The people of Rumucheta in Mgbuesilari community, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State have raised the alarm of an alleged invasion of their ancestral land by operatives of the Nigeria Air Force in Port Harcourt.
They also accused the NAF operatives of selling off the forcefully acquired land.
They alleged that the operatives led by the Commander, NAF Base, Port Harcourt, Group Captain Abdulafeez Opeleye, invaded the said community and are selling off the property belonging to the community.
The people said despite court orders stopping the Air Force personnel in Port Harcourt from encroaching into the land, they had looked the other way.
The community represented by Chief Vincent Nwanwa, Solomon Amadi, Pastor Prince Amadi and Chief Darlington Wali, said they had instituted a suit against The Nigeria Air Force (1st Defendant), Group Captain Opeleye Azeez, Commander of the Base (2nd defendant) in suit number PHC/933/CS/2022 at a Rivers State High Court Holden in Port Harcourt.
They claimed that the presiding judge, Justice Adolphus Enebeli, heeded the prayers of the defendants and gave an interlocutory injunction ordering the defendants to stop further trespass and attempt to erect any structure on the parcel of land, pending the hearing and determination of the matter before it.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, Counsel for Rumucheta Community, Cosmas Enweluzo, SAN lamented that Azeez and his men were still bulldozing and selling off the community land despite the order of court.
Enweluzo noted that the Air Force had fenced off their premises, adding that a creek, natural boundary, separates Rumucheta and NAF.
He wondered why the soldiers from the Command would scale their fence, cross over the creek to sell off the community land, when they neither acquired nor paid compensation to the community for the said property.
“They have boundary with Nigeria Air Force; the ‘Ntawogba stream is the boundary the community has with Air Force. Now in 2013/2014, Air Force wanted to fence off their land.
“They invited neighbouring communities and paid compensation to all those they acquired their land. Having paid compensation, this particular community, Nigeria Air Force said to them (Rumucheta) ‘we did not acquire your land.
“But the important thing is that in 2014, they fenced off their land. The community continued maintaining the natural boundary.
“Lo and behold Air Force moved from Cocaine village down to where they started developing into an Estate. Now the same Air Force that has already fenced their land, jumped the fence, crossed the creek and invaded the community, claiming that the community is part of their premises,” he stated.
Enweluzo explained that when the land owners started developing it, the operatives from the Air Force Barracks invaded the property with swamp buggy.
He added that when the family started developing their land, the Commander Group Captain Opeleye Azeez, invaded the community and started destroying all the development in place.
Continuing, he said, “We went to court, the court listened to the parties and granted an Interim Order, ordering the Nigeria Air Force to steer clear of the land.
“We got a court order. We met in court and we argued it and the court made a Consequent Order, directing Air Force to steer clear of the place pending the hearing, determination of the case.
“We were still on this, they invaded the community with swamp buggy, despite the court order and demolished the entire estate that was being done by the community.”
On his part, the Paramount Ruler and Nyewe Eli, Mgbuesilaru Community, HRH Eze Princewill Wali, alleged that the Air Force intimidated the community around its Base, taking their land and selling it to developers.
Wali claimed that his relationship with the Commander of the Base had waned when he (Azeez) had attempted to use him to achieve his personal purposes.
The monarch said the commander had promised not to encroach into the community land, adding that the Air Chief had opted for an out of court settlement.
Wali said, “The next time, he requested to have a meeting with me and my brother Eze Morgan, Eze Ohna Okporo, I told my brother that what I have gathered so far about the man that I will not attend that meeting.”
He said the community has invested over N800 million to develop the property, pointing out that the beauty of the over 10 acres of land which they have invested in had attracted the military to storm it.
Efforts to reach Group Captain proved abortive, as he did not answer several calls put across to his mobile phone.
He had also not responded to a WhatsApp and text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report on Friday evening.