Women block East-West Road to protest alleged sale of community land by soldiers •Widows protest at Fashola’s office

Posted by News Express | 25 February 2014 | 4,451 times

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Women from Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State yesterday seized the busy Effurun roundabout area of the East-West Road in protest against the alleged dispossession and illegal sale of the land of Ohorhe community by soldiers.

The protesters, who converged on the road at about 6:30 am, disrupted vehicular movements for several hours as they chanted war songs and displayed placards which bore various inscriptions.

Woman Leader of Uvwie Kingdom, Mrs. Sarah Agoda, said: “We are protesting against alleged attempt by soldiers to demolish Ohorhe community.  Soldiers are selling all our land to foreigners. They are telling us natives to pack to enable them sell the lands. We don’t know where the Ohorhe people will pack to. Federal Government should tell us where we will be taken to.”

One of the protesters, Mrs. Mary Unuagba, said: “We came out to block the road in protest against alleged illegal sales of our land by the soldiers. We did not give them land to sell but for the purpose of establishment of Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA). We no longer want soldiers in our land. We want President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene by withdrawing the soldiers from our land.”

A native of Ohorhe community, Chief Jimoh Eshenake, told newsmen: “About a week ago, the Army came to Ohorhe and marked all the houses for demolition. In fact, they were giving our people 48 hours to move out of their houses, that the Army is coming to demolish the place. They told us that their reason was that the land being occupied by the community belongs to the Army. That it is part of the Army acquisition, but let me tell you the story behind it.

“In 1975, that land was acquired for the Army by the defunct Mid-Western Government but before 1975, Ohorhe and other villages around that place had been in existence. The law is very clear on this; you cannot acquire a land where people are already occupying. If there is even a need to occupy it, you must relocate them but this did not happen. And somehow, our king wrote to the acting president then in March 2010 to complain about this acquisition.

“The truth is that the Army acquired over 2,000 hectares of land. The areas they have occupied, the Army barracks, mammy market are less than 10 per cent of the land but they are now selling it to private companies and individuals. They have turned to landlords in our own land. We, the original landlords, have turned to refugees in our own land.”

The President General of Uvwie Kingdom, Chief MacDonald Ugbewanku, said the people decided to embark on the protest to ask for justice.

Addressing the women at his palace moments after, the Ovie of Uvwie Kingdom, Emmanuel Sideso Abe 1, said: “The Ministry of Defence needed land to establish the NDA, the community generously gave out land for that purpose. All along, we have been looking at development at the area for the past years. Of recent, it was observed that the place is now being commercialised, being sold to companies, and administered by the Army.

“That was not the purpose. Of course, no reasonable community will accept that. This is our place, we welcome development, investors but at the same time people should not cheat, marginalise us in our own place. You could see most of the houses there are not meant for the Army. They are owned by private individuals.”

Efforts made to reach the Commanding Officer of the 3 Battalion, Effurun, Lt. Col. Ifeanyi Out, proved abortive as he told newsmen on phone that he would not entertain questions on the matter.

In another development, scores of widows yesterday stormed the Lagos State Governor’s Office, Alausa in Ikeja, Lagos, to protest the demolition of their shops by officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) and the Lagos State Task-force on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit.

The widows carried placards, calling on Governor Babatunde Fashola to come to their aid as they had been plunged into poverty and penury since the demolition of their means of livelihood.

Some of the placards read: “Our shops have been destroyed with no hope of relocating us to another place,” “We love our governor, show us that you care about our plight,” “The death of our husband is enough pain, don’t add hunger,” and “KAI has dumped our children in the cell, please, release them.”

The widows, under the aegis of Widows for Peace International (WFPI), said that the most recent demolition of shops at Suru Alaba Market led by the task-force had inflicted further hardship to the plight of many widows whose only livelihood has been destroyed.

Spokesperson of the widows and President WFPI, Mrs. Chinwe Dike, said the task force boss, Bayo Sulaiman, led the demolition and also led the demolition of their shops at NAPEX Shopping Complex in Victoria Island where many traders, many of them widows, were displaced.

“Till today, no alternative shops had been allocated to them. They were also not compensated for their losses arising from inhuman exercise meted out to them by the agencies of the state government. The constant harassment, castigation, and destruction of wares of widows by Lagos State operatives have become a major concern.

“It is not only an abuse of our rights to earn legitimate living but also antithetical to a harmonious co-existence, peace and development. We demand that all shop owners who were displaced and their shop destroyed, especially the widows should be compensated and shops allocated to them at reasonably cost without hesitation,” she said.

She also demanded that more than 1,000 children who had been unjustly detained by KAI officials and currently languishing in detention be released with immediate effect and that “their confiscated wares be released to them and that all forms of harassment of widows should stop henceforth,” adding:

“Widows for Peace International appeals to Governor Babatunde Fashola to restrain the state operatives from further harassment and intimidation of widows and to stop treating us as foreigners in our own country. We acknowledge the efforts of the Lagos State Government to make Lagos a mega city but that should be done with a human face.

“It will be recalled that the same over-zealous agents of the state government last year rounded up persons suspected to be of Igbo extraction and dumped them at Onitsha head bridge in spite of their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of movement. We ask the governor to use his good office to check the excesses of his agents as enough is enough.”

Pieced together from reports in Daily Sun and PM NEWS. Photo shows the women blocking the East-West Road.

Source: News Express

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