By Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN CITY—ELDERS of Oghede community in Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State led by the Enogie of the community, His Royal Highness Osadebamien Aghaghowa, yesterday, protested alleged encroachment of their land by the Nigerian Army, lamenting that hundreds of members of the community have been chased away from their houses due to the claim by the army that the land belongs to them.
Regretting that some community members are now homeless, the Enogie appealed to the state government and the Oba of Benin to come to their aid “because we cannot fight soldiers who have guns.”
Narrating their ordeal, Aghaghowa said: “I have already ran to the palace to inform our father, Oba Ewuare 11, the Ogidigan, that we have a serious problem in my community and he is already investigating the matter. The army has its area as gazetted in 1967, but now they are encroaching on our land and chasing our people away.
“They have asked hundreds of my people to leave their homes, that they want to demolish their houses and that the land belongs to the military. So we are appealing to the state government and our oba to come to our aid. Most of the community members now sleep in my compound. What was given to the army then was 100 acres of land as the Federal Government acquired that for the army in 1965.
“But since then, they have been encroaching on our land and they are even selling some parts to individuals. Now they have moved further into our land, chasing our people away from their homes. And because they have guns, our people are scared and some of them have relocated to neighbouring communities just to have shelter.
“And it is because of issues like that that the state government and the Oba of Benin abolished Community Development Associations, CDAs, but today, the army is behaving like the former CDA members.
“Please, we are appealing that the government and oba come to our aid before the situation degenerates into violence because you cannot destroy people’s ancestral homes just because you have a gun.”