Three years after, the indigenous people of the Onuachi Umuezeoka community in Ezza North Local Government Area of Ebonyi state are still languishing over the forceful takeover of their lands and demolition of their homes by the state over the construction of an airport by the state government.
About 25 indigenous people who spoke to MAWA-Foundation at Onuachi Umuezeoka community in different narratives, recounted how they have continued to languish as a result of their lands that were forcefully taken over by the Ebonyi State Government to pave the way for the construction of an Airport.
Mr. Ejike Ejiofor and Mrs Chinyere Owora who participated in one of the focused group discussions organized by MAWA-Foundation, disclosed that the state not only forcefully took over their lands, but went ahead to demolish their homes, a situation they said has subjected them to unbearable poverty and suffering.
The indigenous people of Ebonyi lost their homes in 2019 when the government under the supervision of Mr. Dave Umahi, the former state governor forced them to give up their lands to be used for International Airport construction.
Speaking in anguish tones, the indigenous people told MAWA-Foundation that their lands were taken and forcefully evicted by the government without alternative resettlements and compensation. A practice that is a clear violation of both municipal and international laws that made housing a basic fundamental right.
The indigenous people (majorly farmers), recounted how bulldozers and excavators stormed their community and demolished hundreds of homes, and destroyed many farmlands. A situation they say has thrown them into poverty and anguish, pointing out that some died out of hopelessness because they had nothing to rely on after their lands were forcefully taken from them.
Ejike Ejiofor with a cutlass in his right hand relaxing on a palm tree in a compound, speaking in a dashed hope, said many of the affected indigenous farmers have become poor and are languishing in pain. He, however, added that many of them will not come out of the predicament government pushed them into because they want to construct an Airport.
Ejiofor, however, added that many of the indigenous people are struggling to get back to their economic stability and that has made it difficult for a huge number of them to send their children to school.
“Since the Ebonyi State government destroyed our homes and forcefully took over our lands to pave the way for Airport construction, many of us have been thrown into poverty,” Ejiofor said.
Miss Owora who led a group of five women to participate in one of the focused group discussions, organized by MAWA-Foundation, disclosed that the only house her children tried to build to shelter her and their father was demolished by the Ebonyi State government to pave the way for Airport construction, and since then they have stayed without a shelter.
The majority of the women who participated in the focused group discussions said they are smallholder farmers who rely on their ancestral lands to feed their families and send their children to school. They, however, pointed out that the forceful takeover of their lands by the Ebonyi State government for Airport construction is the denial of their livelihood to satisfy the lifestyle of the rich in disguise for development.
“We are smallholder farmers who rely on our lands to feed and send our children to school. Government forcefully taking over our lands for Airport construction is killing the poor to satisfy the rich”, the indigenous people told MAWA.
When MAWA-Foundation sought a government explanation, a senior official in the Ebonyi State Ministry of Works and Transport, who wants his identity concealed, confirmed the incident but said all persons affected by the exercise were compensated.