Twelve persons were arrested yesterday in Abba and Ukpo, Prince Arthur Eze’s Community in Anambra State, following a land dispute between the two communities.
Of the number, three are women.
The land dispute has lasted 44 years.
Abba community had planned a peaceful demonstration on the Onitsha/Awka expressway to protest the alleged takeover of their land by Ukpo.
The Supreme Court, in January, told the communities to return to the High Court to begin the case afresh following missing court documents relating to previous rulings.
As early as 6am yesterday, hundreds of stern-looking policemen had blocked the expressway and the road leading to Abba, while women were stopped from doing their businesses in the market.
The teargas canisters that landed inside the Community Secondary School forced pupils to join the protest.
Vehicular movement was hindered for several hours, forcing motorists to use alternative roads.
A community leader in Abba, Mr. Obinna Chukwuma, regretted the development, describing it as unfortunate. He added that their decision to embark on a peaceful demonstration was to let the world know what they were passing through over their land.
He said: “Abba is a peaceful community but it is under siege. We have been living in harmony with our neighbours, but all of a sudden, a money bag from our neighbouring community, Ukpo, decided to take over our land by force.
“Anybody approaching this community from Awka would see the signpost with the inscription, ‘welcome to Abba’.
“That is our boundary with Ukpo, and they know it very well. When they built their local government headquarters, they built it on their land. When they built a police station, they built it on their land. They also plan to build a market called Eke Agu Ukpo on their land. So they know where their land is located.
“But unfortunately, they have come into our own land to mount a banner with the inscription ‘welcome to Ukpo junction, Dunukofia local government. In other words, they erected their sign post in another local government because Abba is in Njikoka council and not Dunukofia.
“That is why the people are protesting. We don’t have arms, we are not fighting anybody. We just want the world to know what is happening.
“It is unfortunate that someone who feels he has money is using it to intimidate us. Look at policemen firing teargas on innocent people, and women chased away from the market.
“Last week, the security operatives blocked our community with 12 hilux vans. Today, there are more than 500 policemen and over 20 hilux vehicles, including anti-bomb vehicles, just to mount a signpost on our land, even when Boko Haram is driving people out of their homes in some parts of the country.
“We will let the world know what is happening in our community…”
The protesters called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Willie Obiano to intervene in the interest of peace and harmony.
Police spokesman could not be reached for comments. But a senior officer, who pleaded for anonymity, said the command would not allow anybody or group cause mayhem.