Imo Community Condemns Governor Uzodinma For Demolishing Only Primary School Without Alternative

People of Umuoba Village, Ezeachi Community in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State, have lamented the destruction of their only primary school by Governor Hope Uzodinma-led state government.

The aggrieved people lamented that their children have been thrown into the open with no alternative place of learning provided for them nor compensation paid to the village to be able to provide an alternative school for the displaced pupils.

The Chairman of Umuoba Development Union, Engr. Chibuzor Okorie, told SaharaReporters that the school was destroyed following a takeover of the land on which the school is situated by the state government without compensation or official communication.

He said the school had been in existence before the 1970s but at a point during the war, the government used the land, part of which, the school is situated to camp the military.

According to him, “After the war, they (the military) left and the government was servicing it.

“The Police Squadron were there and were paying us rent. They also paid for some economic trees they cut down but they did not pay compensation for the land because the land was not handed over to them for full ownership. They only paid rent.

“However, the school was still on and functional. Later, our people asked them (the police squadron) to leave the place. But the Mobile police refused to go out, even when they had been transferred to Owerri.

“The entire land space is more than 100 hectares of land cited along Orlu-Amaigbo road.”

Okorie further said, “They have been using the land but our school continues going on. The school was still functioning. Myself as the Chairman of the village visited the school.

“The headmistress called me and we went for a landlord association meeting to make sure that the school and the environment was properly taken care of. Late last year, I got the village youths to help the pupils clear the school field. We bought new football posts for them.

“Not up to four months ago, they (the school management) conducted me around the whole school so that we can know some amendments we can make. Suddenly, in April this year, we started noticing some movement around the school and the entire environment.

“Some people started bringing in machines without official communication to us. The community said no. Why should our land be taken without proper information?  We were not consulted. At a point, it was as if we were going to start fighting the people coming in.

“They were bringing machines, excavating other areas, destroying people’s crops, because our people were still farming in those areas. When they found out that the villagers were getting agitated, they brought in Ebubeagu security and the military who stormed the whole place. We asked what was going on but no answer was given to us.”

He said they mobilised and went to the DPO of Orlu Area Police Command, who he said told them that the case was bigger than what the command could handle.

“We were asked to go to Owerri. We went to Owerri through the Commissioner of Police and did all we were supposed to do, which made them (the police) say they wanted to come and arrest those behind the destruction because we wanted to unmask the people doing the destruction.

“The Commissioner of Police visited the place but did not make any arrest. We mobilised again and went to them (the commissioner of police), and they said they were still trying to unravel what was happening.

“They said they were writing letters to know what was happening and to know if the government had acquired the land.

“There was no official communication from the government. We didn’t know who the people destroying the land and the school were. No signpost showing that there is an award of any contract to do a road or anything. People were only insinuating different things. Some said the state government wants to build a government house annex.”

He further said “The contractor, Granburg, said they were asked to come and build a perimeter fencing of the place, but the community is not aware. Who sent them, they did not tell us.

“Initially, we asked our representative in the state house of assembly, Hon. Ikenna Ihezue, a member representing Orlu State Constituency, said he doesn’t know anything about it. Later, he said he attracted it, that we should calm down.

“He said he would get them (the government) to compensate. Later, he said that the government said it will not give any compensation. One day, one military man from our place came and asked the military officers there to withdraw their men.

“Meanwhile, the people kept going further into the land, and the last of it was bringing down the primary school without making any provision for another place for the pupils and the village.

“The day they pulled down the school, some teachers got injured. They removed the irons, the roofs and brought the school down. The children were in school the day they brought the school down. The children had to run outside.

“They used the police, the military and Ebubeagu to chase people away. Till now, nothing has been done about it. I had to ask the children to start using our town hall. That is where the pupils and their teachers are.

“The same hall is also being used by other people who paid us to use the hall for primary and secondary schools. Our children are just using a small part of the hall.”

According to him, the traditional ruler of his village denied any knowledge of whatever that was happening and that the person who informed him of what was happening was the House of Assembly member.

“I also called the Present General and he told me that he is not aware of anything.”

However, speaking at a town hall meeting called by Umuoba people and presided over by Okorie, the state lawmaker, Ihezue confirmed  that the project is being carried out by the state government for government house annex extension.

Ihezue said, “The way this thing started was that there was at the expanded Exco meeting we had where the governor said that there would be Government House extension in Orlu.

“What brought it was the constitution amendment and one of the things being done in the constitution amendment is creation of states, and Orlu State was one of the states that came out. For Orlu State to pass, there must be some amenities in Orlu like road network and government facilities to show that it can be possible.

“So, this is a governor that has foresight and thinks ahead. That was why he thought of the Orlu Government House annex. He wanted to take it to Omuma but his conscience said no, let him bring it to this place.”

The state lawmaker noted that two different locations were mapped out for the project “but I suggested this place, knowing full well that this Mgbaleke had been acquired by the government a long time ago.”

He added, “The Land Use Act gives the governor the power to acquire lands and you people the power to receive compensation. But once this thing is for overriding public interest, nobody can stop the government.

“The benefit of this will be for our children and our children’s children. As far as I’m concerned, I will not allow your land to go without compensation. It might be a little delayed but it cannot be denied.”

He confirmed that the building of the perimeter fence was directed by the governor, noting with reference to Section 2 of Land Use Act, that the community would have received compensation before the project starts but the compensation has not been given “because of the urgency of what they are doing now, the governor said there should use perimeter fence to secure the land first. There must be compensation.”

CR: SaharaReporters

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