Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
The Ania State government has denied allocating land to the federal government for the establishment of the controversial rural grazing area (RUGA) project.
The state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Uche Ihediwa, made the clarification Wednesday at a press conference in Umuahia, saying that the land in question at Arungwa in Osisioma Local Government was meant for trailer park.
Ihediwa, who was Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning in the first tenure of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, said that the state government was alarmed at the “unfortunate, wicked and malicious insinuations” that Abia had already set aside land for Ruga.
He explained that the federal government originally made a request for land for the purpose of establishing trailer parks at Umunneochi, Umuahia and Osisioma.
The request, he said, was made through the Federal Ministry of Works to ease the reconstruction of the Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriage way during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
According to him, the trailer park project at Arungwa was aborted because the available land measured 20 hectares whereas the federal government wanted 50 hectares of land.
“There was nothing untoward about the request for land made under Jonathan,” he said, adding that the state government has at present not even issued a letter of allocation much more the certificate of occupancy.
Ihediwa regretted that the land request made in September 2014 by the Jonathan administration “had assumed a dangerous colouration” because of the tetchy issue of Ruga project being pursued by the Muhammadu Buhari government.
He said that the said land at Arungwa has since been designated for vehicle assembly plant attracted from China by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
The attorney general, who was flanked by the traditional ruler of Arungwa, Eze Ndukwe Enwereji, stated that the federal government had always requested land any time it wanted to establish a federal project in Abia.
However, he made it clear that the state government reserved the right to revoke any land allocated to the federal government if the purpose clause was violated.
The commissioner blamed the traditional ruler of Umuobasi, Eze S. I. Owuala, whose autonomous community is contiguous to Arungwa, for allegedly spreading the “false rumour” that Abia had allocated land for Ruga at Arungwa.
He announced that the state government has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the royal father “to apologise to the state government or we meet him in court”.
Ihediwa insisted that Abia would never allocate land for Ruga, as such action “will be insensitive and contrary to the stand of the South-east governors” on the Ruga issue, adding that the state had already taken steps to checkmate Ruga project in any ratification.
He said that government would “now scrutinize with a tooth comb any request for land in excess of five hectares even if it is for hospital”, adding that “we’ve been sensitizing our people about giving out their lands”.