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The Federal University of Technology Owerri, FUTO, and their host communities have continued to disagree over the acquisition of lands by the institution.
Southeast Voice in Owerri observed that while the FUTO management has accused the host communities of encroaching on its lands, the host communities have also called on the institution to pay them compensation according to the Land Use Act. This issue was said to have started since 1982 and it has lingered till date. It came to a point that a committee was set up by the federal government to resolve the matter between the communities and FUTO. But the disagreement has continued. To this end, a new twist to the controversial land dispute was the threat by the federal government to relocate the institution. This came when the FUTO delegation visited the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, where they listed the challenges the institution was facing from the communities, one of which they claimed was an encroachment into their lands. But that threat to relocate the institution by the Federal Government did not go down well with the host communities. Responding through their spokesperson, Sam Anokam and some members of the community, they advised the university to show the world the proof that they have paid compensation on the land they said belong to the institution. According to them, “Host communities are not creating any problem for FUTO, we have been receiving calls and the host communities want to state their stand on the report that the federal government wants to relocate FUTO. “Let me say this, the host communities are not the ones creating problems for the university. It is the university that does not want to face the fact of the matter. FUTO wants to whip up sentiment in such a manner that people will see the host communities as wicked, hostile or that host communities want to eat their cake and have it. “Land acquisition has a procedure. There was no full compliance with the procedure of acquisition and that has been the crux of the matter. From the acquired land, there is an understanding. Even the state government acquired the land and handed over to FUTO. The expectation is that there must be payment of compensation whole and full in compliance with the relevant provisions of the Land Use Act. “The government supposedly acquired 4,455 hectares of land for FUTO and neither the state government nor the federal government paid any compensation. Let us recall that in the first development plan, FUTO met with the host communities of Ihiagwa, Eziobodo and Umuanunu Obinze, on an area that consist at least 1,300 hectares to say let us house FUTO. That was the time of Evans Enwerem as governor of Imo State. “They said in this area, let us pay you compensation in two instalments. They were paid in two instalments haphazardly because up till today, some people were not paid. Up till today, FUTO said they own the 4,455 hectares and they said they have paid compensation and we say wrong, that it is not true, show us evidence. “I petitioned the NUC, Federal Ministry of Education. I petitioned the Ministry of Power, Housing and Works. They used the police to arrest and detain the youths of the various communities and say this situation may aggravate to something else. I went and brought the Minister of Works here to visit the host communities and FUTO and he said fine, let us set up a committee to look into this problem. “The host communities nominated me and Major General Ogbonna and FUTO nominated some of their professors. We also have legal advisers and surveyors. “We sat with the federal authorities at that point and the facts came to the open and FUTO was asked to produce the evidence of the survey. They produced it, produced evidence of the payment of compensation and we analysed them and discovered they did not pay up to 10 percent of the recommendations in 1982 and when we asked them, they said that they have completed payment and we asked who did you pay to? But they don’t have evidence.”