David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka
The Onitsha Traditional Council also known as Ime Obi has called on the Nigeria Correctional Services (NCS) to vacate its facility in the city, accusing them of appropriating community land.
The call was contained in a statement signed on behalf of the Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, by his Chief of Staff, Chief Osita Anionwu.
The community stated that the land on which the facility is sitting was given to the colonial government on lease for 99 years during the precolonial era and that the lease has expired, saying the community is not interested in another renewal.
The statement read: “The facilities of the correctional services agency are located on parcels of land, properties of the Umudei Quarters, lylawu Quarters, and Okposi Eke section of Ogboli Eke Quarters are in the Akpaka area of Onitsha.
“We’re insisting that the Nigeria Correctional Services should put a stop to its appropriation of parcels of land belonging to Onitsha families, and that these should revert to the owners.
“The Onitsha Traditional Council observed that beyond the occupation of the parcels of land for which the lease agreement had expired, the NCS has gone ahead to encroach on adjoining parcels of land including that which has been set aside for the National Maritime Institute, a federal government agency under the Nnamdi Azikiwe University.”
Giving a historical account of the land, the community said: “Despite the expiration of a lease of agreement in respect of the parcels of land, which hitherto were used as farmlands by the Onitsha families, the Nigeria Correctional Services has continued to lay claim to them.
“The land was given out by a lease agreement signed by the Obi of Onitsha, acting for and on behalf of the chiefs of Onitsha, with the Colonial Government dated July 22, 1910.
“Onitsha leased the land to the Colonial Government for a term of 99 years with no renewal clause. With the expiration of the lease in 2009, the Nigeria Correctional Services took unilateral action to scuttle the non-renewal of the 1910 lease agreement, a development which is unacceptable to the Onitsha community.”
The community called on the correctional agency to remove all structures placed on their lands, including reestablishing the thoroughfares to the various Onitsha shrines in the vicinity.