By Chris Njoku, Owerri
Youths from six communities hosting the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) on Tuesday blocked the Port Harcourt-Owerri road to protest against the institution’s encroachment on their ancestral land.
The youth numbering over 1,500 armed with machetes, clubs, knives and other dangerous weapons, chanted war songs on their land along Port Harcourt Road, Owerri, where the university proposes to construct a teaching hospital.
The six communities are: Ihiagwa, Obinze, Dindi Ihiagwa, Avu Mboke and Umuanunu.
Speaking to journalists, the spokesman of the youth, Comrade Clarkson Ekeopara, said that since 1980 FUTO was established, that the university management had been encroaching into the ancestral land of the host communities.
He lamented that the university since that time had not found it worthy to compensate the communities that host them.
He said: “Federal Government established FUTO in 1980 as the first University of Technology in Nigeria with the land they agreed for, which they (Federal Government) compensated for. But it is very disheartening that upon the establishment of the university, the management (because there was no boundary or perimeter fence bordering the university land) had encroached into other adjoining land, which is not part of the initial land given to the Federal Government to establish the school.
“The management of FUTO has continuously encroached into over 1,000 hectares of our land which is under excision. We are crying because that is where our future generation will settle as we don’t have any land again. The reason for this protest is for FUTO and her management to stop forthwith, further encroachment on our ancestral land”.
He warned some of their subjects to desist from standing in between the university and the communities, adding that it was only Chief Sam Anokam that the communities have as their attorney.
“The three “money bags” have been finding a way to remove Sam Anokam, our attorney in order to come and mediate for the university and our communities, with the intent of selling off the land and diverting the proceeds. We hereby warn them to desist from such illicit act. It is only Chief Sam Anokam we have as our attorney”.
He added that the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma was not aware of this ugly development and pleaded for his urgent interference.
“I know Senator Hope Uzodimma. He is a quiet but intelligent man. We are calling on him through this medium to intervene into this matter for us to have our ancestral land for our upcoming generation”.
The Vice Chancellor of FUTO, Prof. Francis Eze said that the issue is receiving attention.
Prof Eze told News Men that the issue was already being handled by the state government. “It is a matter the state government is already handling and we are almost at the end of the matter. We have a committee which had worked on it(excision), we are going to implementation stage. And if they are fair to themselves and to management, this is the first management since inception that has come to this level of the resolution of this dispute.”