Youths numbering hundreds on Sunday allegedly attacked the Chairman of Ngwongwo community, Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Kelechi Ochuba and his supporters, inflicting machete wounds on them.
It was alleged that the attackers who were hired from Okwe community allegedly inflicted machete wounds on supporters of the community chairman.
The clash between the two groups threw the community into chaos but police intervened as soon as the chaos ensued.
Citizens’ Advocate gathered that some of the victims were hospitalized at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki (AE-FUTHA 2), following the injuries sustained during the attack.
Source from Ngwogwo community alleged that trouble started when the opposition group to the chairman went to his house and forcefully took his motorcycle and killed his goat on the reasons that he fought with his wife.
On getting the information, youths loyal to the community chairman went to his house to know why the opposing youths stormed the chairman’s house on Sunday morning when people had gone to church and killed his goat and made away with his newly bought Kymco motorcycle under the pretense that he fought with his wife and thereby be fined accordingly.
Although it was alleged that the attack was because of the misunderstanding between the chairman and wife, further investigation revealed that there was a power tussle over who takes control of the affairs of a quarry company in the community called ‘Chino’ and that the fight was not unconnected with the community power tussle.
Speaking to Citizens’ Advocate who visited AE-FUTHA 2, one of the victims, Aroh Orji Victor, said that they were called on phone to come to the chairman’s house, but they were told that the embattled chairman had gone to the police station to report the incident.
That immediately the irate youths saw that the matter has been reported to the police, they started fighting them, saying that since they have involved the police, they are going to kill them and the police will not do anything.
He said, “We were there when he came back and was about telling us what happened at the police station when some youths from Okwe and Ngwongwo stormed the chairman’s place and attacked us. Some youths from our community led by Anthony Nwadankwa went and hired some youths from Okwe community to come and fight us. We were taken unawares because we thought police would handle the matter when the chairman reported it.”
“In our community, if a man fights with a fellow man, they will pay fine and it is the chairman of the youths that will come for the fine, not ordinary persons. And what the chairman and his executive do is to ask him to pay fine of N5,000 not to kill the person’s goat or carry his motorcycle, but once the fight is between a man and his wife, it’s a family matter and we don’t interfere”, he stated.
He accused some prominent leaders in the local government of sponsoring the youths that attacked them because they are not happy with the leadership of the current chairman.
He added that the same group has been terrorizing the community because of the quarry company on Ngwongwo land.
He said, “When issues came up regarding the site, some Okwe youths said they were also connected to the land. We told them that when mineral resources leave a community to another community, that it’s those in the second community that can, at their mercy wish to carry the previous community along.”
“Since then, the group has been disturbing us in the company, to the extent that they came and chased us away from the company and was even saying that the government cannot do anything because their sponsor is the one giving government directives on what to do.”
“Because of that, I no longer go to the company for two months now, sometimes, even our people that were employed by the company were chased away, so all of us came down to the village to face our farms and other businesses.”
“Before now, government officials came and survey the land because they were claiming that Crush Rock’s land extended to the Sino Chino land. Government officials came and carried out a survey and beacons were placed, but the same group from Okwe came and removed the beacons”, he narrated.
Another victim who gave his name as, Aja Paulinus Ezeikel corroborated what Aroh said, adding that they received a phone call telling them to come to their community leader’s place, Mr. Ochuba, that some youths invaded his house and made away with his motorcycle and killed his goat.
He said, “On getting there, the chairman had already left for the police station, we were there when the chairman came back and wanted to narrate what happened to us, but some group of youths stormed the chairman’s house with machetes and other weapons including a gun.”
“They used axe and plywood with nails and inflicted wounds on my body. On my back, it was ax they used, while the wound on my leg was inflicted with nail and plywood. We didn’t retaliate; rather, we had to flee for our safety.”
“They destroyed over 60 pieces of plastic seats that the chairman uses for the meeting as well as his shop, including his father’s tailoring machine’, he added.
He said the opposing youths rented hoodlums from another community numbering over 100 youths from Ngwongwo and Okwe community.
“They said since we have involved the police they will kill us all in the presence of the policemen and nothing will happen. When the police came, the DCO was there and when he saw that things had gone out of hand he left.”
He explained that the attack was over ownership of the land where the Pioneer Sino Chino Quarry Company in the area is located.
According to him, he was a task force officer in the quarry, and that some Okwe youths had five months ago attacked, beaten him up severely and even destroyed some of his properties and set ablaze his wife’s shop.
He called on the government to use its power to address the issue before it escalates.
The report has it that following the tussle, the SA to the Governor on Solid Minerals gave directive that all the parties involved should steer clear from the company pending when peace returns and a committee was set up to that effect.
“The commissioner of police also gave the same directive that everybody should steer clear from the company, but the Okwe youths and Barr. Uka led group allegedly flouted the order”, he stated.
He added that the office of the Commissioner for Border Peace and Internal Security had also given the same directive, but they also flouted the order
“But they flouted the order, and SSG also did the same thing that is the one we are facing now, and they still said who is government, that they have superior power. Initially, they said the issue is with the company, after which they diverted it to community affairs, and then crowned it with allegations that the chairman has a misunderstanding with his wife. The primary cause of the attack is the quarry company not really the fight between the chairman and his wife,” he added
Mr. Igwe Ejike alleged that the Uka led group is in opposition to the chairman of the community.
He maintained that the main cause of the attack was the Sino Chino Company, adding that the youths have been destroying things in Ngwongwo community, that some of Okwe youths destroyed the health center built in the area, and also destroyed things in their town hall.
He said that the Okwe community has its own chairman while Ngwongwo has its own chairman, but wondered why some youths from Okwe came to Ochuba’s house and killed his goat and took his motorcycle.
Mr. Igwe said, “They don’t have the right to fine our own chairman; we have a vice chairman and secretary. Anytime there is a fight between youths in the community, it’s only the youths of Ngwongwo that go to collect fine, not the external body.”
“And how we do it is that if it’s when company supplies us electricity, we will just go and remove the peoples fuse, and when they come to meet us we will make peace between the two people but if it is robbery, we will hand such person over to the police, in all these instances, no outsider was involved in settling the matter.”
“But this time around, our chairman didn’t do anything, he didn’t fight with the secretary as they later claimed” he stated.
Mr. Igwe called on the government to intervene on the issue as it is going out of hand, alleging that the community Treasurer, Livinus Egbe said some youths from Okwe have been terrorizing them, stressing they went and had an agreement with Sino Chino, yet Ngwongwo youths ignored that.
He said that the claim that the chairman fought with his secretary was a lie, yet the group went and destroyed the chairman’s property.
The treasurer, Livinus Egbe pointed out that those who witnessed what happened and told them that it was wrong were inflicted with serious injuries by the violent group.
He noted that the group has been planning evil against the chairman, revealing that the chairman bought some motorcycles that he wanted to distribute but was waiting for the problem with the company to be resolved before distributing the motorcycles, “I think that was the issue” he added.
Egbe said some youths in the community who are against the chairman hired some youths from other communities to come and help them fight the chairman and his supporters.
Chukwuma Aroh, whose wife’s shop was destroyed narrated that the group was going about the street chasing people away, destroying people’s shop and his wife’s shop was affected.
He said that when he came back from the church, the chairman called him and narrated how some youths came and killed his goat on the claim that he fought with the secretary and “he told them they didn’t fight. It wasn’t even the executive of the youths that came, but one ‘Harmless’ that came with the youths.
The chairman said in the process of killing the goat, they destroyed his motorcycle, and he reported the matter to the police, the DPO and Inspector came, invited the other group to come and explain what happened.
When the DPO got there, he said they should go and settle since the community chairman didn’t fight, why not let peace reign. He said that the police were coming to see the place. I had to call the DCO when I came back from church and he said the same thing the chairman narrated.
“Meanwhile on their way back, the two groups started fighting at the Amagu side. After the fight, they came back home but the Barrister’s group had to call our neighboring community to give them support, that was how they came the second time and started attacking those that were taken to Abakaliki for treatment.”
“The worse is that if you report to Ishiagu police here, they won’t do anything, day before yesterday, the same group was using gun and knife, going house to house destroying people’s things.”
He maintained that trouble started when the group got information that the state government has inaugurated a caretaker committee that will take over the affairs of the quarry company, hence the group will no longer have power to collect money from trucks that load in the company.
“They are chasing people away from the company and this thing has paralyzed business in Ishiagu now, instead of loading a hundred trucks a day it’s now below 50 trucks.”
The accused, Barrister Ukah, said he was in the church when the incident took place and that he received a phone call from one of the youths and was told that the chairman fought with his wife and secretary and the youths came and took his motorcycle to the police.
That while coming back from the police station, the chairman’s group ambushed them and his group had to go for reprisal which resulted to the discord.
He denied the knowledge of the goat killed. He only said what he was told by those present at the scene because he wasn’t at the scene of the incident.
Dankwa said, “Police is handling the matter and we are invited to come on Thursday for the remote cause of the attack.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Loveth Odah, said that five persons were arrested and that those interrogated including the chairman of the community, the secretary, Barrister Nwadankwa and Nnaemaka Ezenta and the man who introduced himself as the PRO of the quarry company
She said that Barr. Nwadankwa and Ezenta were bailed as suspects while the Chairman and secretary of Ngwogwo community were released as complainants. Both parties are to produce members of their groups for an interview on Thursday, November 14th, 2019.
She said, “They said the community has a conventional law that whosoever default must pay fine. The argument is that one faction was claiming that there are two factors of the law which said when defaulted, they should kill the defaulter’s goat and eat, while the other group said no, that the law said that when defaulted, both parties will pay fine of N5,000 each and one carton of beer. And after the judgment, anybody at fault pays while the other person’s money will be refunded.