Ebonyi family raises alarm over alleged harassment, threat to life

Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja

An Abakaliki family has raised the alarm over alleged harassment and forceful seizure of its ancestral land by the Ebonyi State government, without compensation.

In a suit, with the number FHC/A1/CS/82/19, filed by the head of the family, Mr. Nwantinti Christopher Eze, at the Federal High Court in Abakaliki, the family said agents of the government had worsened the situation of members of the family by issuing them death threats.

The family through its counsel, Mr. Gerald U. Abonyi, in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja on Monday, argued that the decision by the state government ran contrary to the provision of the Land Use Act, which provides for compensation in event of acquisition of land for public use.

The statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to the continuous attack and physical assaults being meted out to the applicants (residents) in the suit and members of their family by the Agents, Assigns and Representatives of Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi.

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“The reason is only the fact that they filed actions at the Federal High Court Abakaliki, complaining about their imminent extinction and destructions of properties and farmland without any form of agreement or compensation from the State Government.

“It is taken as trite that the Land Use Act makes provision for compensation in event of acquisition of Land for public interest and our Clients have neither taken the law into their hands but filed actions in court seeking Justiciable remedy.

“The current situation in Ebonyi State remains critical as the applicants in the afore referred case are been haunted, harassed with the employ and deployment of armed thugs who in one instance threatened to burn down the entire house of Eze.”

According to the statement, armed thugs also threaten to kill all the occupants therein.

“We concede that the airport project in Ebonyi State is a laudable project but also one that shall also benefit the living.

“Being a matter now subjudice as in above, we insist that the rule of law must respected by Ebonyi Government and its assigns and agents while we await the just decision of the court,” the residents quoted as saying in the statement.

When contacted for reaction, the Ebonyi state Commissioner for Information, Uchenna Orji, however faulted the claim by the family arguing they lacked the moral latitude to demand compensation for the land.

Orji insisted the family is making an issue out of the land “where there is no case.”

He noted: “The people within the place did (gave) it consensually even without the prompting of government through the traditional leadership. The airport when constructed will be one of the best in Nigeria. It is going to be an international airport. It will create jobs,” he said.

“If you read your law very well, (compensation) is for economic trees, or developed property. Where such arises, government does not hesitate in doing that. The remuneration has been made on such property, developed property and economic trees,” the commissioner said.

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