The members of the Umuogali community in Oba, Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State have kicked against plans by the state Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to continue the erection of a petrol filling station in the residential area of the community.
The aggrieved members also protested against the plans by the state government officials for the community to withdraw a suit it filed against the owner of the said filling station.
A spokesman for the community and representative of one of the aggrieved parties, Mr Edwin Chukwu, who spoke to journalists during their protest on Saturday, noted that the plan to build the filling station started when the traditional ruler of the Oba community, the late Igwe Peter Ezenwa, the Ezeokpo Oba, was alive.
Chukwu, who spoke on behalf of the community members said the forceful attempt to erect the said petrol station is brewing tension in the community, hence the need for government officials to maintain the status quo of not erecting the filling station earlier agreed upon.
He said, “The late Oba traditional ruler vehemently rejected the plan and categorically told the builder that he could build any other project, but not a filling station because of the danger it will constitute to the area, which incidentally is the village of the late traditional ruler.
“The builder accepted the late traditional ruler’s position and even promised to remove the petrol tanks he had already brought to the site.
“But we are surprised that less than five years after the demise of the monarch, construction workers have returned to the site and resumed construction. We were forced to report them to the local government authorities who visited the site and ordered them to stop work, but they disobeyed the LGA and even the Anambra State Physical and Planning Board, who also served them a ‘Stop work order’ and their disobedience made the council area drag them to court.
He added, “We have been going to court. The last we went to court was on September 8, 2023, before we got a letter from the office of the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, which was also copied to the Regent of Oba, Prince Noel Ezenwa, inviting us for a peace meeting, thereby confirming the rumours we have been hearing that the Ministry has been persuading the council area authority to withdraw the case against the builder.
“The letter from the office of the Commissioner inviting us for the meeting read, “Re: Matter between Director of Environmental Health Service Idemili South Local Government Area, vs Eugene Mbah and Oceanic Links Resources Oil and Gas Limited: Passionate appeal to bring an amicable resolution to same.”
When contacted over the development on the telephone, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Tony Collins Nwabunwanne, said that the letter may have been sent to the disputing parties by his Permanent Secretary and not him, adding that he has been outside the state for official duties and just resumed.
He, however, said he was aware of the disagreement before he travelled, but has not been briefed on the latest development, but aware that the Permanent Secretary of his Ministry is intervening in the matter.
“I did not authorise withdrawal of any case in the court, it is only the Attorney General of the State who handles all our cases that can do that. There is the possibility of some people from the local government taking laws into their hands, I will investigate this report and get back to you next Tuesday.
Also contacted for reactions, since the invitation letter for peace was copied to him and the proposed filling station, directly facing his palace, and being a matter his father had allegedly treated before his demise, the Regent of Oba, Prince Noel Ezenwa, who is away in America, confirmed that his late father rejected the building of the filling station in the village.
“I also received a letter from the office of the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, inviting me for a meeting on September 26, 2023, but I have no business with the invitation for the peace meeting,” he noted.