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, Amawbia was on Thursday besieged by hundreds of protesters from Ezinano community in Awka South Local Government Area of the State, as they showed their grouse over alleged take over of their land by a neighbouring community.
The protesters, comprising women and youths, drawn from four communities with 20 villages, marched through the streets of Awka before ending up at the State Police headquarters, where they displayed placards bearing various inscriptions.
Some of the inscriptions boldly written on the placards include “Ezinano land doesn’t need police post”, “Police has taken bribe”, “Police face security, not our land”, among others.
The Chairman of Ezinano youths, Tochukwu Nwosu, from Umudioka community in Ezinano, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, said the protest was informed by the silence of both government and Police to their plight, despite several letters addressed to them.
He said, “We’re people from 20 villages consisting Amikwo(5 villages), Ezioka (7villages), Agu (7villages) and Umuokpu (1). We have boundaries with Enugu Agidi, Okpuno and others.
“We inherited this land from our fore-fathers and we’ve been planting on that land without any issues with anyone.
“Recently we gave out the land to a contractor to develop for us and give us return. We also gave out the land to some people to cultivate but they started dragging the land.
“They took us to high court in 1961 and we won. They also went to court of appeal and we also won.
“We’re presently at the supreme court when they settled police and they started chasing us away with the security people.
“We pleaded with them to wait until court decides, but they refused and keep chasing our contractor away, and arresting some.
“We’ve written several letters to government, police, but no responses. That’s why we decided to embark on this peaceful demonstration. Everyone is here, men, women and youths.
“We’re here to register our displeasure and requesting that police should stay away from our land. We heard Police was asked to use the land for estate and police post.
“We’re also calling on our people to be calm and peaceful as we go about this matter,” he said.
Mr Nwosu noted that it will amount to contempt of court if the people who lost in court, are supported by government and security agencies to take over the land.
He noted that the people of Ezinano have no place to live in anymore due to their increasing population, adding that it is worrisome that despite the land in question belonging to them, they are not able to take back there own land.
Responding, the Commissioner of Police, CP Aderemi Adeoye commended the protesters for their peaceful disposition, assuring of amicable resolution of the matter.
He said, “We have no problem with your protest which is peaceful. You’ve proved to be civilised and we commend you for that.
“On this matter between you and Enugu Agidi, it’s possible there’s communication gap because when we got the information, we visited the area, but gunmen opened fire on us.
“Fortunately the police man didn’t die, but his pistol was seized. Ihad to give them ultimatum to return the gun which they did. Those who opened fire, we charged them to court.
“We invited both communities, Enugu Agidi came, but nobody from your community came. Besides, the letters you wrote to us has no phone numbers. So we couldn’t hear from you to make informed decisions.
“Nevertheless, we’ve gotten two correspondences from your lawyer and community which indicated the matter is at the Supreme court. But we’re going to follow due process and ensure no community is deprived of their inheritance.
“The issue of citing police post on the land, we felt its for the benefit of both communities to wade-off gunmen from the area for the safety of all. But we have to give order for the project to be suspended when Ezinano opposed the project.
“Police isn’t interested in your land and no attempt is being made to take over any community land. We’re here to serve the public and we won’t take sides with any party. My doors are always open to listen to you.”