Abia Denies Donating Land for RUGA Project

Okezie Ikpeazu

Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia

The Abia 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, Hon. Uche Ihediwa, made the clarification yesterday at a press conference in Umuahia, the state’s capital.

He said the land in question at Arungwa in Osisioma Local Government Area (LGA) was meant for trailer park.

Ihediwa. who was Commissioner of Lands, Survey and Urban Planning in the first tenure of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, said that the state government was alarmed by the “unfortunate, wicked and malicious insinuations” that Abia State Government had already set aside land for RUGA project.

He explained that the federal government originally made a request for land for the purpose of establishing trailer parks at Umunneochi, Umuahia and Osisioma.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, according to him, was made in September 2014 during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan through the Federal Ministry of Works to ease the reconstruction of the Enugu – Port Harcourt Expressway.

He also said that the trailer park project at Arungwa was aborted because the available land measured 20 hectares whereas the federal government wanted 50 hectares of land. However, this piece of land at Arungwa has since been designated for the establishment of vehicle assembly plant attracted from China by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.

“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 letter of allocation much more the certificate of occupancy.

Ihediwa regretted that the land request “assumed a dangerous colouration” because of the tetchy issue of RUGA project being pursued by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The attorney general, who was flanked by the traditional ruler of Arungwa, Eze Ndukwe Enwereji, stated that the federal government had always requested for land any time it wanted to establish a federal project in the state.

He made it clear that the state government reserved the right to revoke any land allocated to the federal government if the purpose of its allocation was violated.

He also blamed the traditional ruler of Umuobasi, Eze S. I. Owuala. whose autonomous community is contiguous to Arungwa, for spreading the “false rumour” that Abia had allocated land for RUGA at Arungwa.

The commissioner announced that the state government has requested the royal father to either apologise to the state government within seven days or “we meet him in court.”

Ihediwa insisted that Abia State 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 he had already taken steps to checkmate the 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. We have been sensitizing our people about giving out their lands.