EIGHTY-FIVE-year-old Nigerian artiste, mutable designer, architect and master builder, Professor Demas Nwoko, mused, penultimate Tuesday, in a conversation at his country home, Idumuje-Ugboko, Aniocha North Local Government Area, Delta State, why peace has taken flight from the countryside, Anioma kingdom.
For the more than 30 minutes he spent with Saturday Vanguard, the elder statesman and member of the ruling royal family was staggered at what a simple matter of procuring land to build development projects has revolved in the community.
It is not only the pan-Africanist that is thunderstruck at the goings-on, but every loyal Idumuje-Ugboko son and daughter are also chagrinned and outraged, especially by the events of the last five years, which have cast a smear on the kingdom.
Some persons have reportedly lost their lives, others brutalized and maimed, homes and property destroyed in triggered and senseless turmoil, while numerous cases are pending at courts in different parts of the state and beyond with no love lost among the residents.
Saturday Vanguard finding indicated the controversy smouldering since 2015/2016 is over an extra portion of land, measuring 90 hectares, which a member of the royal family, an ex-parliamentarian, philanthropist and popular billionaire, Hon (Prince) Ned Nwoko, supposedly acquired and already constructing an Olympic size golf course.
His company, Linas International Limited, had earlier acquired 33 hectares of land for a dairy project, but the area hosts other several agro-related projects at the moment with a specialized sports institution, Stars University, under construction.
The incumbent monarch, HRM Obi Justin Chukwunonso Nwoko, who succeeded his father, the late HRM Obi Albert Nwoko III, is disputing the claim by his brother (Ned) that their late father granted him approval for additional 90 hectares for a golf course project, which is the reason for the hullaballoo. Tension mounted freshly in July when police officers from Asaba, the state capital, stormed Idumuje Ugboko and seized the monarch over alleged murder and sundry allegations. He had since been freed of those charges at the state level, but sources said he still has questions to answer at Abuja.
In a normal clime, the university project alone would have unified the community because of its gigantic prospects of opening up the kingdom, but the supposition that the entire scheme, including the golf course, were an ingenious attempt at land grabbing has pitted HRM Nwoko against his blood brother, Ned, with other members of the royal family opinionated.
Expectedly, the matter has blown out to the larger community with the second in command in the kingdom, Iyase (traditional prime minister), Chief Chris Ogwu; Odogwu (third- in –command and traditional defence minister) Chief Sunday Edemodu and Eze -Dibie (chief priest) Ojeanyegbe Sunday Ochei backing Hon Nwoko.
Efforts by the ruling family, Aniocha North Traditional Rulers Council, Delta North Traditional Rulers Council and former Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 5, Benin City, now Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu, to resolve the matter did not produce a projected result.
In fact, it strokes imagination that after Hon Ned Nwoko and the monarch, embraced each other at a peace meeting convened by the Anioma royal fathers, led by the Obi of Owa Kingdom, HM Emmanuel Efeizomor and agreed to bury the hatchet that acrimony still festers.
Obi Nwoko III approved 90 hectares for Ned- Chief Ogwu, Prime Minister
Iyase of Idumuje Ugboko, Chief Chris Ogwu, whose house and vehicles were vandalized and looted in an orgy of violence that later broke out, told Saturday Vanguard at his Idumuje-Ugboko home: “When Linas International Limited, a company belonging to Hon Ned Nwoko, which has an interest in university/sports management and construction of buildings, applied for allocation of land, HRM Nwoko III sent the application to the Onu Otu (the committee responsible for land matters in the town). He summoned me as the Iyase to brief me and directed that the Onu Otu, which I lead by virtue of my position, should find out if there were available 90 hectares of land.
He also scheduled an Izu-Ani meeting, where, despite the resistance by the crown prince, Nonso Nwoko, an expanded committee of Onu-Otu with representatives from the four federating villages was set up. The committee after its work reported that land was available at the boundary of Idumuje Ugboko and Onicha Ugbo, which we won in 1971 and recommended that it should be allocated to Linas International Limited, which the monarch accepted,” Chief Ogwu said.
Chief Ogwu, a one-time Editor of Delta State government-owned Pointer newspaper, said: “Obi Albert Nwoko III in a letter dated April 10, 2015, approved request for additional 90 hectares of land for golf course development and land for Sports University.
The community did not sell land to Linas, we decided to go into partnership by investing the capitalized value of the land at an appropriate rate in the golf course. In other words, the community donated the land.
”There is a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, of 40 to 60 per cent equity between the community and Linas to that effect. The king also directed that adequate compensation be negotiated and paid to those farmers with legitimate claim affected by the development project,” the Iyase stated.
Nonso is the problem – Odogwu of Idumuje Ugboko
Similarly, Odogwu of Idumuje Ugboko, Chief Sunday Edemodu, also one of the victims of the consequent lawlessness in the town, said: “I know HRM Nwoko III approved additional 90 hectares of land for a company owned by Hon Ned Nwoko and MoU for the university project in which the community holds a 40 per cent equity and the company- 60 per cent was prepared by one of the sons of the late monarch, who is a lawyer, Barrister Nbanefo Nwoko.”
On what is happening in the town since the death of HRM Nwoko III, the ailing Odogwu said: “We do not know what is happening in Idumuje Ugboko, the problem we have in this community is Prince Nonso Nwoko, who is resisting development. He does not consult me and other leaders, I know everything about the land as the Odogwu of Idumuje Ugboko,
”The late king and the community first gave Ned Nwoko 33 hectares of land for agricultural purpose and he followed due process in acquiring the additional land second land of 90 hectares. That area has been mapped up for development, not a residential purpose. Obi Albert Nwoko was alive and he endorsed to Izu-Ani, which sat and recommended that the land be given to Linas International Limited.