Leaders of 11 host communities of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, (FUTO), Imo State have protested against alleged occupation of about 4,050 hectares of land by the university in defiance to the decision by the Imo State government to excise 3,123 hectares to the communities.
Speaking on behalf of the communities, one of the leaders, Chief Sam Anokam, insisted that the institution must excise certain parts of the acquired land, stating that the institution acquired human settlement, in Ihiagwa and Eziobodo, as well as Owerri West Local Council of the state in neglect to the National Universities Commission (NUC), directive on land acquisition in such situation.
He alleged that several petitions have been written to successive heads of the institution on the matter, accusing them of not making themselves available on how to resolve the matter.
But reacting, the Vice chancellor of the institution, Prof. Francis Eze, alleged that the host communities were threatening the existence of the university, and that the university requires 1000 hectares of land to supposedly build a FUTO teaching hospital.
Expressing concerns on the position of the V.C, Chief Sam Anokam an Estate Surveyor, said the argument by Prof. Eze, that the Port-Harcourt Road end of the land would require over 1,000 hectares of land to build the planned construction of FUTO Teaching Hospital, was not acceptable to the communities at that location. He insisted that the Owerri North end of the institution could accommodate less than such expanse of land.
He accused authorities of the institution of not living up to their Corporate Social Responsibility of employing indigenes of the communities and encroaching on Umuezeala, Eziobodo, Ebikoro, Amaeze, Uba- Eziobodo lands, among others.
According to him, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has about 800 hectares of land for such hospital, wondering why FUTO required such expanse of land.
Chief Anokam said FUTO had only paid compensation for about 1,000 hectares of land out of over 4,000 it acquired, insisting that the acquisition process was not complete.
“We call on the Federal Government to set up ta Technical Committee of core professionals to see for themselves and write a report to settle the matter, if the Federal Government want to settle this matter urgently,” he stated.
Following the shooting of teargas at protesters and journalists by Police officers in Ihiagwa recently, plans have been concluded to petition the Inspector General of Police, IGP, against Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike.
Chief Sam Anokam confirmed the police brutality against the youths of Ihiagwa to newsmen in Owerri. The petition is said to be on the involvement of the Police in the matter between the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, FUTO, and the host community, Ihiagwa over land dispute, as well as their encounter with the Police during the last protest. Anokam said: “I have been in this struggle highlighting the anomally on FUTO land acquisition and the impact on the host communities.
“Communities give out land to government for development purposes. It is based on due process. Due process in land acquisition implies that we have consultations with the host communities. An acquisition that engulfs the habitation area is punitive and cannot stand. “It has been a disputed area.