… Render People Homeless
By Okereke Wilson Ogbonnaya and Nwogha Ndubuisi Andy
Crisis believed to be associated with leadership contention at Amuzu Village, Igbeagu Autonomous Community in Izzi Local Government Area, Ebonyi State had resulted to the destruction of about 48 houses on Tuesday night, 2nd June, 2020 caused by some suspected miscreants allegedly hired by Mr. Monday Nkwuda.
One of the victims and Village Head, Chief Anthony Nwite speaking from his place of refuge told our reporter that the attack was masterminded by the accused person, Mr. Monday who is also husband of the Coordinator, Igbeagu Development Centre over their refusal to sell their collective portion of land containing mineral deposit to him.
He told us that after the accused person had noticed the people’s opinion towards allowing the said land known as “kperekpere” until when the villagers would agree unanimously on the time for the transaction, he flared and began to influence their leadership negatively to enable him achieve his target.
He claimed that on the fateful day, the villagers were not apprehensive of any attack, until when the hired men who were allegedly received and entertained at the Traditional Ruler’s palace suddenly stormed Amuzu through bush path with the list of some stakeholders considered as stumbling block to the supposed transaction and began to shoot sporadically.
“It is the desperate desire of the Tradition Ruler of Igbeagu, His Royal Highness, Ezeogo Michael Ogbonnaya Ukwa and Mr. Monday Nkwuda to buy the land at all costs that made them to condemn my emergence as the village head and advised that the position should be given back to my predecessor, Mr. Clement Otozi who was earlier removed at the middle of his second tenure on the account of gross misconduct and misappropriation”, he said
According to Chief Nwite, following the peaceful disposition of his supporters, they headed to court of law seeking for redress and in the long run, the presiding judge, Hon. Justice E. A. Ngene ruled that the exclusive right and mandate to elect village Head in Amuzu lie on the people rather than outsiders.
He further said that after the court’s judgment, he was derogatory addressed as “High court village Head” by Mr. Nkwuda and his cohorts who allegedly kept on threatening that the ruling would not have effect provided Igbeagu is concerned until the particular night that he (the principal accused person) led hoodlums into the area against his perceived obstacles.
“The people’s shootings which started around 10:00pm and ended at 5:00am in the following day forced us into hiding and before the people could stop, they had evacuated great quantity of our belongings before setting some buildings on fire”, he said
He told us that both the Traditional Ruler and Mr. Nkwuda are indigenes of neighbouring villages being Ndidoko and Ndigwe respectively and expressed displeasure on how outsiders could be causing trouble in his own village.
Another victim, Engr. Innocent Obiya corroborated the information and alleged that because of the accused people’s ulterior motive that Chief Nwite was denied the village documents at the Traditional Ruler’s palace which contradicted court’s decision on the matter.
“Because of the development, we went and reported their action to the Commissioner for Internal Security Border Peace and Conflict Resolution, Hon Stanley Okoro Emegha.
“But in spite of Hon. Emegha’s directive, those documents have not been released to us until we were attacked” he said
The Director of Social, Youth Arm of Amuzu village Prince Uchenna Nwikwe claimed that the two accused persons had in the recent period connived with some sycophants from the area and split the village into five smaller villagers mainly to enable them manipulate everyone as puppet and influence all affairs in all ramifications.
The stakeholders having noticed the strategy to cause disunity rose up in a large number kicked against such decision vehemtly.
He therefore called on the stakeholders of Izzi clan, government officials and other influential persons in the society to come to their aid so that peace could return to the area.
The principal accused person and stakeholder of Igbeagu Mr. Monday Nkwuda while addressing newsmen at the old Government House, Abakaliki over the issue denied all the allegations leveled against him by some Amuzu people stating that the problem was a result of leadership tussle between two factions existing in the village.
He disclosed that his name and activity are prone to be criticized by some detractors as it could be likely experienced in other sensitive positions and thereby asserted that he did not in any way contributed to the trouble either by influencing some persons or leading miscreants for the attack.
“Once one is at the helm of affairs, the person’s activities must be criticized and in a situation where such is not found, it means that the person does not exist.”
“Some people usually address me as coordinator’s husband without knowing that I was mandated by Governor Umahi to ensure that peace reigns in all parts of Igbeagu community.”
“Just as the case of last week that we travelled to the boundary between Igbeagu and Cross River and discussed peacefully on how the swampy portions of the area could be cultivated by the two parties without encountering any problem, in the end positive result was achieved.”
“It also bothers me that while we will be busy making such move, some persons will be fighting one another in some villages over power tussle even if someone is in opposition group, courtesy demands that the person or group should align with the ruling administration so that everyone will be carried along”, he said
Mr. Nkwuda also frowned at the wanton destruction experienced by Amuzu people which he attributed to series of impeachments and contentions over leadership found in the area, adding that members of Nigeria Police Force are already on the ground to ensure that normalcy returns.
HRH Ezeogo Ukwa claimed that the area had been peaceful until recently that learned sons of the village of whom some are lawyers and other professions selfishly began to control the people’s affairs against the laid down pattern and to enable them attain their alleged unpleasant desire, they had sponsored an impeachment of their village Head, Mr. Clement Otozi which led to court case.
“In my effort to make peace among them, I had set up a committee before now to look into the crisis in Amuzu, during that period, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala, the then Commissioner for Internal Security Border Peace and Conflict Resolution, former Vice Chairman, Izzi LGA and other influential persons were intimated but to our chagrin, while the peace processes were ongoing, some persons planned secretly and killed Mr. Nwankwuda Nwachi.”
“After the incident, members of the community condemned the act and agreed to carry out some traditional activities capable of hurting the unknown perpetrators but surprisingly eight days to the period, Chief Anthony Nwite and others hurriedly moved to the mortuary, brought the man’s lifeless body and buried to avert the intended action and since then, Amuzu people have been experiencing one form of crisis or another”, he said
The Traditional Ruler further told us that the indiscriminate shootings which he earlier mistook for “fireworks” became intense that he tried contacting Division Police Officer, Iboko Police station but could not get him that same night and the following morning he summoned 137 Village Heads across the community to discuss the problem of Amuzu people but the meeting could not hold because of their invitation from Ebonyi Government House.
“I have assigned the community vigilante members to fish out the perpetrators of the attack at Amuzu but along the line, I heard a rumour accusing me of sponsoring the unknown gunmen.”
“They even alleged that the miscreants were accommodated and entertained in my palace before they left for the evil operation at Amuzu village.”
“Based on this speculation, I am asking the rumour mongers to tell me what I will stand to gain by seeing my subjects’ houses and other properties being destroyed by unknown persons.”
He disclosed that some time ago, he was approached by some Amuzu people over the mineral deposit in their home, and he only advised that before mining activity could take place, it should be with collective agreement of the village without having any interest and thereby frowned at the behaviour of some persons who were linking his name with buying of land and the crisis.
“The procedure has been that once mineral deposit is to be harnessed, the following persons must be contacted: village Head, Eze in cabinet, Eze in council and the Traditional Ruler but in this case, I do not know the place let alone stepping into the land, if I have stepped my foot to the said land, may I not live to see the following day”, Ezeogo sworn
He told us that Mr. Monday Nkwuda’s name had not been mentioned for one before him either in his palace or somewhere else in connection to the mineral deposit at Amuzu until the problem broke out.
Concerning the allegation accusing him of adopting “Divide and Rule” method through which Amuzu was allegedly split into five smaller villages, the Traditional Ruler added that the written request was brought to him and the peace committee by some villagers but after they had gone through the prayer, he personally advised that such plea would not be granted without the collective agreement of the entire Amuzu people and based on his insistence, the people left and had not come back again over the issue.
HRH Michael Ukwa appealed to the affected persons to exercise patience and wait for the peace committee inaugurated by the state government to carry out the assignment and come up with their findings.
Police spokesperson, DSP Loveth Odah confirmed the incident adding that Mrs. Roseline Nkwuda, the coordinator who was contacted denied her husband’s involvement in the attack.
According to the officer, the information made available to police indicated that the crisis was a result of a tussle over the position of village Head.
“I have contacted the coordinator of Igbeagu DC and asked her about the information indicating that her husband masterminded the crisis, she denied the allegation but notwithstanding police patrol team had been sent to the area to restore peace and order”, she said
Ebonyi State government through its official, Commissioner for Internal Security, Border Peace and Conflict Resolution, Hon. Stanley Okoro Emegha has condemned the unlawful destruction of properties in Amuzu village in Igbeagu Community, Izzi Local Government Area.
The Commissioner, made the declaration recently during a mediation meeting with the parties involved in the crisis and the stakeholders of Igbeagu Community, held in the Ministry’s Conference Hall at Old Government House, Abakaliki.
Hon. Emegha represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Barr. Ogbonnaya Otta stated that the meeting was as a result of the renewed crisis at Amuzu and the petition written by the Coordinator of Igbeagu Development Centre, Hon. (Mrs.) Roseline Nkwuda over the problem which properties were destroyed.
“All these unnecessary crises here and there in the communities are jeopardizing the efforts of His Excellency, Engr. David Nweze Umahi who is poised to ensure that development gets to all nooks and crannies of the state.”
“I want you to know that governor will not tolerate anybody doing such or compounding the already existing problems in the state government regarding to fight against Covid-19 pandemic”, he said.
After an extensive intervention, Hon Emegha expressed displeasure over the act, urging them to embrace peace and shun crisis and thereby set up reconciliation committee with the charge to unravel the remote causes of the crisis and report back to the Ministry two weeks later with the list of people who had suffered losses and the damaged properties.
The Peace Reconciliation Committee members are, the Chairman, Prof. Francis Idike, the secretary, Mrs. Aduga Helen and the members are, AIG Opoke Kelvin, Chief Eze Nwenyi, Hon. Richard Idike, Dr. Cletus Nwakpu, Prof. Ezike Kyrian, Barr Pascal Nwenyi.
However, Hon Emegha directed the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Izzi LGA, Coordinator Igbeagu DC and Traditional Ruler of Igbeagu Autonomous Community to ensure that there would be no further breakdown of law and order in Amuzu village otherwise they would be held responsible.
The Chairman of the Peace Reconciliation Committee, Prof. Idike Francis on behalf of the members appreciated the commissioner and his team for their efforts so far in ensuring that relatively peace exists in Igbeagu Community, pledging that they would deliver as expected.
In her vote of thanks, the Coordinator, Hon. (Mrs.) Roseline Nkwuda thanked the Ministry officials for their good job, promising that she would help in ensuring that peace returns in Amuzu village.