Amagu Progressive Forum has described the allegation of land grabbing levelled against senator Anyim Pius Anyim as spurious, indefensible and unfounded.
In a statement, the chairman of the group, Hon Fabian Osi Uka called on the dissenting few against the decision of Amagu community to develop Ovumte land into a mondern city for the benefit of every indegene to apply restraint in fanning the embers of crises in the community adding that the communal ownership of the land predates every living person in Amagu today.
He urged those that are aggrieved to wait for the resolution of the matter which is already before a competent court of jurisdiction rather than resort to cheap blackmail and unimaginable lies against senator Anyim as the few who perpertrated this act believe that adding his name in the case will attract attention to them.
The group stated that Amagu Development Union (ADU), an umbrella body of Amagu citizens is the highest decision making organ of Amagu Ishiagu Community in Ivo Local Government Area Ebonyi State. The body which has branches in every State of the Federation is responsible for the administration and development of the community; as well as the maintenance of peace and orderliness among the people. It is pertinent to note that Ovumnte which is the area in dispute is not a village in Amagu Community, but rather a farm settlement for all the indigenes of Amagu, and had been so designated since time immemorial, stating that the rule is that for anybody or family to farm in Ovumte land, he would usually notify the community development Union (ADU) who will grant the permission and each farmer farms there as tenant of the community; and also pays tribute periodically to the community in the form of “Orji-Ali” through the ADU leadership.
The group pointed out that In the year 1998, Chief Anyim, Pius Anyim, approached the ADU under the leadership of late Mr. Raymond Chukwu for a parcel of land at Ovumte for residential purposes. The Union was concerned on how Chief Anyim could live in the farm land alone considering that Ovumte is about 15 kilometres from the Amagu community residential area.
In the year 1999, the union approved the request of Chief Anyim after he assured them that he would construct an access road to Ovumte, and when he became a senator, he developed his residence on the parcel of land approved for him after completing all the rites required by the ADU, and thereafter constructed a set of access road into Ovumte land.
In 2001, the ADU set up a Land Use Committee chaired by Late Cosmas Ajah to look into the possibility of parcellating the Ovumte land into residential plots since the present Amagu residential area is already very congested and many of the young ones are coming up strong with a desire for spaces to build their residence at home.
On the submission of its report, the Union decided to convoke a town hall meeting otherwise known as Igbo-Uzo. This meeting involves all male adults in the community from the age of eighteen years and above, and was held at Akanu Village Square to discuss and seek approval of the community on the way forward for Ovumte land. The said Town Hall Meeting held in April, 2001 and approved the conversion of Ovumte land from farm land to residential land.
Following this submission of report of the land committee, the ADU in 2002 convoked another Town Hall Meeting to submit the report and seek further approval and it was unanimously aggreed that each family in the village must get a piece of land, therefore the land committee should undertake a census of the families in the community
By the year 2011, the third town hall meeting was convoked to approve the family enumeration and the meeting held and approved a total of three hundred families and Three hundred plots of one thousand square meters each be set aside for each family who shall pay a token to access it.
That if any family has a farmhouse in Ovumte already, the farm house should be carved into a one thousand square meter plot for that family.
That the rest be parcellated into a two thousand square meter plots and the committee should put a cost to it as the money realized therefrom should be used to service both such plots and the family plots.That provision for schools, recreation, hospital and market should also be made.
This project unfortunately suffered a set back in 2016 following the ill-health and subsequent death of the Chairman of the Land Committee Mr. Cosmas Aja. However, after his burial in October, 2018, the committee was reconstituted under the chairmanship of Pharm. Chinedu Makwe.
The group frowned at the attitude, of Mr Moses Orji, a former education secretary of Ivo local government and one time Caretaker Committee Chairman of old Ohaukwu Local Government Area who was abusing the privilege given to him by Amagu community as one of their son by working against the effort of the community to develop the communal land to a modern city for the benefit of all.
It was noted that Mr Moses in the early 2000 decided to go into farming and the community granted him a space to farm, as every bona fide indigene of Amagu community are granted access to Ovumte land upon the fulfillment of certain conditions and other regulations designed to maintain the communality of the land, where he has continued to pay tribute to the ADU until the present resolve of Amagu Development Union (ADU) to develop the farm settlement into a modern city.
The group stated that it was erroneous for Mr Moses orji to equate long occupation to right of ownership of the land forgetting the condition precedent under which he was granted access in the land .
They decried the twisting of facts, outright provocation, misrepresentation and campaign of calumny embarked upon by Mr orji and his paid agents to divert the attention from the real issue, which is the conversion of communal land by dragging senator Anyim into the matter with the sole aim of attracting sympathy.
The group praised the selfless effort of the land Committee chairman, Pharm Nicholas Makwe who had worked tirelessly at a personal discomfort to advance the cause of the project despite the criticism and abuse of few disgruntled indegene who placed their selfish interest above that of the community.
Consequently, APF call on all concern, who are shopping for every conceivable reason to frustrate the laudable project the community have embarked upon with endless frivolous petitions to the police after their effort so far has failed, to desist forthwith as history would not judge them fairly.
The group praised the courage of some Amagu indegene who were mislead to join the ignominous fight against the community, many of whom had long returned and apologized to the community citing undue influence
The group also commended the former senate president , Chief Anyim pius Anyim for his unrelenting efforts to better the lots of the community despite desperate greed and malicious actions of very few individuals, stating that Amagu community is proud of the effort of Anyim pius Anyim who have over the years changed the fortunes of hundreds of its indigenes through facilitating of their employment in the public and private sector, award of scholarship to indigent students and through Chioma Pius Anyim Foundation, offered succour to many old men and women who are given monthly stipend payment till date.
Ovumnte Community Responds:
Chief Pius Anyim not Innocent of Land Grab in Ovumnte; Amagu Progressive Forum does not exist
The People of Ovumnte Community in Amagu, Ishiagu within Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State have now responded to a statement immensely filled with lies and falsehoods, and purporting to absolve Chief Pius Anyim from land grab in Ovumnte land, titled: “Community debunks allegations of land grabbing against Anyim” issued by Mr. Osi Uka who claims to represent the Amagu Progressive Forum and published in the Guardian Newspaper on 3rd July, 2020 by 1:54 PM and Saturday Vanguard of 4th July, 2020.
In the response signed by over 40 families (see attached), the People of Ovumnte Community state that the statement “only contains deliberately concocted lies and falsehoods intended to twist facts and mislead members of the public, and make saints of sinners in the eyes of the unsuspecting public”.
The People of Ovumnte Community who have earlier petitioned the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police against Chief Pius Anyim’s land grab (also attached) state the following in their response:
(1) The “Amagu Progressive Forum” does not exist anywhere, but only in the imagination of the said “Mr. Osi Uka”. The only community union known in Amagu Community is the Amagu Development Union.
(2) There was no time when the Amagu community jointly decided to develop any land into an “ultra-modern city” for the benefit of Amagu indigenes; and there are currently no jointly owned lands anywhere in the community.
(3) In 1999, Chief Pius Anyim, while he was a Senator, acquired the lands of over eight families at the Ovumnte land area, and built his residence there. Those families allowed him to acquire their lands after he had paid consideration for their said lands and for their economic trees, and even promised to train some of their children in the University. Part of the considerations paid by Chief Pius Anyim was building houses for some of those families, before they allowed him to acquire their lands. All the palm trees currently standing in Chief Pius Anyim’s residence at Ovumnte once belonged to those families from whom he acquired the lands for his residence. Even when Chief Pius Anyim wanted to acquire more lands in order to expand his residence, not every family agreed to give him their lands. For example, the Elema Nwa Onu Eke family refused to give up their land to Chief Pius Anyim despite all the pleadings from Chief Pius Anyim and some executives of the Amagu Development Union (ADU) at that time. Some of the executives of the ADU such as late Mr. Raymond Chukwu (who was the ADU Chairman at that time) played roles in convincing the said families who gave their lands to Chief Pius Anyim when it was hinted that he wanted to build an amusement park thereon, to attract development to the area. However, in the end, Chief Pius Anyim built his personal residence upon the said lands.
(4) Before Chief Pius Anyim came to reside at Ovumnte in 1999, there existed age-long access roads into the Ovunmte land area. The first motorable road into the inner parts of the Ovumnte land, which cut across Ovumnte land through the front of Chief Pius Anyim’s residence, was attracted by Sir Moses Orji, in 1984 when he got a bulldozer to widen the existing ancient foot path leading into Ovumnte land, in order to easily access his commercial farm known as ORJI FARMS which is located towards the end of Ovumnte land. Later, around 1992 while Ishiagu was still under Ohaozara LGA, Sir Moses Orji influenced the then Chairman of Ohaozara LGA, Late Mr. Jackson Nwachukwu, who was also a Member of the Amagu Community to upgrade the existing Ovumnte access road through the defunct Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI) Project. In 2012, Mrs. Christiana Orji who was the Head of Local Government Administration in Ivo LGA, attracted the construction of the Miri Eke mini bridge linking Ovumnte land and Ogwor community land, during the tenure of Mr. Joestar as Chairman of Ivo LGA. However, around 2002, Chief Pius Anyim, while he was Senate President, only improved upon the already existing motorable road leading to his residence at Ovumnte, and later in 2014, as the Secretary to the Federal Government, he attracted the tarring of the existing motorable road into Ovumnte land.
(5) Since Chief Pius Anyim began to reside with us in Ovumnte community, we have given him the utmost respect; and we have been proud of his attainment in politics. However, even though the Ovumnte community (and the entire Ishiagu) does not have electricity, portable drinkable water nor even a good hospital or other basic social amenities, we have not lost our respect for Chief Pius Anyim, neither has he, as a member of the Ovumnte community, personally provided us with any of the basic social amenities.
(6) In September 2019, when we heard that Chief Pius Anyim was planning to “develop” the Ovumnte Land into a purported “ultra-modern residential city”, we sought an appointment with him, and eventually met with him in his residence on 29/10/2019. During the meeting, Chief Pius Anyim stated that he had spent over Seven Million Naira (N7,000 000:00) for surveying and parcellating the Ovumnte land for “development” into an “ultra-modern city”; and that there was no going back. He further stated that he was only waiting for the dry season to come so that his bulldozers could“start work” on the said land. He told us that consideration would not be paid to any person whose land would be affected by the said “mega city project”. We pleaded with Chief Pius Anyim to leave our lands and homes for us; and that our lands, farms, economic trees and the rest of our inheritance should not be taken from us by force. But rather than listen to us, Chief Pius Anyim stated that anybody wishing to acquire land at Ovumnte would have to pay One Million and Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N1,200,000:00).
(7) During “Amagu Day celebration”, on 31/12/2019, Chief Pius Anyim stated again that anybody that owns land in Ovumnte is a “tenant” and that Ovumnte land is a “communal land” and that he was going to develop Ovumnte Land into an “ultra-modern residential city”.
(8) Later, in January 2020, a bulldozer directed by Messers: Chinedu Nicolas Makwe (a Director with the National Health Insurance Scheme and a brother to Mr. Livinus Makwe, the Member representing Ohaozara/Ivo in the Federal House of Representatives), Peter Ajah, Livinus Ukah, Godfrey Anyim, Benjamin Osi, and others, forcefully entered our lands at Ovumnte, and embarked on willful and malicious destruction of our farms, including our planted crops, palm trees, and other economic trees, and houses. Following the said willful and malicious destructions, we instituted Suit No: HSK/6/2020 against Chief Pius Anyim, Chinedu Nicolas Makwe and others at the High Court of Ebonyi State, in February 2020, while Sir Moses Orji whose vast palm oil planation, fish ponds and poultry houses were destroyed, had instituted Suit No: HSK/4/2020 in January, 2020, at the High Court of Ebonyi State, against Chief Pius Anyim, Chinedu Nicolas Makwe and others. In both cases, the High Court of Ebonyi State ordered that status quo should be maintained by the parties to the suits pending their determination. However, in March, 2020, the defendants resorted to using SP. Nwornu Daniel C. (the DPO of the Ivo Police Division) to harass and intimidate us, and to chase us away from our lands at Ovumnte. We organized a peaceful protest against this Police harassment and intimidation on the morning of 15th March, 2020, wherein we went to the Police Station, and called out to members of the public to hear our cry. See links:
(9) We continued to attend the High Court on the days that our matters were slated, and hoped for a timely resolution of the dispute, until government institutions, including the Courts were locked down due to the spread of COVID-19. However, on the 9th of June 2020, Messers: Chinedu Nicolas Makwe (a Director with the National Health Insurance Scheme and a brother to Mr. Livinus Makwe, the Member representing Ohaozara/Ivo in the Federal House of Representatives), Peter Ajah, Livinus Ukah, Godfrey Anyim, Benjamin Osi, and others along with surveyors and armed thugs left from Chief Pius Anyim’s residence and entered into our lands in violation of the preservative orders of the High Court in Suits No: HSK/6/2020 and Suit No: HSK/4/2020. These trespassers began mapping out our lands in line with the plan of the purported ultra-modern residential city proposed by Chief Pius Anyim. We subsequently commenced Contempt of court proceedings against the trespassers and served them with FORM 48 (Notice of Disobedience to Court Orders) on 12th June, 2020. They ignored it and, in particular Mr. Chinedu Nicolas Makwe physically assaulted Mrs Orji, a member of the Ovumnte community at her husband’s farm, on the said 12th June 2020. Between 13th and 27th of June, 2020, two bulldozers accompanied by armed thugs entered into our lands in violation of the preservative orders of the High Court in Suit No: HSK/6/2020 and began destroying our farms, houses, palm trees, economic trees and planted crops which are our only means of livelihood. Chief Pius Anyim and Mr. Chinedu Nicolas Makwe were severally sighted inspecting the destruction of our properties by the bulldozers.
(10) We approached the DPO, Mr. Nwornu Daniel C., and complained to him, but he refused to intervene to stop the destruction of our farms and properties, saying that the case was already before a Court in Abuja and that the Police cannot intervene even if our properties are being maliciously destroyed. Therefore, to prevent a breakdown of law and order, we petitioned the Office of the Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State on the 23rd of June, 2020 asking him to investigate and prosecute Messers: Anyim Pius Anyim, Chinedu Nicholas Makwe, Peter Ajah, Livinus Ukah, Godfrey Anyim, and others, who are currently violating the orders of the High Court in Suit No: HSK/6/2020 by destroying our farms including our crops, palm trees and other economic trees and to remove SP Daniel Nwonu C. as DPO of the Ivo Police Divisional Police Command as his continued stay does not guarantee the safety of our lives and properties.
(11) The Police led by the said SP Daniel Nwonu C. (the DPO of Ivo Police Division), have been used by Chief Pius Anyim and Mr. Chinedu Nicholas Makwe to hunt members of our community; and many of us have suffered series of unlawful arrests, detentions and torture by the Police. Whenever members of our community make lawful complaints to the DPO, SP Daniel Nwonu, regarding the malicious acts of Chief Pius Anyim, Mr. Chinedu Nicholas Makwe and others, the complainants end up being arrested and detained on trumped up charges, without the complaints being investigated. Members of our community who have been unlawfully arrested, detained and tortured include Mr. Friday Ovia, Mrs. Christiana Orji and Sir Moses Orji.
(12) We are surprised that instead of advising Chief Pius Anyim, Mr. Chinedu Nicholas Makwe and the rest of defendants in Suits No: HSK/6/2020 and No: HSK/4/2020, to respect our rights, and maintain the status quo pending the determination of the Suits, Mr. Osi Uka and his non-existent “Amagu Progressive Forum” has chosen to turn a blind eye to their wanton violation of the preservative orders of the High Court, and thereby encouraging their acts of lawlessness which are likely to cause a breach of public peace.
(13) We shall not join issues in the press with Mr. Osi Uka and his non-existent “Amagu Progressive Forum” over whether Ovumnte land is a designated communal farm land “since time immemorial”, as this matter is already being determined by a Court of competent jurisdiction. However, we must state that it is absolute falsehood, mischievous and extremely misleading for Mr. Osi Uka and his non-existent “Amagu Progressive Forum” to say that: the ADU grants “permission” to people who farm at Ovumnte land, and that each farmer at Ovumnte is a “tenant” of the Community, and pays land rate periodically to the community in the form of “Orji-Ali” through the ADU leadership.
(14) We state that since our ancestors occupied Ovumnte land from time immemorial, and buried deceased family members therein, we have never paid any form of land rent whatsoever to anybody.
(15) We wish to ask Mr. Osi Uka, and his fictitious “Amagu Progressive Forum”, as well as Chief Pius Anyim, Mr. Chinedu Nicolas Makwe and other defendants in Suits No: HSK/6/2020 and No: HSK/4/2020, whether we are strangers/settlers in Ovumnte land?
(16) Again, we wish to ask Mr. Osi Uka and his fictitious “Amagu Progressive Forum”, as well as Chief Pius Anyim, Mr. Chinedu Nicolas Makwe and other defendants in Suits No: HSK/6/2020 and No: HSK/4/2020, if they are lawfully entitled to willfully and maliciously destroy our properties (including our economic trees, crops and houses), assuming but not conceding that we are tenants of the community?
(17) We also wish to ask Mr. Osi Uka, and his fictitious Amagu Progressive Forum, as well as Chief Pius Anyim, Mr. Chinedu Nicolas Makwe and other defendants in Suits No: HSK/6/2020 and No: HSK/4/2020, why the over 200 hectares of land, obtained by Chief Pius Anyim from several families in Amagu Community and fenced as a private game reserve, which fence he severally inscribed “IN JESUS NAME AMEN”, located along the Afikpo–Okigwe Express Way was not considered a communal land which every family in the Amagu community had a stake in? We ask them to show us any land in which every family in the Amagu community has a stake?
(18) We state that at no time in history did the Amagu community or the Amagu Development Union inform us of any meeting regarding any project in Ovumnte. No such meeting ever held. Such meeting could only have been held in the imagination of the defendants and their handpicked accomplices who are hell bent on forcefully grabbing our ancestral lands.
(19) We are deeply concerned by Mr. Osi Uka’s malicious attempt to mislead and distract the public, by stating that Sir Moses Orji, a prominent member of the Ovumnte community is “preventing the development” of the purported “ultra-modern residential city” at Ovumnte. For the records, the people of Ovumnte community comprise over 200 families. These families include the Plaintiffs in the Suits No: HSK/6/2020 and No: HSK/4/2020 against Chief Pius Anyim, Mr. Chinedu Nicolas Makwe and other defendants. We advise Mr. Osi Uka to desist from prejudging the Court on whether or not Sir Moses Orji’s land is a communal land, as this question as well as the liability for the willful and malicious destruction of Sir Moses Orji’s farm is currently being determined by a competent Court.
(20) We the Members of Ovumnte Community are law abiding Nigerian citizens, who are entitled to a constitutionally guaranteed right to property; and have been compelled by the desperate and malicious acts of Chief Pius Anyim, Mr. Chinedu Nicolas Makwe and others to seek redress before a competent court of law. We therefore appeal to them once again to respect the preservative orders of the Court pending the determination of our suits. We also call on the Inspector General of Police to urgently commence an investigation into the malicious destruction of our properties, and the disobedience of the preservative orders of the court in Suits No: HSK/6/2020 and No: HSK/4/2020 with a view to bringing the culprits to book and deterring impunity.
Thanks for your reply. But you can come for talks and actually sponsor this article for publication