From Jude Chinedu and Wisdom Udeh, Enugu
Hundreds of protesters from Ndiagu-Owo in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, on July 27, besieged Enugu Government House, protesting what they called forceful takeover of their ancestral land by a neighbouring community.
The protesters, who marched to Enugu Government House to register their displeasure over the development and seek government’s intervention, chanted songs and displayed placards.
Some of the placards wielded by the protesters, including women and children, had such inscriptions as: Your Excellency, please come to the rescue of Ndiagu-Owo; Igwe Okeke Arum leave our farmland for us; and Gburugburu, hope of the oppressed, come to the rescue of Ndiagu-Owo.
President-general of the Ndiagu-Owo community, Michael Mbah, said they were at Government House to express their anger over the ill treatment by the Mbulu-Owo traditional ruler, alleging that he invaded their ancestral land.
He said the land in question was the only portion of farmland belonging to Ndiagu-Owo but the Mbulu-Owo monarch had allegedly sworn to take it from them, claiming that Ndiagu-Owo people were slaves (Ohu).
He recalled that, prior to the protest, they had formally petitioned Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on the matter, appealing to him to stop Igwe Arum from taking over their land by force because it would lead to violence in the locality and loss of life.
“We, the good people of Ndiagu Owo in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, hereby wish to alert Your Excellency, the peace-loving governor of Enugu State, of the Igwe Arum invasion with a view to forcefully annex the ancestral land of Ndiagu-Owo.
“The intending forceful annexure of our land is by Igwe Okeke Arum of Mbulu-Owo autonomous community and his cronies from Ashishi-Owo with the intent to cause violence and bloodshed, thereby jeopardizing the hard-earned peace we enjoyed for over 300 years in Owo town in particular, and Enugu State in general.
“We wish to state that there is no portion of land of Ndiagu Owo that is for sale. Truth is that since the traditional ruler of Mbulu-Owo, Igwe Okeke Arum assumed office 12 years ago, he has not hidden his agenda against Ndiagu Owo, which he made open on ascending to the traditional rulership stool of his community. He has vowed to deprive us of our farmland, which is on the fringes of the boundary with his Owo community.”
Oldest man in Ndiagu Owo community, Chief John Nwegbo, said his people have been living in fear following frequent attacks allegedly instigated by Igwe Arum. He pleaded with the state government to help his people reclaim their ancestral land.
Addressing the protesters, Ugwuanyi called for calm, just as he told the angry villagers that he had summoned leaders of the two communities to his office with a view to finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
He, however, warned that no Enugu State indigene should refer to another indigene of the state as slave (ohu), stressing that he would not tolerate any of such discriminatory and obnoxious practices in the state.