Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
At Umunya, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, activities of land speculators who initiate people into a deadly cult and wreak untold havoc among residents have become a huge threat.
The attackers usually leave in their trail tales of woe, tears and sorrow, while the residents are practically living in daily fear for their lives. They want the law enforcement agents to rise up to their responsibility.
Particularly hit is Ezi Umunya, one of the villages in the community, where the deadly group has unleashed monumental havoc, damaging personal belongings and buildings. The cultists have also inflicted serious knife injuries on some youths of the area who refused to join them. Some of their victims are presently battling for life in various hospitals, while those who survived their onslaught will live with scars from the injuries till their dying days.
Unable to endure the activities of the deadly group anymore, women of Ezi Umunya village recently embarked on a peaceful protest to the palace of the traditional ruler of Umunya community, Igwe Kris Onyekwuluje, calling on him to intervene and save them from the attackers.
Accompanied by some men from the village, the women expressed their undiluted loyalty to the traditional ruler and called on him to stop being lenient with the attackers, since they have defied every voice of reason and dialogue. Chairman of Ezi Umunya village, Shedrack Obinna Okonkwo, a pharmacist, who spoke at the Igwe’s palace, lamented that the kind of dangerous knives in circulation within the village was alarming. He noted that the attackers always gruesomely stabbed their victims, leaving them in pain.
He said their greatest pain was in the fact that the perpetrators of such heinous acts were often released by the police soon after their arrest. He added that the suspects always returned to continue the same unacceptable crimes.
“We have come crying for help to Your Majesty because the kind of knifing going on in our village is alarming. It baffles us that somebody can use a knife to ‘design’ his fellow human being today, run away and come back tomorrow to brag that nothing will happen.
“Ezi Umunya is not a centre of cultism in Anambra State. We have many educated people in our place and we cannot be caged by some elements that use force and charms to cause havoc. We are practically living in fear while we sleep with only one eye closed in the night.
“I was in my house the other day when they came and informed me that another person had been attacked with machetes again. He is presently receiving treatment in the hospital.
“Please, beg the government on our behalf to secure us so that we can sleep in our homes again. Machetes, cutlasses, guns and axes are used freely by these men and they are not invincible. You have been doing a lot for our people even in this COVID-19 pandemic, where you have given out various palliatives to cushion the effects. Stamp your feet on the ground this time so that this ugly situation can be arrested,” he said.
Also speaking, another executive member, Daniel Udechukwu recalled that the group engaging in the practice of attacking people with machetes and selling people’s land indiscriminately regrouped in 2009 and have been operating since then in several ways.
He listed the likes of Peter Mgbemena and Emma Nweke as living victims of such attacks, noting that the cultists have increased the intensity of their attacks.
“The Igwe has sued for peace repeatedly but these people keep on causing more trouble. Unfortunately, some of the mothers whose children have been victims in the past are surprisingly rising up in solidarity with the attackers.”
The women who sang songs of protest over the situation and also solidarity songs to the traditional ruler bore various placards with inscriptions like: “Let peace reign in Umunya”, “Stop destroying our property, cultism cannot stand in Umunya”, “Criminals are not to be protected and shielded”, “Ezi Umunya women sup- port our working Governor, Chief Willie Obiano”, “Stop butchering us, we are not cows”, “The police should please protect us from the killer squad cos our lives are no longer safe,” among other inscriptions.
President-general of Umunya Women’s Wing, Mrs. Ezeakor Fransisca, who spoke on behalf of the women, said they were traumatized over the activities of the dreaded group. She said, despite all the grievous harm and injuries caused by their assailants, the community has not recorded a single death in the whole incident so far as a result of the good-hearted nature of their traditional ruler.
She called on the law enforcement agents to assist the traditional ruler so that those behind such attacks would be crushed finally.
“The Department of State Service (DSS) and police should help our Igwe because he is not ruthless and mean. He has tried to be civil and polite with this people as a father but this has spiraled to an unimaginable level,” she said.
President-general of the town union, Keneth Okafor, an engineer, commended the women for their civilised and peaceful conduct. He said it was time to really deal with the ugly activities of the dreaded group causing trouble in the community.
“I stand on the side of the women to say that enough is enough. We are not embarking on revenge mission or to take the law into our hands but let the full wrath of the law be visited on this people causing us pain. The perpetrators and their sponsors have questions to answer, so we call on the law enforcement agents to take over immediately” he said.
Some of the victims of the group who had survived their knife attack but with scars said they could never forget their near death experience in the hands of the attackers.
Samuel Aniebonam who recounted how he was attacked by the boys said they would first threaten one with the option of getting initiated into their cult:
“When you refuse to join them, you become their number one target. They bring a pot of charm tied with red cloth which they do some incantations in to initiate one into the group but they attack you if you refuse to join. In my own case, they just met me on a lonely path in our village and unleashed several machete cuts on my body. I collapsed but was revived in the hospital. I know those who attacked me but they have not been punished till today” he lamented.
Igwe Onyekwuluje, in his response, said the struggle over selling of lands in the community was at the root of the whole problem.
He said he intentionally invited the DSS and the newly posted Divisional Police Officer so that they could hear directly from the people to enable them believe that the matter was quite serious.
He said the cultists and land speculators also engage in other crimes including defiling of minors. He accused some unnamed police officers who served in the area before of aiding criminal activities.
“We would no longer tolerate the dehumanization and molestations meted out to our people by cultists in the area bent on selling off all the lands in Umunya community through illegitimate means.
“How can a man of over 30 years use his fingers to destroy the private part of a three-year-old small girl, and the police will set him free? But we thank God that the Commissioner of Police has sent us a new Divisional Police Officer so he can see things for himself.
“I want to believe God too that all those macheting people will stop henceforth and their godfathers too will quit sponsoring cult war in my community.”
He said that apart from the land verification committee that is already in existence, he would also constitute a land approval committee that would ensure that every plot of land sold in Umunya community received the blessings of the committee to avoid land grabbing and racketeering.
Igwe Onyekwuluje noted that the land approval committee would comprise Igwe- in-council, PG and his members, Ojiana and Nze-na-Ozo and the committee would take effect immediately.
“From this minute henceforth, anyone digging foundation for a new building must get approval from the committee at no fee so that we can verify the authenticity of the land he is building on. We are promoting tradition here not constitution. If we don’t checkmate this people, they will sell all our lands. When they finish selling lands, they can resort to selling human beings, but God won’t allow them,” Igwe Onyekwuluje concluded.