Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
A crisis is currently brewing in Nkpor, a community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, over the leadership of the town union, known as Nkpor Development Union (NDU).
Some elders and chiefs in the community have kicked against the recent sack of the caretaker committee of the union. They thereafter constituted a fresh interim committee to lead the union.
They accused the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and the chairman of Idemili North Local Government Area, who is an indigene of Nkpor, Chief Ralph Asha Nnabuife, of imposing a caretaker community on the community, instead of an elected leadership for the union. They insisted that they were tired of a “caretaker community” leadership, insisting that an election should be conducted where substantive leaders would emerge to pilot the affairs of the community.
The stakeholders also alleged that the caretaker community recently constituted comprised suspected cultists who allegedly cause problems in the community. They also demanded that an election of the town union executives should be conducted this month.
To add more bite to their demands, some elders and red cap chiefs in the community, all sporting white native dresses, went to Government House, Awka, along Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Awka, where they sought Governor Willie Obiano’s intervention to stop the brewing crisis in the community.
The elders alleged imposition of what they described as an unrecognised caretaker committee by the Anambra State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs on the people. According to them, the move has increased the spate of cultism and other related crimes in the community.
The elders brandished several placards with inscriptions such as: “Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, please off your hands in Nkpor affairs,” “No more caretaker election in Nkpor town, May 25, 2019, election day must hold for peace to reign,” “Asha Nnabuife is not Nkpor, and Nkpor community is bigger than any individual or groups of persons,” among others.
They called on Obiano to, as a matter of urgency, and for peace reign, conduct the town union election to curtail the activities of factions, which, in their own words, create crises in the community.
The traditional prime minister (Onowo) of the community, High Chief Emma Udenze, who addressed newsmen during the protest, alleged that some government officials were behind the election crisis rocking the community, adding that such persons imposed a caretaker committee on the community without the governor’s directive.
“The said election was supposed to hold on the 18th of August, 2018, but, a month to the election, we were summoned to Government House and informed that the process should be suspended to pave way for the success of the 2019 general election, to which the elders agreed.
“But to our greatest surprise, a caretaker committee list was manufactured by the commissioner and some of the community leaders for the election, without involving the interest of the entire people. And that has generated fear in the town.
“We are here to express our grievances peacefully before the governor on the way and manner his aides are handling the affairs of Nkpor community. We have decided to do the election for all the factions that are willing to do the election on May 25,” he said.
He alleged that members of the Igwe-in-Council had become biased, noting that they were part of the reasons the problem was still lingering. He insisted that the state government, elders of the town, titled chiefs and members of the clergy should come together and look into how to quell the leadership tussle.
Pastor Eugene Olisa Chinedu of Jesus Our Saviour Bright Assembly, Nkpor, who accompanied the protesters, said everybody should be carried along and the right thing should be done for the interest of generations to come.
He said loopholes should not be given to people that were born and bred in the community, government should deal directly with concerned elders.
He equally enjoined the governor to dissolve the caretaker committee, saying the members did not know how to bring the community together and ensure peaceful coexistence of the people.
But the chairman of Idemili North Local Government Area and native of the community, Chief Ralph Asha Nnabuife, denied the allegation that a new caretaker was constituted. He said three persons, including the chairman of the community, were found culpable by government and were dropped from the executive. He said new members were subsequently picked to replace them.
Nnabuife said the constitution of the community stipulates that election should be conducted in the last week of December. He said December 27 had been picked, adding that, by then, all the sons of the community would have returned home to participate. He said the May date as proposed by the protesters was not feasible.
“Let me tell you that every right-thinking Nkpor indigene wants elected executives for the town. I also, like others, want it urgently, but nobody can stampede us to cause confusion. I have no hand in the town union not having elected its leadership right now. I have never advised government not to conduct election of the town executives. Those protesters are tarnishing my image. Those pointing fingers at me are just engaging in petty jealousy against me.
“I am from Nkpor and real Nkpor indigenes know that the town has an existing constitution that stipulates a time frame, when and venue, if elections for the town executive members shall be held. The truth is that our town constitution stipulated that the election into various offices shall hold in the last week of December. I believe that these people protesting are playing some games. They want to go contrary to the constitution and will come back to start making trouble.”
On the removal of the chairman of the past caretaker committee of the town, he said: “I have no hand in it. It is the state government who appointed him that removed him based on a petition written by nine members of his 10-member executive. So, people should leave me alone and rather commend Governor Willie Obiano for his visible developments and his tireless efforts to maintain peace in our town,” Nnabuife said.
Indeed the constitution, a copy of which was shown to the reporter, states: “The election into the offices of the Central Executive Council shall hold in the last week of December of the last year of the tenure of the incumbent Central Executive Council.”
The constitution was drafted on December 30, 2010 and commenced operation on December 30, 2011.
Also, a letter signed by the Anambra State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mr. Greg Obi, dated April 26, 2019, was addressed to the new caretaker chairman, Chief Godwin Amadike. It was copied to the security agencies, chairman of Idemili LGA, former caretaker chairman, ThankGod Obiorah Oddih, and others on the extension of tenure.
The letter reads in part: “I wish to refer to a letter dated March 27, 2019, on the extension of tenure to convey to you the state government’s approval of extension of tenure of caretaker committee of Nkpor Development Union, with effect from April 26, 2019, to expire on December 31, 2019, to enable the committee conduct a credible election into the executive committee of the union, in line with provisions of the constitution of Nkpor community.”