About five thousand protesting indigenes of Oghara community, the hometown of the erstwhile Delta State governor, James Ibori, on Tuesday, barricaded the Benin-Warri section of the East-West road. They were protesting about an alleged illegal acquisition of a large portion of land belonging to the community by authorities of the Nigerian Navy Logistics Command, Oghara, Delta State.
The protest, which lasted several hours, created a heavy gridlock, thereby delaying travellers and motorists from passing on to their destinations. However, the men of the Nigeria Police Force, who were drafted to the scene, later intervened.
The protesters, comprising youths, women and the aged, said the Nigerian Navy had begun encroaching on the community’s land used for the sole purpose of farming without consulting the people.
But the Nigerian Navy, in a swift reaction, denied the allegation, claiming that the disputed land was rightly ceded to the command by the Delta State Government in May 2015, following the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).
The protest, organised by Rev. David Ugolor, Chief Stephen Egbivwie and Tony Omene under the Oghara Centre for Social Justice, called on the Federal Government to warn the authorities of the Navy Logistics Command, Oghara, as the people were not ready to cede the remaining portion of their farmland to them.
They said, “In 2006, when the Nigerian Navy requested land for the construction of a barrack, a piece of land in the community which was initially meant for the Nigeria Mobile Police was traded to the Navy and the police relocated to Ogharefe.
“But the Navy has illegally acquired every piece of land close to the land ceded them, including that of the Catholic Mission which belongs to the Order of St. Augustine, measuring 600ft by 500ft.”
They lamented that their entire community land was eventually being forcefully seized by the Navy without any land remaining for the people who are mainly farmers to do their farming activities.
Oghara people urged the command to stay within the large portion the community had earlier given to it and stop encroaching on other farmlands belonging to indigenes of the community.
The Iyasere of Oghara Kingdom, Chief Sampson Orakpor, told the protesters that the community would resist any form of intimidation and force to acquire their land, appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to restrain the command in order to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
But the Flag Officer Commanding, Nigerian Navy Logistics Command Headquarters, Oghara, Rear Admiral Begroy Ibe-Enwo, told newsmen that the Delta State Government on May 28, 2015 issued the Navy a C of O.
Displaying a copy of the C of O before journalists, Ibe-Enwo said, “Based on strategic considerations for the Nigerian Navy Logistics Command to be located here, a recommendation was made by the Navy to the Delta State Government and the state government agreed to extend the land.
“It was 30 hectares that was originally meant for a mobile unit which was now extended to the new size (of 243 hectares for the barrack) to accommodate other facilities for the proper functioning of the Logistics Command. It is not about military facilities; we have hospital and the primary school that may increase to secondary school or even a campus of the Navy Maritime University in the state.
“If I may say with the present security in the country, we don’t want neighbours all around a military outfit. Before, if we did that, it was a mistake. Security concerns also precede things we do. The land is for security and betterment of the country.”
Courtesy: The PUNCH.