Obeagu Awkunanaw, a community in Enugu South Local Government of Enugu State, has protested against the state government’s plan to demolish houses in the community.
The properties, worth millions of naira, are inside the popular Centenary Estate, otherwise known as the Centenary City and on a large expanse of land, measuring 1,097 hectares.
The land — belonging to Obeagu Awkunanaw and some families in Amechi Uwani, a neigbouring community, was reportedly acquired by Private Estates International West Africa, an estate developer, during the administration of a former governor of the state, Sullivan Chime.
However, the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, in 2020, revoked the Certificate of Occupancy earlier issued to the developer.
The state government, through the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, late April, began an announcement on various radio stations in the state informing owners of the properties of its plan to demolish the properties.
In the announcement, the chairperson of the development agency, Josef Onoh, explained that the decision to demolish the properties was due to “alterations by some illegal developers” who violated the original master plan of the estate.
Mr Onoh warned owners of the properties to vacate the estate and remove their personal belongings before 4 May or face the consequences, saying that the directive was in response to a judgement of a State High Court in Enugu delivered on 9 February.
This newspaper gathered that during the 9 February ruling, the government obtained a consent judgement with the Private Estates International West Africa to demolish the properties in the estate.
But reacting, Obeagu Awkunanaw Land Committee said the consent judgement was obtained by the government without recourse to the community as “customary owners of the properties” despite applying to be joined in the matter.
In a statement on Tuesday, Gilbert Agbo, the chairperson of the committee, faulted the planned demolition, stressing that the ownership of the properties was still a subject of different litigations.
“We have since filed relevant processes at the Enugu State High Court to set aside the consent judgment on this very pertinent and numerous other grounds,” Mr Agbo said.
The chairperson said the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority and other government agencies should know that there was a court order obtained in 2022 against any demolition of the properties and implored them to “allow the courts to exhaust their jurisprudence before any other actions are undertaken on the matter.”
Also, at a press conference on Tuesday, the traditional ruler of the community, Mike Nnukwu, described the demolition notice by the government as “heartbreaking.”
Mr Nnukwu said the matter, which he said began in 2009, has resulted in the arrest, imprisonment and murder of some persons in the community.
The monarch expressed hope that Governor Ugwuanyi would intervene in the matter, adding that the governor would not afford to usher the incoming administration of Peter Mbah “with parting trojan horse of crisis.”
“May I also say to my people: I share in your pains but I consider it important to stress that you remain peaceful and law-abiding and that as your leaders, we will continue to do our best to ensure that we preserve our heritage until we hand it over to the next generation as our fathers handed it over to us,” Mr Nnukwu said.
“I also reiterate my earlier appeal to security agencies. I implore you to decline to be used as tools to arbitrarily arrest our people, as has been the case before now,” he added.