How land tussle tore apart Delta kingdom

…90 hectares duly approved for Ned Nwoko by Obi Nwoko III – Iyase, Odogwu, Eziashi

…It is a lie – Aligbe, Ifejoku

…Land not the issue — Prof Demas Nwoko  – Prof Demas

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South

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, every loyal Idumuje-Ugboko son and daughter is 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 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 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 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, 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 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 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.

“However, Prince Nonso intruded later, which is what brought about this crisis, my house was damaged and I was inside my house when they sent people to destroy it. Nonso brought this trouble by rejecting the land his father approved for his brother, Ned,” he said.

Chief Edemodu said the tradition was that if the land was not developed within a period of five years, the land would revert back to the community.

Land not the issue, Ned didn’t follow due process – Prof Demas Nwoko

Prof Demas Nwoko, a respected member of the Nwoko dynasty and uncle to both the monarch and Ned, obviously angry at the ugly turn of events, professed: “If the king, Obi Nonso Nwoko, said he has not given land, nobody can contest it.”

He, however, added: “But the said land is in the possession of Ned Nwoko, neither the king nor anybody can move the land Ned has occupied. For me, the issue is not land, there is enough land for everybody who wants it, but we have a rule that after five years, if you do not use it, the community will take it back. If you have started developing any portion of the land, nobody will take it.”

“I say again, from my knowledge, the land is not the issue, if Ned is saying land is issue, nobody has stopped him from what he is doing. But I think he must have had skirmishes with those farming on the land before he went there, he should settle those persons,’’ he said.

Prof Nwoko bemoaned:  ”I do not know why the issue of an individual wanting land should be allowed to destroy the traditional institution of the town.”

”At the moment, we do not have a chieftaincy council, the chiefs have been split into Ned chiefs and Nonso chiefs. Even the Iyese took the king to court. I do not know where the king has gone wrong,” he added.

On how the 90 hectares of land were acquired, he asserted: “Unfortunately, Ned, the favored child of the late King Albert Nwoko III, did not follow due process. The first time I heard that he wanted land to build golf course was when bulldozers were already working on the said land and those farming on the land cried out. That was when the elders who were taken aback called him to order.”

“He agreed to re-apply for the land at a family meeting in the palace and sent a new application, but later, he said he was no longer interested in the application. We do not have the power to force anybody to comply with our decision, he has occupied the land he wants to occupy,” he said

Asked the way out, the elder statesman asserted: “The matter begins and ends with Ned and I am telling you that land is not the issue.”

Ned devastated my farmland, paid no compensation – Osakwe

Sixty-six-year-old Mr. Samson Oba Osakwe from Owu quarters in Idumuje –Ugboko told Saturday Vanguard: “I was farming on the land before Ned Nwoko came with bulldozers to clear our farm lands, we do not have money to train our children because Ned has deprived us of our means of livelihood.”

90 hectares not allocated to Ned – Chris Aligbe, aviation consultant

Aviation consultant, who hails from the kingdom, Mr. Chris Aligbe, said Obi Albert Nwoko in a letter dated August 12, 2015, addressed to Ned Nwoko informed him to stop all activities on the 90 hectares of land with immediate effect.

According to the letter: “No additional land has been approved or signed for by me; I have not ordered or delegated any of my chiefs or agents to allocate or sign for any additional land.”

In an earlier letter in May, he wrote:  ”Please be informed that the Izu-Ani held April 25, 2015 was not authorized by His Royal Majesty and therefore all the decisions taken at the said meeting are null and void.”

Aligbe noted: “Yet the Odogwu and Iyase say that Ned was allocated land by the Obi through the April 10, 2015 letter. Guess what, the Odogwu and Iyase, who were at daggers drawn, were reconciled by Ned two days before the failed Izuani.

”As at January 25, 2016, no land was allocated to Ned Nwoko. He and Prof Som Nwoko were in the Umu-Omohusi family meeting, where it was decided and a communique published in December 18, 2015 in Vanguard newspapers that ‘the required land will be made available through due process.’

“The secretary was Dr. Michael Nwoko, yet Ned is flaunting an allocation letter dated April 10, 2015, eight months earlier and Dr. Mike Nwoko and Walter Eziashi were swearing that the land was allocated to Ned Nwoko, where is the truth,” he said.

”The communique as published in Vanguard on January 25, 2016 did not confer land allocation for proposed sports university but captured the resolve of the family to support the project and the required land.

“This is primarily the reason the royal family under the able leadership of the Obi has commenced the process of looking into the land request for the university project, which will eventually be sent to the Izu-Ani for final verdict,” he said.

Nobody gave Ned 90 hectares of land – Ifejoku, IUDU president

Correspondingly, president –general of Idumuje-Ugboko Development Union, IUDU, Mr. Okey Ifejoku, arrested and detained in Abuja over the crisis for more than a year, declared: ”Our crisis mainly bothers on what is right and what is wrong. In year 2000, Ned Nwoko applied for 33.4 hectares of community land for dairy farm with promise of empowering our youths as regards employment which he was given freely as an illustrious son. 15 years after, he only built his private home code-named “Mount Ned”.

“He further came up with request of 90 hectares for a golf course. The community held a town hall meeting, invited him to discuss the viability of golf course to the community. Ned gave explanation that it could be a sports university in its entirety that would bring development to the community.

“Idumuje Ugboko stakeholders unanimously asked him to follow due process in requesting for more land and to further encourage his passion, that he should commence pursuit of his laudable vision and mission on the 33.4 hectares of community land in his possession.

“If more is needed, we would all case-conference for further consideration. It might interest you that some members of the community at this junction willingly volunteered their private estate to support the project, including my humble self,” he said.

His words: “To answer the question as to what is happening in Idumuje Ugboko. I would say that the current occurrence is as a result of HRM Obi Chukwunonso Nwoko and the Idumuje Ugboko Development Union (IUDU) refusing to play to the demands of Ned Nwoko, while the intimidation, harassment, arrest, detentions, incarcerations, psychological torture, multiple serial litigation, coercion, division, physical torture and underlined hypertensive mode in our community linger on,” he said.

Ifejoku, who accompanied Saturday Vanguard to the home of Odogwu where he said the late King Nwoko III gave Ned additional 90 hectares, added: “Addressing Odogwu’s assertion that the monarch of Idumuje Ugboko gave Ned Nwoko further 90 hectares, it is fallacious, as the monarch is only a custodian of community portion of land and not Owu people’s ancestral land. The monarch has no right whatsoever to allot community land to any single individual or individuals.”

”Worthy to note too, the monarch, HRM Albert Nwoko before his demise wrote a comprehensive letter disabusing the mind of Ugboko indigenes that he allotted 90 hectares of land to Ned Nwoko. The letter was signed before the elders of the community as circulated and personally acknowledged by Ned Nwoko.

“The constitution of IUDU stipulates that request for land application should emanate from the branch of the Union cleared of any membership default by the branch president to national executive before final recommendation to the land committee and certain sum of money is paid and receipted before allocation with a caveat,”Ifejoku added.

Court has restrained Ned entering the 90 hectares —Barrister Nwoko

Prince Nbanefo Nwoko, a lawyer, and next to Obi Chukwunonso Nwoko in the royal family, peddled to have prepared a MoU for the project, denied the claim when Saturday Vanguard confronted him.

“It is a negative ploy to give credibility to an illegal transaction, I did not prepare a MoU. In form and content, there is nothing confirming the allegation that there is a MoU. It is not signed by HRH, principal members of the family, it is undated and unsigned and moreover, MoU does not convey ownership to land.”

He added: “The community is not against development projects that will bring progress to the people. 33 hectares of land was given to him for a dairy farm, he did not apply for change of use and rather, he turned it to personal estate.”

“The 90 hectares you talked about, there is a restraining order against him on the 90 hectares in suit number HC1/2/2016 and case is currently on. We have sent the restraining order to the National Universities Commission, NUC.

“Prof Somayina Nwoko, who illegally issued an allocation paper to Ned Nwoko after the letter of April 10 was fined by the family and he paid before his death.

He said his father, late Obi Albert Nwoko, accused of being favorably disposed to Ned, filed  the court action to stop him when he maintained that the land was given to him after his August 12, 2015 letter, saying that no additional land was given to him.

Obi Albert Nwoko III never repudiated the 90 hectares – Prince Eziashi

But another member of the royal family and former IUDU president general, Prince Walter Eziashi, sharply disagreed that Obi Albert Nwoko took Ned to  court over the said land, saying: “Prince Edwin Izeonyeunor Nwoko, the second claimant in the suit in an affidavit of discontinuance,  June 3, 2018, withdrew from the action when he found out that Obi Albert Nwoko did not properly authorize the claimants to file the action against Aniocha North local government council, which issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the land, Prince Ned Nwoko and Linas International.”

He insisted that both the projects for which Ned Nwoko’s company applied and secured approval for 33 hectares and 90 hectares of land were not at any time abandoned by him and the projects were on ground for everybody to see, but because of jealousy and animosity, some people, who do not want development for the town refuse to embrace reality.

“Ned could not continue with dairy farm when the cows he bought died and many stolen, but he embarked on other agro-related projects on the 33 hectares and also Stars University, which are all there as we speak, but because of NUC requirement of 100 hectares, he wrote for additional 90 hectares, which was approved.

Crown prince, others influenced late monarch to sign differing letters – Police

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Asaba, DCP Muhamad Uba Kura,   in a  report,  dated February 24, 2016, following a January 26, 2016 complaint by Prince Walter Eziashi that Prince Nonso Nwoko forged the signature of his father , Obi Nwoko III,  in two letters  purportedly dispossessing Ned of the  said 90 hectares,  stated:  ”The forensic document/handwriting expert opinion revealed that the signatures on the two letters captioned request for additional 90 hectares of land for golf course development and land for sports university dated 10/04/2015 and statement on the land application by Linas International Limited belonging to Prince Ned Nwoko dated 12/8/2015 were signed by one person, which is Obi A.O Nwoko III JP, MON, hence no case of forgery was established.

“That investigation further revealed that Prince Justin Nwoko conspired with Ejimofor Nwoko, Izehumo Nwoko and Richard Nwoko and fraudulently used their intimate relationship with HRM A.O. Nwoko to procure him to sign a document purporting to be denying the above portion of land which the community had earlier granted to the owner of Linas International Limited without the knowledge of the Izu-Ani members.

“It is glaringly clear from the foregoing findings that though His Royal Majesty, Obi A.O Nwoko III signed all the documents in relation to Idumuje-Ugboko community land, but the discreet investigation into the signing processes by Obi A, O Nwoko unequivocally revealed that Prince Justin Nwoko acting in concert with Ejimofor Nwoko, Izehumo Nwoko and Richard Nwoko  fraudulently used their intimate relationship and take advantage of Obi A.O Nwoko III, who is currently bedridden to procure him into signing a document purporting to be denying the land which the Idumuje Ugboko community had earlier granted to sports university after a due consideration of the request by Izu-Ani members.

‘And it is on this premise that we humbly recommend that Prince Justin Nwoko and his cohorts should be charged to court for the offences provided in Section 516, 249 (D) of the Criminal Code Law of Delta State as this will go a long way to ensure peace and harmony in the said Idumuje-Ugboko. The suspects will soon be charge to court, please,” Kura stated.

…Ned didn’t threaten Prince Nonso

On the issue of threat to life of the monarch and others against Ned Nwoko , Assistant Commissioner of Police, Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, ACP, S.E Danmamman, in an investigation report, dated March 31, 2017, said: “On 8th October, 2015, Barr Ezenwa Esenwa and Co. wrote a petition on behalf of Chukwunonso Nwoko, Prince Richare Obiajulu Nwoko , Prince Edwin Ezeonyeunor Nwoko, Prince Ejimofor Nwoko , all  of the Idumuje Ugboko community in Delta state to the Inspector General of Police , Abuja and endorsed to Delta State Police Command.”

“The petitioners alleged that Hon Ned Nwoko forcefully entered the community land and took over 147 hectares of land. That he also superimposed the king’s signature in a document, but refused to produce the original. They also alleged that they were beaten up by the officers attached to Hon Ned Nwoko on his instructions and their life was equally threatened.

“On the strength of this petition, the crown prince, Chukwunonso Nwoko was invited who stood as the major key player in this petition (sic). On 28th August, 2016, the crown prince volunteered statement. On 31st August, 2016, a team from X-Squad Unit proceeded to Idumuje-Ugboko, where the statement of Prince Nwoko Ejimofor and Prince Nwoko Obiajulu were recorded. The suspect was also invited and he made statement to the police under caution.

“In the course of investigation, the following facts emerged: The petitioners and the suspect in this case are from one family- the ruling house of Idumuje-Ugboko community. The police investigation report dated February 24, 2016 state that the forensic document examiner/handwriting expert opinion revealed that the Obi of Idumuje Ugboko, Obi Albert Nwoko duly signed the alleged annexure C document in question, according to the petition, hence no case of forgery could be established.

“There was contradiction from the summary statement of Prince Nwoko Ejimofor and Prince Nwoko Obiajulu, who said they were not threatened nor intimidated by Ned Nwoko and his security aides attached to him.

“Conclusion- From the investigation and facts above, it is recommended that the crown prince, Chukwunonso Nwoko be charged to court of competent jurisdiction for giving false information to the police contrary to Section 125 (a) of the Criminal Code as it is evidently clear that his life was not threatened as alleged,” police stated.

Stopover at 30 hectares and 90 hectares of land 

Saturday Vanguard visited both the 33 hectares of land and the additional 90 hectares to find out what was on ground.  Mr John Parker, an architect, whose company, Millennium Design Build Limited, designed and is building the golf course, assisted our reporter round the golf course and on-going structures, including staff quarters, cafeteria, library, kitchen, classrooms, male and female hostels for the sports university.

He said that all supplies for sharp sand, block and other materials for the projects were done by natives at double the normal price on the instruction of Prince Nwoko, while the artisans engaged in bricklaying, plumbing and other works were locals paid twofold for their services.

Besides a palm tree plantation, fish pond, ranch for cow, feed production unit, poultry, hatchery, zoo and other agro-related projects, it was discovered that the Stars University is sitting on the 33 hectares, while the additional 90 hectares is for a standard golf course, already being constructed.

Personal Assistant to Ned Nwoko, Mr. Nelson Illoh, who hails from Idumuje Ugboko, said: “About N51 million has been spent on compensating farmers affected by the golf course project, while 25-30 youths were on the payroll of the company.”

Manager, Prince Ned Foundation, Mrs. Lauretta Onuma, who hails from Ebonyi state, said she was surprised that some Idumuje Ugboko people were resisting development, saying that in other communities, the people would support Ned Nwoko.

“He bought cows for a dairy farm, but they were stolen and many died, so he decided to embark on other agro-related projects, I am told that you had gone round without even coming to the Foundation first. But as you can see, here in Mount Ned, it is a national tourist attraction that has brought fame to Idumuje Ugboko.

“Construction of the university is ongoing in the 33 hectares and the golf course is being constructed on the 90 hectares, the land is occupied, there is nothing like not doing the projects for which we got the land. We have Certificates of Occupancy duly issued and it is for the benefit of the community,” she added.

Continues next week.



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