How Land Grabbers Are Overpowering Land Owners In Etche

Rivers State: How Land Grabbers Are Overpowering Land Owners In Etche

● Natives allege men in uniform, armed thugs and some persons in high places are conniving with land grabbers to steal what belongs to them as anger mounts among Etche youths

By PHC Telegraph

Map of Etche showing some of its communities

These are not good times for the people of Etche Local Government Area who are part of the Rivers East Senatorial District in the Rivers State.

Their ancestral lands, good for agriculture and other ventures are being forcefully taken from them by claimants who neither share ties nor any form of relationship with families that own them.

Reports pouring in indicate that families and communities across Etcheland are becoming increasingly concerned about growing acts of intimidation, harassment and brutality meted against their children and wards by land grabbers, especially in Igbo territory.

Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police receives calls from Etche youths urging him to restrain his men from providing cover for land grabs

Several persons who have reportedly tried to resist attempts by land grabbers to snatch their family possessions have been falsely petitioned, allegedly arrested by men in uniform while some in the psst hsve been hurriedly sent to prison to await trial.

Although land grabbing is yet to spread all over Etcheland, many Etche youths who are becoming restive are saying that if the trend which has become very rampant in Igbo-Agwuruasa Kingdom is not checked now, nowhere would be safe in the whole of Etche in the near future.

While land owners allegedly languish in prison cells or other cells purportedly manned by security agents, their lands are seized, apportioned for sale and converted to use in the housing sector by land thieves according to what we have heard.

The story of land grabbers is not new in Nigeria. Urban life and the desire of Nigerians to migrate to parts of the country in search of opportunities have resulted in the trend that is escalating by the day.

Nigeria’s land grabbers operate as a cartel. The cartel is allegedly comprised of titled Chiefs, corrupt men in uniform, lawyers, armed thugs and faceless persons allegedly working in the judiciary whose lust for land acquisition is rather baffling.

To steal the lands of the poor and even the property  of the rich and share the loot arising therefrom, these land grabbers fake landed property documents, take over lands of their choice by force and use their contacts in high places to intimidate their victims.

Incidentally, in Etche where youths are taking to the social media and the popular media to alert the nation of what is going on, some of those who engage in land grabbing have even received titles from the chieftaincy institution.

Agbagbuo Teslin, Chairman of the Revenue Committee set up by the Etche Local Government Council dared the other day to speak out on the land grabbing threat in Igbo-Etche.

Initially, his whereabout was not known after he was taken from his home last Sunday.

While some appear to have thought he was abducted by some unknown persons, others say he may have been picked up by Police.

Chairman of Revenue Committee, Agbagbuo Teslin, held by police. Etche youths insist on his release, claiming he is hounded by land grabbers and their associates.

 

Most Etche Youths who spoke to this publication say Teslin is being harassed because he dared to challenge grabbers of land in Igbo with powerful connections.

Teslin will not be the first to face this kind of situation.

In Chokocho, a man known as Chukwunonye and his family chief were petitioned, arrested by police, charged in court and docked in prison for daring to resist the forceful takeover of their land which lies close to County Grammar School, Iwerre/Etche.

The Port Harcourt Telegraph went behind the prison walls a few years ago to speak to the victims of the Chokocho land grab.

Its report published in hard copy opened a can of worms and led to the release of the two men to their families.

Mr. Stainless Nweke from Chokota who served as a supervisory councillor years ago in the Etche Local Government Council was reportedly picked up by police operatives a few weeks ago.

Local sources argue that his arrest was not unconnected with a spurious complaint allegedly brought against him by suspected land grabbers.

Our investigation shows that land grabbing in Igbo-Agwuruasa may have started at Umuebelu.

Umuebelu, an oil bearing community whose traditiional ruler, Chief Njoku was killed in mysterious circumstances is located by the boundary between Etche and Oyigbo Local Government Areas.

From Umuebelu, land grabbing has spread like a festering sour to most parts of the Igbo kingdom which has a first class monarch.

“The situation is so bad” said Anele “that lands acquired for agricultural purposes by the Rivers State Government have not been spared. They have been taken over by land grabbers.

“Lands belonging to oil companies in Igbo have been snatched by land grabbers and sold. A former civilian president in this country has suffered a similar fate in Igbo.”

But who is holding Agbagbuo Teslin and why?

This is the question that Etche youths are asking. Those voices are getting louder by the day, particularly on different social media platforms.

Chief Noble Nwugha, Ugo Chinyere of Akawa-Umuokom, Ulakwo-1, in an open letter that has gone viral urged the nation’s Inspector General of Police to rein in officers whom he alleged are providing cover to land grabbers.

“It’s very worrisome”, he wrote, “that for the past THREE WEEKS now, the inhabitants of Igbo-Etche have been thrown into a state of fear, anarchy, and panic following the incessant activities of land grabbers”

Nwugha hinted that acts of terror were being perpetuated “in connivance with some of their sons, leaders, and some prominent sons of the area whose taste for quick enrichment is unlimited, even at the detriment of their people.”

Noting that there has been an ascendancy in the level “unrest, shooting, intimidation, harassment and abduction of some prominent sons of Igbo-Etche” Nwugha  alleged that some men of the Nigerian police force are providing “cover for land grabbers in some parts of Etche to unleash their ungodly land grabbing terror against the innocent citizens of the area, with the intention to forcefully take over their lands.”

He issued an ultimatum to the Council of Chiefs in Igbo-Agwuruasa, asking its members to summon an urgent meeting to deal with the matter, saying if they do not do so, it would be assumed that they are complicit in the attempt by land grabbers to take over lands of defenseless people.

“Mostly Igbo-clan council of Chiefs led by his Royal Majesty Eze Dr .Samuel Amaechi (Onye-isi Agwuru of Igbo Clan) should summon an emergency meeting of his council of Chiefs, deliberate, and take a positive stance of weeding off the penetrators (perpetrators) of this crime in his territory and sanctioning those involved.

“If this is not done within four (4) days , Etche people will have no reason (than) to believe that there is a conspiracy within the traditional institution of the area and the council of chiefs against her people.”

Nwugha appealed to the police to release Agbagbuo Teslin and four others sons of the area unconditionally.

But the Telegraph has discovered that the Chiefs of Igbo-Agwuruasa had at a meeting weeks ago vowed to dethrone any chief or group of chiefs found aiding land grabbing.

At that meeting chaired by His Majesty the King, it was agreed that certain chiefs, about three of them accused of engaging in land grabbing should appear before the Eze-in-Council to explain their role.

Said Eze Amaechi in telephone chat with the Telegraph,  “We are not happy about these events. We should be attracting investments. But these elements who are operating in Igbo are demarketing us.”

“Most of the lands in question belong to the Federal and State governments as well as oil companies” a chief further said, “We want a situation where both governments and the oil companies would take back their landed property.”

We have learnt that there are ongoing discussions among the traditional ruler of Atali community and Eze Samuel Amaechi, the King of Igbo Kingdom, to find solutions to differences arising from the land grab problem.

While Etche youths wonder what so-called militants from Okrika are doing on Etche soil, we have heard that some of the Igbo people engaged in land grabbing who have a chieftaincy institution in place in Igbo-Etche decided to take their matter elsewhere for arbitration.

We have even gathered that a community in Igbo, name withheld, took a matter over land to someone believed to be a notorious land grabber for settlement.

“So you can see that some of these problems that are becoming very embarrassing are coming from our own people”, another chief remarked.

Our findings indicate that Teslin and the other youths who are being held are not even connected to the community where the latest incident which resulted in shooting and disorder took place.

We cannot however confirm at this time if the Governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalayi Fubara is aware that government lands in Etche are being taken over by certain unscrupulous persons.

The Delta Rubber Company established as part of the ENDC in the days of the Eastern Region and inherited by the Rivers State Government has been stripped to the ground by rogues.

Those lands which hosted the State owned company, the Telegraph understands, are being apportioned for sale.

 

 

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