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Edo Community protests against Nigerian Army’s over allege land grabbing

Hundreds of people from Oghede community in Ovia North East Local Government of Edo State, yesterday, took to the street to protest the destruction of buildings and existing structures including tombs of the dead by Nigerian Army personnel who were allegedly claiming ownership of their land.

Speaking on behalf the community, in Benin City, an elder of the community, Mr. Festus Aghahowa, said soldiers from the Ekheuan barracks invaded their community in the morning claiming they had acquired their ancestral home without documents.

Aghahowa who led his community members with placards of various inscriptions against the army, said the people wanted justice from the government.

He explained that the only acquisition the army made was between 1964 and 1965 and a demarcation was made, adding: “We took the matter to the palace under Oba Erediauwa and he said the army has not done any other acquisition apart from the one that was done during the reign of his father Oba Akenzua II and so the army should stay in their barracks and then instructed that a road should be constructed by the fence, the commander then was immediately transferred.”He, however, said: “They (army) are claiming they made a second acquisition whereas there is nothing like that. We have gone to court but they have been frustrating the efforts of the court with frivolous motions.

“The more we complain the harder they are to us, they are committing all sorts of atrocities, they have been using bulldozers and destroying already existing structures and even where people are buried they destroy the land including the dead. They said we cannot live and erect any structure within 200 feet.

Also speaking, one of those affected, Reverend David Ugolor, said that the land his family acquired in 2013 to bury the wife of his elder brother who died in the United States was bulldozed and the tomb destroyed just as a 90 year-old Mrs. Grace Ewere, said soldiers have told her to leave her house.

A widow, Mrs. Faith Omoregie, said: “My late husband built a bungalow for me. I don’t have a child so my husband’s family gave me the bungalow as my inheritance, that is all I have and now soldiers are saying I must pack out. We want the government to come to our rescue.”

Reacting to the development, the Spokesman, 4th Brigade of Nigerian Army, Captain Yemi Sokoya, denied the allegations, saying land belongs to the Nigeria Army, adding that the community is just being mischievous by claiming ownership.

Sokoya said: “It is not true. People will go and fight their battle in the media instead of facing the truth.”

“The land in question is ‘army land,’ but the community keeps selling the land to civilians. The army took them to court and ordered that nobody continue work on the land pending the determination of the matter but they kept selling, building and eating deep into the barrack. The matter is in court and they should allow the court to do its work rather than rushing to the media with lies.

“We are waiting patiently for the verdict. The land belongs to the army and they keep on selling and building on the land even after several warnings.”

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