Scores of indigenes of Umuchima – Ihiagwa community in the Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State on Friday barricaded the entrance gate of Federal University of Technology , Owerri , in protest. Umuchima -Ihiagwa is one of the host communities of FUTO.
The indigenes, who bore placards , alleged that the university management had encroached into their lands and had forcefully taken over their water front . Addressing journalists at the school gate , the leader of the protesters, Amanze Iheanacho, alleged that the school management through the VC, Prof Francis Dike, had suppressed them by using security agencies against them. Iheanacho said , “We are protesting because FUTO management took over our remaining land called water front .
There was never a time they acquired this land. The most serious part of this story is that they have about five dredging machines in that land. They are now dredging sand from our land, forcefully . “ They asked us to vacate the land which we inherited from of our forefathers so that they will continue the business of dredging of sand . “
FUTO, last year, asked us to come and collect compensation for the taking over of the water front. We refused and said it was the only land that we have as indigenes. It is also the only source of our income. “ Our work as youths of this community is dredging of sand and farming; that is what we do here to sustain ourselves. We are all graduates. They do not want to give us work and why would they also collect from us the only thing that sustains us. We are not happy and we are begging them to leave the water front for us. “ Anytime we come out to protest, they will use security agencies to intimidate us . We are being intimidated in our own land. ” The protesters were teargassed and dispersed by security men on duty on campus. In a telephone conversation, the VC told our correspondent that the land in contention belonged to the school, not the host community.