From Stella Obi, Ibadan
SOME deaf and dumb students of Christian Mission for the Deaf in Nigeria, Ibadan on Monday ,stormed the Agodi seat of the Oyo State Government, Secretariat, Ibadan to protest the illegal acquisition of the Mission’s land along Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
Led by the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the mission, Silas Eke, the students, including pregnant women ,came with placards with varied inscriptions alleging the state government of oppression and victimisation over their legitimate property.
While briefing journalists on the protest, Eke disclosed that the mission procured the 39 acres of land from the original owner several years ago through funds raised from good spirited Nigerians and the alumni of the mission scattered all over the world.
He explained that part of the land presently hosts the mission’s Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Technical Schools, where deaf people from across the continent had been trained and some being presently trained.
Eke further hinted that the mission had commenced the process of establishing the first University for the Deaf in Africa on the remaining part of the land, stressing that the remaining land available on the site could not even meet the requirement of the National Universities Commission (NUC).
“We have been told by the NUC that we would need not less than 200 acres of land for the university alone, a demand that could not be met presently and we agreed to start the temporary site where we are now while we search further for another place as our permanent site”, he stated.
Trouble however started when some people claimed to be government officials, according to the BoT Chairman came to forcefully claim more than half of the land for government, a development described as reckless and arbitrary use of power.
Following the ugly development, the mission approached the state Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Mr. Isaac Omodewu to lodge complaint, but, Eke told journalists that the man claimed ignorance of the issue and that none of the earlier letters sent to him got to his table.
At a later meeting held between the mission’s representatives and government officials in the commissioner’s Office, an official said to be the Permanent Secretary in the ministry told the commissioner that only two acres of the land were being taken.
“We deserve encouragement and not discouragement. Let the government look for its land elsewhere and leave ours alone. If it cannot do anything for us, the government should not impede our progress in any form. Already, as we are talking, a lot of our former students are in the United States raising fund for additional land for the proposed university.
“How do you explain it that our host government is the one disrupting our plan? We cannot cede our hard earned land to government that we did not take money from to purchase. I joined the Mission in 1972, not because of anything, but because of my passion and interest in the proper training of the deaf. I don’t even have a single one in my family”, Eke asserted.
When contacted, the commissioner, who felt reluctant talking to the press, said the issue had been resolved, though, the mission BoTinsisted on the claim that only two acres were needed from the land was a deceit as what was mapped by the government officials for takeover was more than half of the entire 39 acres
In his remarks Oyo State Commissioner for Land and Housing, Isaac Omodewu, who addressed the protesters, assured them that he would meet the governor, who he said was out of the state, on the matter.
Mr Omodewu assured the protesters of facilitating a meeting with their representatives in the next one week.