There was tension yesterday at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), Imo State, when hoodlums, suspected to be indigenes of the host communities, invaded the university.

The invaders reportedly demolished buildings and destroyed other school property worth millions of naira.

The heavily armed thugs were said to have demanded the immediate relocation of the institution from their ancestral land.

They allegedly threatened to raze the school, if their demands were not met.

The suspected thugs, who were said to be from Umuchima, Ihiagwa and Umuanunu, in Owerri West Local Government Area, accused the institution of encroaching on their land.

But the vice chancellor, Prof Chigozie Cyril Asiabaka, who conducted reporters round the institution to show the level of damage, insisted that the invasion was unprovoked and barbaric.

The vice chancellor said FUTO had been having a cordial relationship with the host communities until their recent demand that part of the land, which was legitimately acquired by the Federal Government for the institution, be ceded to them.

According to him, none of the management workers, including himself, had the powers to cede the land to any community.

Prof Asiabaka said: “FUTO is not at loggerheads with the communities. Why should they vandalise our property? The damage they unleashed on the university is massive and unprecedented. FUTO’s land belongs to the Federal Government; we have not encroached on their land.

“Their demand that the school should return part of the land to the communities is impossible because nobody here can approve that, except the Federal Government. We have convened an enlarged management meeting and far-reaching decisions have been taken. These include the immediate perimeter fencing to forestall further encroachment on the university’s land.”

The vice chancellor stressed that the invasion and other distractions did not affect academic activities.

He said: “The university is still moving on, despite distractions around us. The students will begin their examinations on Monday. We are not distracted by the activities that are going on.”

The traditional ruler of Ihiagwa Autonomous Community, Eze James Muruako, said the action of the communities might have been triggered by a statement from a top FUTO official.

He also alleged that the communities had sued FUTO over the land.

The monarch added that no adequate compensation had been given to the communities after ceding over 5,000 plots of land to the Federal Government.

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