The people of Agubia in Ikwo Local Government Area, Ebonyi State were on Sunday, 17 November 2019 thrown into confusion when rival groups of boys from the same community allegedly embarked on sporadic shooting over the leadership of Ikwo Central Motor Park, even as the Coordinator of Ikwo Central Development Centre, Barr. Leonard Nweke has announced the return of peace in the area and that no houses were razed nor person killed as previously erroneously reported in some media.
According to one of the villagers who spoke on the ground of anonymity, he told us that the crisis started on Saturday night when a group of boys started shooting sporadically, chasing everybody on sight away which forced shop owners to shut down their shops and flee for safety.
He narrated that the group are of two factions who divided based on political party interests, battling which of the group to take over the leadership of Ikwo Central Motor Park, Agubia.
He emphasized that both groups are youths from the same community and their rowdy behaviour and even harassment of passers-by resulted to the total shut down of every business activities within the place, and villagers who live within the park also fled for their safety.
He said, “We were outside on Saturday night when we started hearing gunshots, and people hurriedly closing their shops and running for safety. At a time, the shooting was so intense that a particular group was said to have been shot, but because they did Odeshi (spiritual bulletproof) the gun did not penetrate their body.”
“Meanwhile, we ran inside because they were not sparring passers-by and they were shooting throughout the night till morning. Until we saw some convoy loaded with both army and policemen, we did not come out, because the shooting of the gun continued again in the morning.”
“We are appealing that police should continue to parade the place for sometime before they leave because they might resume at night should the police leave the community.”
One of the victims, a commercial motorcyclist, Mr Udoka Asaga, a native of Onyikwa Amagu told Citizens’ Advocate that he was coming from a trip when some group of boys confronted him while entering the park, but they released him after he introduced himself.
They released him because he was a stranger and had no knowledge of what was happening, but another group not too far from the first group seized his bike, effort to recover his motorcycle resulted to wounds being inflicted on his body by the second group.
He told us that when he ran to the market hoping to get help, he was surprised seeing that people had fled the entire place, but he was rescued by one Mr Otubo who accommodated him till Sunday morning when he reported his case to one of the stakeholders, Mr Pius Nwali who promised to intervene in his case.
The victim said that while he was still waiting for the stakeholders to meet that Sunday morning, the two groups also clashed resulting to shooting from both groups until police convoy arrived at the junction.
He, however, noted that he recognized one of the boys who made away with his motorcycle.
On Sunday morning, the stakeholders of the community summoned the entire three villages to a meeting at the playground where they dissolved the existing park leadership and constituted new members, as well as, a 7-man Peace Committee headed by Chief Joseph Anaga.
The new park leadership and the Peace Committee were saddled to take charge of the park, whereas the committee should ensure that normalcy is fully restored in the area.
Speaking to our reporter shortly after the town hall meeting, one of the community stakeholders from Imago-Igbudu, Hon. Edward Owata Ogbega, noted that they have three components villages where the crisis was intense, comprising Uduku, Nduofia and Obegu where the park is situated.
He said the crisis came to them as a surprise but noted that the image of the community was badly battered and they had to come together, resolved to disband all the earlier existing committees, thereby constituting new members.
He said, “This misunderstanding came to us as a surprise, but this morning all the leaders in the community came together and what we have succeeded doing is to restore peace, seeing that this place has been battered badly and those things causing the problem is anchored on leadership and mismanagement of the community source of income, the motor park.”
“We decided to disband the old committee and constituted a new one which the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) asked us to constitute.”
“We constituted today the Peace Committee headed by Chief Joe Anaga. They are seven, two from each of the component villages of the area: two from Nduofia, two from Obegu and two from Uduku while we selected one person to chair it, then we have the Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Ali.”
“We also said since the park is a joint project between us and the Development Centre, we asked them to bring one person as their agent while the other three villages should bring one person each and they’ve started working since Monday.”
The Member Representing Ikwo South at the State Assembly, Hon. Moses Odunwa, who was present, told Citizens’ Advocate that he was shocked when the news came to him but expressed his happiness over the elders’ intervention in restoring peace in the area.
He condemned the youths’ action, describing it as unfortunate and barbaric, stressing that he would consult all the elders to ensure he forestalls future reoccurrence of the conflict.
In his words, “There was a civil disturbance here, it was quite unfortunate that the conflict was intra communal, between two brothers. We have been monitoring it for two to three days now and I have spoken with many of our elders, but we thank God that even though properties were destroyed, no life was lost.”
“I am surprised that during election, we do not have either inter or intra communal crisis here. But regrettably, we woke up to see the ugly incident. We thank Ebonyi State Government, our women and security agencies for their intervention, which after making my consultation I will come up with a plan on how to forestall future reoccurrence of the conflict.”
On his part, the Coordinator, Ikwo Central Development Centre, Barr. Leonard Nweke hinted us that he learnt that the crisis was as a result of leadership tussle in Ikwo Central Park which according to them stipulates a 3-year period as a tenure for the leader but those in power have spent over six years which resulted to the imbroglio.
He said, “According to them, the people in power came into office since 2013 and have been there till now. After the death of the Chairman, the vice chairman took over, but he refused to handover.”
“In summary, they decided to change the government which was the cause of the crisis and it was reported to the DPO and the council Chairman who decided to disband the leadership because it appeared to be illegal since the members were established with neither the Local Government Chairman nor my consent. In the same vein, they had not notified the DPO or obtained permission from the state government which is accords to the new directive of the state government that no village or town union should hold election without approval.
The Coordinator debunked the rumour making the rounds that houses were razed down and people killed due to the crisis.
He maintained that the situation has been calmed down with the help of the community leaders and security agencies, believing that with the common understanding reached at the town hall meeting, that permanent peace has been established in the place.
Meanwhile, contacting Ebonyi State Police Public Relation Officer, ASP Loveth Odah, she told us that men of Nigeria Police force would stop at nothing to ensure that the community experiences permanent peace.
Efforts to speak with the Local Government Council Chairman proved abortive as he was not in the community meeting nor responded to text messages sent to him.