PROTESTS ANAMBRA VILLAGE WITH VOTERS MACHINE IN FOREST
After the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Emeka Sibeudu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for the state, Prof. Chukwuemeka Onukaogu visited the Nziko, Nteje community in Oyi Local Government Area where they discovered four voters registration centres in a forest, the community has come out fighting back.
For the community, the distance from Nteje main town and the farm settlement which they referred to as a shrine and evil forest was quite long though the road is rough and frightening.
Therefore, the use of evil forest and shrine to describe the Nziko and Uko villages, the community said was embarrassing and unbearable.
One of the people in the community said to Daily Sun in anger, 'how can the government which abandoned us by refusing to live up to its responsibilities to us turned around and called our homes evil forest? It is really unfair.'
Prof. Onukaogu had shortly after visiting the area said, 'I have heard of floating/flying polling booths. Today, I have seen one. I am sad that there are four machines wasting here, whereas there are no machines in Onitsha, Eke Awka, Ozubulu, Nnewi and parts of Anaocha where thousands of people are waiting to be registered.'
But the member representing Oyi Constituency in the state House of Assembly, Hon. Paulinus Obichukwu said that what they had in the said area was a farm settlement that has about 4,000 people living in it.
Obichukwu who with some other leaders of the area conducted newsmen round the area, added that the place which is Nteje Ward I has been hosting voting centres 31 years ago.
Daily Sun gathered that the farm settlement houses nine different residential areas called camps which included Otuto, Uko, Agukwu, Nwekeogbuanyi, Ogbubiri, Eziko, Agunwoye, Nkpuakpu and Agu Nmengo, which is where their forefathers had their shrines and worshipped their gods in the olden days.
Ninety-nine-year-old Oguejiofor Odili who is said to be the oldest man in the area confirmed that they have been living in the area without any problem, adding that elections have been holding in the area since 31 years ago.
Odili who said he was born in the area said their only problem was lack of social amenities and therefore called on the government to come to their aid.
'Help us tell the government to give us road, electricity, water, school and hospital. We are farmers and we are contributing to the feeding of the people of the state. We are not evil people,' he said.
Corroborating what Odili said, the traditional leader, Chief Bennett Chinweze said the settlement is in dire need of social amenities and government should not look the other way by branding their home an evil forest.
In the camps which were adorned with different types of economic trees were children, women and men going about their normal daily businesses and one of them, a young girl in her early 20s who pleaded anonymity said to Daily Sun, 'Tell the government to bring school here. These young ones need school. They go all the way from here to Aguleri to attend schools.'
Residents of the Agu Otuto camp, Mr. Nweke Ekwealor and Mr. John Molokwu who said he was born in there in the 1940s decried the non-availability of roads, hospitals, schools, pipe-borne water and electricity in the area.
Also speaking, Hon Obichukwu expressed sadness over government's attribution to the place as an evil forest.
His words: 'You all are here to be with us in our home village called Nziko and Uko. You can see all the habitants of the land, they are here with me. You have seen this place yourself, where they are living. The purpose of bringing you is that we had a bad name that was given to us because they say if you want to kill a dog, you give it a bad name.
'But you have seen for yourself that there is nothing bad or evil here. The only evil that is here is that we don't have access road. The only evil that is here is that we don't have schools, the only evil that you see here is that there are no hospitals, if you are sick here, you are in trouble unless the herbalist can treat you and then God will save you. The only evil you can see here is that people are neglected, abandoned, and marginalized.
'The governor has refused to see reasons with us to develop this place. That is the only evil you can see. Total neglect, total abandonment; did you see any forest? There is no forest, so there is no evil forest in this place. All you will see here are farmlands of these farm settlers, farm camps. The people are predominantly farmers. They eke out their living from the farm products which they make.'
The lawmaker, therefore, frowned at the painting of the area in bad light, noting that those that came might be people born with silver spoons who have never been to such areas and when they saw farm settlements, they branded them shrines.
Whichever way, the residents of the farm settlement who engage in serious farming having rice and cassava mills inside the settlement indeed need urgent attention which only government can afford now.