There was unrest at No 3 Savage Crescent GRA Enugu on Wednesday as a bulldozer arrived early in the morning to demolish buildings housing more than 50 residents.
DAILY POST reports that the earth-moving equipment was accompanied by people who said they were acting on the instructions of Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, CEO of the Innoson Group.
Bewildered residents, who are now praying for Governor Ifeneyi Ogwane to intervene, said they were under threat because of their poor position in society.
They told reporters that some of them had lived in the compound for more than 15 years and had been paying their rent debt to the rightful owner of the property, Mr. Ifeney Nwankwo until Mr. Chukuma appeared last week, claiming that Radio Nigeria, Enugu Zonal Station, had given him the property on a 15-year lease.
But the occupants said that they have nothing to do with Radio Nigeria, but the owner of the house where they have been staying for more than 10 years, Mr. Nwankwo.
A spokesman for the building’s occupants, Judge Ozolu, told reporters, “What happened here today could only happen in a society where there is no law.”
He revealed that the disturbance started last Saturday when Mr. Chukwuma (Innoson) arrived at their compound with more than 20 policemen and ordered them to vacate the property before Tuesday.
We were shocked to receive such a threat from him. We asked him about his work with the property because many of us have lived here for over 10 years and we know the owner of the house, Mr. Ifene Okonkwo.
He claimed that Radio Nigeria gave him the land on vacation. We could not understand because this feature has nothing to do with Radio Nigeria. We contacted the lawyer.
“Nobody had ever bothered us inside this building; we were legally paying the rent when it was due.
“Not until that Saturday when Inosun came here with more than twenty policemen, surrounded us, and frightened us, claiming he was the rightful owner of this place. We were surprised, we were looking at him. He said he would start working there on Tuesday. He started attacking me personally that it was me who shouted in the face over the phone.
Later that evening, two large men came again and began to signal to every part of the compound, that they were coming, so they would let anyone come and stop them.
“So, early this morning, we saw a bulldozer, and we asked them what they were coming to do; they said they were sent to demolish this place.
He said he would bring out a document showing that this place belonged to this place, but even this movement there is nothing.
Asked if Radio Nigeria had come to claim ownership, he said “Since we have been here, Radio Nigeria has not shown a face here to harass us or claim ownership of this property.
“We do not beg the good ruler of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to protect us from Innoson. We are poor but law-abiding citizens of the state.”
In response, Mr Okonkwo’s lawyer, Ben Ogochukwu, speaking on behalf of his principal, Ms Ifeoma Adaara, called Chukwuma’s action reckless and resorted to self-help.
The lawyer told reporters that Chukuma was a trespasser and was using his relationship to intimidate poor residents.
He said a letter had been written to the Enugu State Police Commissioner to avoid a looming collapse of law and order.
He said the only outstanding issue in respect of the property was between his client and Obedience Mrs. Georgina Ogputor, stressing that while his client has a Certificate of Occupancy issued by the Enugu State Government, the latter claims to have a C of O domicile in the Federal Land Registry, Ikoyi Lagos.
Ogochukwu added that the case is currently pending before the Court of Appeal and questioned how Radio Nigeria and Mr Chukuma came into the picture.
He said it was inconceivable for someone to get up and come down on a property with a bulldozer in it with a valid court order.
“When I met them here this morning, I told him that assuming he had the right of possession, the title, the ownership, and the right to own.
“If he felt he had an appropriation right over this property, he should go to court to enforce his right. The man who claimed to have been employed by Innoson, I asked for a transcript of any provision allowing him to do as he did. I also asked him if he was a sheriff or a bailiff in court, and had no answer to that.
“What we have now done is write the CP, asking him not to allow his men to be used to perpetuate illegality. They engage in self-help but the law will not allow it.
“The police must not allow themselves to be drawn into this illegal behavior or use thugs as this will lead to a breakdown of law and order.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Chukuma, when contacted, confirmed that he had deployed earth-moving equipment.
While he also admitted to visiting the premises on Saturday, he said the land was leased to him from Radio Nigeria, but when asked to make available a copy of the lease document, he referred a DAILY POST reporter to Radio Nigeria.
He was also told that the case was in the Court of Appeal and neither he nor Radio Nigeria were parties, but he insisted that he was in lawful possession of the property.
“Radio Nigeria gave me the land for rent; that’s why I came to take possession of the property. They are there illegally,” said Mr. Chukuma.
However, late at night, another development came to light when Mr. Chukwuma’s office sent out a letter with the title Letter from Radio Nigeria asking the tenants to vacate the property within 14 days.
The letter, signed by one of the bar, Okadegbo Chuka, reads, “Ownership has been duly transferred to Innoson Technical & Industrial Co Ltd. after all due legal process has been followed.”
It said that if the occupants of the building fail to vacate the building within the mentioned period, due process will be implemented.
Demolition: Over 50 Enugu residents under threat, beg Gov Ugwuanyi to stop Innoson