The Okposieke family of Ogbolieke village in Onitsha, Onitsha North Council Area of Anambra State has raised alarm over what it called the persistent encroachment on its ancestral land and destruction of its property by Anambra State Government.
On Friday, Anambra State Physical Planning Board, ANSPPB, for the fourth time, demolished buildings and fence erected on over 20 plots of land near the State Governor’s lodge, Amawbia, which it claims had been mapped out as judges quarters.
The Chairman of the Board, Barr Chike Maduekwe who led the exercise, said the government had since allocated the land for the building of official residence for judges in the state.
He said the place was again marked two weeks ago for demolition but the developer continued to develop, without recourse to the directive, hence the enforcement activity to ensure that government land is secure.
“There is a particular interloper that keeps coming to erect things here, claiming the land belongs to his family.
“Government has told him that the place is government’s land and if it is his land that he should go to court.
“I have personally called this young man to come and discuss with government since the complainant is the judiciary.
“Since he is a lawyer, he should go and meet government and bring his documents. If they are legitimate, government will adjust. But for him to want to use force and over all government, that will not work,” Maduekwe stressed.
The ANSPPB boss who noted that a major problem in the state building industry, is that people embark on all manner of impunity and think they can get away with it, noted that the government is not interested in causing hardship for citizens but on the other hand will not watch people get away with impunity.
“This time around, government may come after him, having given us an instruction to institute a court action against him because under the ANSPPB rules and regulations, anyone that starts any form of development without the approval of the Board, has committed a criminal offence and faces a jail term or fine if convicted,” he said.
Meanwhile, the lawyer to the Okposieke family, Barr Harold Ekwerekwu has insisted that the land in question is subject to a lease hold of 1910 and 1945 between the Federal Government and the Okposieke family, which yielded back to the family, reversionary interest in 2009 and the Federal Government released back the said land to his family.
He revealed that the federal government released the first one on the 13th of July, 2013 and later released the other in 2019.
He said the instrument with which the land was released, is still with them and they have forwarded it to the State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano and the State Commissioner for Lands, yet the government is bent on persecuting the family.
Ekwerekwu accused the state Chief Judge, Justice Onochie Anyachebelu of being behind the whole issue, because of his intent to live close to the governor’s lodge.
“This is a case of injustice personified because the Chief Judge wants to live at the back of the governor’s lodge.
“The land is Federal property not even state land.
“There is a demarcation between the federal and state lands and when the lease was entered into between the Okposieke family and the colonial government, Anambra State was not even in existence.
“There was no third party.
“We have federal housing property here in Anambra and the state government cannot get into such lands.
“Our own land falls within this and it was gazetted when it was released
“In a bid to actualize his intentions, the Chief judge took me to court and also to the police station.
“When we went there, we tendered the instruments of lease and the release documents and the judiciary could not tender any documents but they kept on pressuring the state governor to revoke their ownership of the land,” he said.
The legal practitioner said the matter is at the High Court, Onitsha under Justice Onyefulu but the Chief Judge had gone to take the file himself, which they have queried.
He wondered why a matter will be subjudice and the governor of the state will be meddling in it.
“The Okposieke family has agreed to part with part of the land as a sign of peace but due to the interest of the Chief Judge, they have been meting out injustice to us.
“Anyone peddling allegations that I have been smearing the image of the governor, is not saying the truth because I remain a chieftain of APGA.
“What the state government is doing is subjudice.
“The judiciary should not even own a land talk more of owning one near the governor’s lodge. If they are truly independent of themselves, why would they want a land near the governor’s lodge.
“Also, the issue of title is of paramount importance here. Is a lease is statute bad? Is there limitation period in law? These are questions that they should answer,” he maintained.
Barr Ekwerekwu called on the State Governor to leave their property for them, saying they no longer have any land of their own.
“We own two third of the entire land in Onitsha GRA but now we don’t even have anything again.
“The state government has been selling our lands in the GRA to their friends, without recourse to us, the original owners.
“Our children stand the risk of not having a place to stay due to these activities of corrupt officials of the state government,” he lamented.