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Priest invokes Onitsha deity wrath over NIWA’s encroachment on land

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By Phil Okose, Onitsha

The chief priest of Otumoye deity in Onitsha has warned management and personnel of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Onitsha and other occupants of a part of the town that they encroach on their ancestral land/river without consent and compensation and also risk incurring the wrath of their god.

The chief priest, and Diokpa of Obamkpa/Ogbo family of Onitsha, Obiora Nzekwu, gave the warning in Onitsha saying that “Our grievances are very clear because the squatters are given permit by NIWA and Ministry of Mines and Power to dredge sand at River Niger and the land they are doing this business they did not pay any dime to the family owners. The family did not give them consent (and) they are using the influence of government to intimidate the family. We know how many court cases we are pursuing in respect of that and when it was apparent, that NIWA was looking the other way, we sued NIWA even at the federal high court so that justice must be done to recover our land.”

Nzekwu observed that since the inception of Chief George Moghalu as the managing director of NIWA, the land owners had taken proactive steps to ensure peace. “We set up committee and we have already given the names of our own party, three-man committee from Ogbo family and the rest will be from NIWA, to make peace. So, we are still waiting for Moghalu to inaugurate the committee to commence work and I believe this is the first time in NIWA existence for such a thing to happen.”

He insisted that NIWA would be held responsible for any breakdown in the relationship between the land host and its tenants. “Insiders in NIWA are the people we will hold responsible. We have written several letters warning NIWA that they should steer clear from all village businesses. NIWA knows very well that, with the information of NIWA Act, Otumoye is a lake or a pond or a pool from time immemorial. They collect money from those squatters and then they start dumping refuse to close the pool and they know the ecological system which is even in their NIWA Act about navigable waterway under the NIWA Act”,

“Otumoye is our deity. It is where we make sacrifice and, over time, we know the history of those areas because Otumoye will soon fight back and whatever will be the devastation, NIWA will be held responsible, especially those of them that collect money from traders and land speculators and give them permit at the door step of ministry of land and survey who usually collect money from all land speculators and give them Certificate of Occupancy, (C of O) without title.

“The Ogbo family is the only person that can give lease or give title before you pursue C of O which is very clear anywhere in Nigeria constitution. What they are doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul. They collect money, they drove us, the owners away, these people will fly C of O up and down thereby dispossessing us our land,”

“There is nowhere in Nigeria you just come and take over somebody’s land. The one of Anambra state is the worst scenario and government should be held responsible for their irresponsibility in dealing with the owners of the land, depriving them of their God-given land. Let them go to their village; each and every one of them, and somebody will come and acquire your land without compensation. It will be do or die affair, so Onitsha is a very peaceful, knowledgeable and respectable people,”

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