From Okwe Obi, Abuja

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has demanded a transparent resolution in the ongoing land dispute in Enugu State, following the demolition of over 200 buildings in the Centenary City.

Its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement condemned the demolition and called for sanctions against the head of the state’s housing agency that acted to impose a fait accompli even when there are legal disputes on the propriety.

Onwubiko challenged the government’s narrative, which attributed the demolition to a lack of proper approval and security concerns.

According to him, “the genesis of the dispute traces back to the late 1970s when Sen. Dr. Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, then Governor of the Old Anambra State, envisioned establishing a University in Amechi Awkunanaw.

“Survey works commissioned in 1982 for the proposed University’s. This noble initiative was disrupted owing to his failed reelection bid in 1983, creating an avenue for later disputes over the land’s ownership.”

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He claimed that there were discrepancies in the government’s attempt to legitimise the land acquisition through an Official Gazette, specifically questioning the authenticity of Gazette No. 12 dated March 27, 1986 and raised doubts about the revocation process.

Furthermore, he pointed out alleged defects in the Certificate of Occupancy, pointing to a quoted Survey Plan No: MJ/EN265/09 allegedly acquired by a private surveyor, which read: “This plan contradicts the government’s narrative of acquiring the land in 1986, raising doubts about its validity.”

He emphasised the non-issuance of a Notice of Intention to acquire the land, a critical procedure outlined in the Land Use Act, saying “the absence of this notice, even after over a dozen years since the private developers entered the land, raises concerns about the validity of the purported acquisition process”.

While citing Sections 44 of the Land Use Act, he asserted that compensation was a right based on individuals’ inalienable right to acquire and own property.

“HURIWA concluded by calling for transparency in the resolution of the land dispute, urging the government to address the raised concerns and uphold justice for the affected communities.

“The association stressed the need for a fair and unbiased legal process to determine the rightful ownership of the disputed land in Enugu,” he said.