An advocacy rights group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) body has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly’s leadership to intervene and investigate Enugu State Housing Commissioner, Mr. Vitus Okechi over alleged suppression of some communities in the state over some parcels of land.
The group which said the community reached out to them alleged that some powerful people in government with the aid of the commissioner were forcefully divesting their rights from their ancestral lands, their resistance of which was capable of leading to social strife.
A statement by the Chief Executive of the group, Comrade Emma Onwubiko, said Ugwuaji community in Awkunanaw alleged that without negotiating with them, the said commissioner bulldozed his way into a communal land belonging to four villages in Ugwuaji Awkunanaw to wit: Umunnugwu, Ndiaga, Isiagu and Umunnajingene and in the process, allegedly damaged properties worth billions of naira.
“Based on our Clients’ brief, the essence of this letter is to kindly bring to your knowledge the ongoing alleged dastardly acts of forceful seizure and attempt at compulsory acquisition of lands of the citizens of Ugwuaji Community, vandalisation of private properties, alleged conspiracy, threat to life being meted out on our Clients occasioned allegedly by the Honourable Commissioner for Housing – Hon. Vitus Okechi requesting that you, in your magnanimity, assist in reaching out to all the security agencies in Nigeria which includes but is not limited to; The office of the Inspector General of Police, the Department of State Services (DSS). The Code of Conduct Bureau, The Public Complaints Commission, The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), amongst others.
“The Ministry of Housing of every State in Nigeria is a very delicate and sensitive position and an integral part of the government of that state which, in all honesty, should be manned by a very transparent and diplomatic fellow whose probity ought to stand out unscathed at all times.
“It is quite unfortunate that this is not the case in the Enugu State Ministry of Housing where Hon. Vitus Okechi is the sitting Commissioner. Since his attainment of office, there have been recurring cases of allegations land grabbing and compulsory acquisition of the lands of several communities in Enugu, with the latest and most gruesome in Ugwuaji, irrespective of the fact that these lands had been sold to different individuals by the original owners before the forceful attempt at compulsory acquisition of the same property by the Hon. Commissioner for Housing without reason or purpose, as the law implies or any form of compensations paid to these aggrieved and now displaced persons,” HURIWA alleged.
The rights body said it was planning a visit to the site to assess the extent of damage and see firsthand the plight of the people pleaded with relevant authorities to intervene and save the villagers from being divested of their ancestral lands.