Demolition: Over 50 Enugu Residents Under Threat, Beg Gov Ugwuanyi To Stop Innoson

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for Enugu North Senatorial District (left) being honoured by the State Chairman, National Youth Council and Convener of Enugu State youths, when young persons in the state paid a ‘Thank-you’ visit to the governor for his administration’s youth inclusiveness in governance, at the Government House in Enugu…yesterday

By NewsBits

There was commotion at No. 3, Savage Crescent G.R.A. Enugu on Wednesday as a bulldozer arrived early morning to bring down structures housing over 50 residents.

Reports confirmed that the earth moving equipment was accompanied by people who said they were acting on the instruction of Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, the Chief Executive Officer of Innoson Group.

The bewildered residents, who are now praying for Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s intervention, said they were being threatened because of their poor status in the society.

They told journalists that some of them had lived in the compound for over 15 years and were religiously paying their rent to the rightful owner of the property, Mr. Ifeanyi Nwankwo until Mr. Chukwuma surfaced last week, claiming that Radio Nigeria, Enugu Zonal Station, gave him the property on a 15-year lease.

But the occupants said they had no business with Radio Nigeria but their landlord of over 10 years, Mr. Nwankwo. “What happened here today can only happen in a society where there is no law,” spokesman of the occupants, Justice Uzowulu, told journalists.

He disclosed that trouble started last Saturday when Mr. Chukwuma (Innoson) arrived at their compound with over 20 policemen and ordered them to vacate the property before Tuesday.

“We were shocked to receive such a threat from him. We asked him his business with the property because many of us have lived here for over 10 years and we know our landlord, Mr. Ifeanyi Okonkwo. He claimed that Radio Nigeria gave him the land on lease. We could not understand that because this property has nothing to do with Radio Nigeria. We reached out to the lawyer.

“Nobody has ever disturbed us inside this premises; we have been lawfully paying our rent when due. Not until that Saturday when Innoson came here with over 20 policemen, surrounded us, intimidated us, claiming that he is the rightful owner of this place. We were surprised, we were looking at him. He said he will start work there on Tuesday. He started attacking me personally that I was the one that shouted at him on the phone.

“Later that evening, two huge men came again and started pointing at every part of the compound, that they were coming, let anyone come and stop them. So, early this morning, we saw a bulldozer, we asked them what they came to do; they said they were sent to demolish this place. He said he would produce a document that shows this place belongs to him, but till this moment there is nothing.

Asked whether Radio Nigeria had ever come to lay claim to the property, he said “since we have been here Radio Nigeria has never shown face here to harass us or claim ownership of this property. We are now begging the good Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to protect us from Innoson. We are poor but law-abiding citizens of the State.”

Reacting, Mr. Okonkwo’s lawyer, Ben Ugochukwu, who spoke on behalf of his principal, Mrs. Ifeoma Adaara, described Chukwuma’s action as reckless and a resort to self-help. The lawyer told journalists that Chukwuma was a trespasser and was using his connection to intimidate the poor occupants.

He said a letter had been written to the Enugu State Commissioner of Police in order to avert the looming breakdown of law and order.

He said the only pending case with respect to the property was between his client and one Mrs. Georgina Ogbutor, stressing that while his client has a certificate of occupancy issued by the Enugu State Government, the latter claims to have another C of O domiciled in the Federal Land Registry, Ikoyi Lagos.

Ugochukwu added that the case was currently pending before the Appeal Court and wondered how Radio Nigeria and Mr. Chukwuma came into the picture. He said it was inconceivable that someone could wake up and descend on a property with a bulldozer without a valid court order.

“When I met them here this morning, I told him that assuming he has possessory right, title and ownership and supersedes possessory right.

“That if he feels he has possessory right over this property, he should go to court to enforce his right. The man that claimed that he was working for Innoson, I demanded for a Certified True Copy of any judgement permitting him to do what he is doing. I also asked him if he were a sheriff or a bailiff of the court, he had no answer to that.

“What we have done now is to write the CP, asking him not to allow his men to be used to perpetuate illegality. They are engaging in self-help, but the law will not allow that. The police should not allow itself to be dragged into this illegality or the use of thugs because this will cause a breakdown of law and order.”

Meanwhile, when contacted, Mr. Chukwuma confirmed that he deployed the earth moving equipment. While also admitting to visiting the premises on Saturday, he said the land was on lease to him from Radio Nigeria, but when asked to make the copy of the lease document available, he referred the correspondent to Radio Nigeria.

He was also told that the case was at the Appeal Court and neither him nor Radio Nigeria were parties, but he insisted that he was legally in possession of the property.

“Radio Nigeria gave me the land on lease; that is why I came to take over the property; they are there illegally,” Mr. Chukwuma stated.

However, late in the night, another twist emerged as Mr. Chukwuma’s office forwarded a letter with Radio Nigeria letter-head paper asking the tenants to vacate the property within 14 days.

The letter, signed by one Barr, Okadigbo Chuka, said “the property has been duly transmitted to Innoson Technical & Industrial Co Ltd. following all due process of the law.” It said should the occupants fail to vacate the premises within the said period, due legal process would be carried out.

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