Eleven communities, which hosted the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), yesterday accused the institution’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. Francis Eze of plotting to manipulate the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they sealed with the federal government on the land where the school is built.
Counsel to the communities, Chief Sam Anokam made this allegation at a news conference he addressed alongside all representatives of the host communities in Owerri, the Imo State capital yesterday.
The host communities had said that the federal government had forcefully taken no fewer than 4,455 hectares of their land in 1982 and that since then, they had suffered untold hardship for want of farmland.
The communities, which have been calling on the federal government to release the land it forcefully acquired, comprise Avu, Obinze, Umuanunu, Ihiagwa Ancient Kingdom, Dindin Ihiagwa, Eziobodo, Eziokele, Emeabiam, Obibiezenna, Umuoma Nekede and Okolochi.
Speaking on behalf of the communities yesterday, Anokam alleged that the vice chancellor was playing tricks with the contents of the Memorandum of Understanding by deviating from the clauses of the agreement thereby shortchanging the host communities from getting what was approved by the federal government.
He stated that part of the plot “is the vice chancellor’s refusal “to sign the MoU reached in 2019 as part of the effort by the federal government to resolve the perennial impasse that had brought acrimony over the years between the host communities and FUTO.”
Anokam, also a chartered estate surveyor, noted that FUTO “has refused to sign her own part of the agreement. We understand that they are not happy that the federal government decided to give back certain portions of the land presently occupied by FUTO to host communities.
“As a matter of fact, we approached the federal government and a technical committee known as Ministerial Technical Committee on FUTO Land Matters with the Federal Director of Lands as Chairman, and representatives from FUTO and host communities and others as members was set up.
“At the end, a memorandum of understanding was reached and as a result of this, the ministry decided to approve about 1000 hectares of land to the host communities, particularly along the Port Harcourt road axis. FUTO agreed to give back 300 hectares only instead of 1000 hectares approved by the federal government.
“On this note, the VC formed a clique of the institution’s director of works, and another person and decided to apportion the 300 hectares by themselves directly to some members of the host communities instead of involving all parties including the host communities’ attorney.
“I want the public to know what is happening there. If there is any breakdown of law and order or if the host communities take the laws into their hands, FUTO VC, Prof. Francis Eze should be held responsible.
“I have been restraining host communities from taking the laws into their hands, but if the worst should happen, FUTO VC should be held liable”, the attorney of the host communities warned.
He also disclosed that the over 200 hectares of 300 hectares approved to be given back to host communities by FUTO have all been occupied by private developers, warning those who are buying lands on the Port Harcourt road to be careful as such parcels of land have no title deeds.