Women protest against alleged land-grabbing by military in Delta
•Police arrest kidnap kingpin, 47 other suspects
•Assembly criticises FG over rats’ infestation claim
Scores of women yesterday took to the streets and barricaded the Effurun roundabout axis of the East-West Road in protest over an alleged land-grab and sale of about 185.20 hectares of prime property at Uvwie, Uvwie Local Council of Delta State by the Nigerian Army.
The protest, which started as early as 6:00 a.m. and lasted for over three hours, resulted in traffic gridlock on the strategic highway.The women, brandishing placards with different inscriptions such as, “Our land has been sold by soldiers”, “Give our land back to us”, “We have no land to farm”, “Mr. President come to our rescue”, among others, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to assent the bill establishing the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE).
Spokesperson for the protesters, Mrs. Maria Odjobu, said their land, meant for farming, had been allegedly confiscated by the army.The kingdom’s monarch, His Royal Majesty Emmanuel Sideso Abe I, alleged that the military illegally acquired more than what his subjects originally gave it.
He said: “When I ascended the throne, we made several attempts to get back some of the unoccupied areas by the army. We generously gave them over 2000 hectares in 1974 with the aim of establishing the Nigeria Defence Academy, but unfortunately, the institution was moved to Kaduna.
“We then asked that the unoccupied part be returned since the academy is no more here. We approached them, but no response came. Instead, my subjects have been deprived from even living in the place. Three years ago, they marked the villages to be demolished, which were not part of the land given to them. They have illegally extended the land without our knowledge.”
Speaking in the same vein, the President General of Uvwie General Improvement Union, Chief Austin Ukuwrere, situated the controversial land as the unused one that existed after the construction and occupation of the 3 Battalion Barracks, Effurun in 1979.
He claimed: “The representatives of Uvwie families seeing that not all the land purportedly acquired were actually developed and occupied, requested that they be released to them for farming, their main occupation.
“Rather than release the unused portions, the various commanding officers of the barracks, in connivance with some serving and retired army generals have been converting the illegally acquired acres of lands into private use by leasing, assigning or selling them outright to private individuals and organisations through the instrumentality of the Nigerian Army Properties Limited.”
In another development, the Police Command has arrested 47 robbery and kidnap suspects in parts of the state in the last two weeks.The Commissioner of Police, Zanna Ibrahim, told newsmen yesterday in Asaba, the capital, four victims were rescued during the period. He added that a 56-year-old notorious kidnap kingpin, Musa Mohammed (Alias Dauro) and chairman of the Naiti-Allah Association in the state, was also arrested.
His words: “There is no need hiding the fact that most of the kidnappings are perpetuated by the herdsmen in connivance with some of the indigenes. Currently, he is in the custody of the police. Musa Mohammed, his son and relations all live behind the Airport in Asaba. And the house has been a den of kidnappers.”
Meanwhile, the State House of Assembly has described the rats’ infestation claim by the Presidency as “gimmicks of a failed political party.” It claimed that Nigerians were already fed up with the ruling All Progressives Congress party (APC) administration at the centre.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Oboro Preyor, told reporters yesterday in Asaba that the claim has further portrayed the presidential aides as a bunch of liars unwittingly making mockery of the presidency.
According to the lawmaker, there was nothing wrong if the presidency had told Nigerians that Buhari was not strong enough to run the government from the office.
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