Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Hell was literally let loose when two communities, Odekpe and Allah/Onugwa, in Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra State engaged each other in a bloody battle.
An age-long communal crisis between the two over a piece of land took a more dangerous dimension penultimate Friday when warlords suspected to have operated from Odekpe invaded Allah/Onugwa and wreaked havoc in the community.
When the ensuing tension minimized, both camps stepped forward to lay claims to damage. While the people of Allah Onugwa claimed that they were the worst hit by the crisis, the Odekpe people claimed that they recorded huge loss.
For Allah/Onugwa people, one person was killed instantly on December 8, when the fresh crisis which lasted for more than a week broke out while five persons went missing.
They claimed that later information available to them showed that the missing persons were actually abducted during the melee. They alleged that one of the missing persons was buried alive while another was beheaded and his body dismembered by their attackers.
They further lamented that 13 houses were destroyed in their place by the invaders while many residents were injured even as economic trees, food crops, and other property belonging to the villagers were torched.
One of the residents, Mr Cyril Ukoje, told Sunday Sun that the trouble came to a head penultimate Friday, at about 7:00a.m when their attackers invaded their community, leaving anguish, tears, and sorrow with them.
He said that on the first day of the crisis, one man was killed and two abducted. He added that three more persons, on the same Sunday went missing and all have not been seen yet.
Although he told Sunday Sun on the first day of contact that 10 houses were destroyed, further findings as contained in a petition to the state Commissioner of Police, CP John Abang, which was endorsed by Chief Paul Onubi and Chief Sunday Egwuemi showed that 13 houses were affected in Allah/Onugwa.
The petitioners also narrated that their people have deserted their ancestral home and fled to a neighbouring town in Kogi State where they are taking refuge.
Three of the affected houses, Sunday Sun gathered, belong to a military man currently serving in Gombe State, Uzor Abraham; a police inspector, serving in Ogun State, Matthew Uzor; and Danjuma Ocheje, a Chief Superintendent of Police in charge of Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) of the Enugu State Police Command.
Also affected was the Community Primary School Allah/Onugwa teachers’ quarter which they said was built with the N20 million Choose-Your-Project initiative of the Anambra State government.
Ukoje said: “That Sunday, one person was killed. On the same day, two persons were abducted. Another three went missing during the gun battle on the same Sunday making them six victims.
“Then on Friday, they broke into our village and brought down 10 houses. Three of the buildings are storey buildings while the others are bungalows”.
But last Wednesday, Ukoje told Sunday Sun that information reaching them was that two out of the five missing persons have been killed. He said that while one was buried alive, the other was beheaded and his body dismembered.
“Mr Abora was buried alive because he refused to give them details about our community, but Mr Ikwubile was beheaded and his body dismembered. We have not gotten information on the remaining three up till now”, he lamented.
One of the natives whose house was destroyed, Matthew Uzor, corroborated what Ukoje said, adding that his people have fled their community as the attack was still ongoing.
He said that their attackers were not deterred by the intervention of the state Commissioner of Police, CP Abang, who ordered for the detention of eight villagers from Odekpe after a meeting in his office in Awka.
“Some of them were detained in Awka on the orders of the Commissioner of Police when he found out that it was those people that were looking for our trouble.
“The following day, which is Thursday, the traditional ruler of our community, Igwe Pius Omachaonu, went and released them on bail; that they should sign an undertaking not to fight again. They signed the undertaking actually.
“But immediately they stepped out of the state CID in Amawbia, their people started firing gunshots into our community. That Friday morning, they invaded our community with different thugs, including Fulani fighters that they hired.
“They invaded our place. Before we knew it, they brought down my house; a storey building. They also demolished some other buildings. I don’t know the kind of dynamite they came with. As we speak, my people have fled our community.
“The first person was killed on Sunday morning when the crisis started. The two persons they kidnapped from the farm, information later had it that they were later killed. One was even buried alive while the other one was stoned to death and set ablaze”, he narrated.
Giving further insight into the cause of the trouble, he said: “There has been a battle over a piece of land between the two communities. The matter has been in court very many years ago. And the boundary was already marked for the two communities.
“Since then, we have been managing ourselves and we had cordial relationship with the community. All of a sudden, last year, their boys came up and said that the boundary would not stand. But the matter was being managed.
“This year, they started again. Then last Sunday being December 8, very early in the morning, Odekpe people invaded our community and abducted some people who were in the farm and took them to their own village.
“Our people waited for them to release these people but they never did. They now came back to our community again, before we knew it, they started demolishing houses.
“Among the houses they torched was my younger brother’s house. He is a soldier serving in Gombe State. From that one they entered another house and it was at that point that my people faced them to push them back.
“In the cause of that, they shot one of our own and killed him. That was when the fracas blew open. But our people were able to push them back”.
But in a press statement made available to newsmen in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, the people of Odekpe living in the state alleged that three of their brothers were abducted by Allah/Onugwa people.
Spokesperson of Odekpe Development Union (ODU), Lokoja branch, Mr Thomas Okebu, in the statement acknowledged that there was an existing feud between the communities.
He claimed that the piece of land in contention originally belonged Odekpe community but they allowed Allah/Onugwa people to settle on it with Odekpe people.
He claimed that Allah/Onugwa people started claiming ownership of the land when they began to grow in population; a development which Odekpe people kicked against; hence, leading to the fight.
The statement read in part: “They refused and wanted to claim the entire land, including where we are living. This time now because of the notable people they have in government, including in the police and military, they are boasting that they have money and connection.
“The Igwe of our area, Igwe Pious Omachulu intervened in the matter through the office of the deputy governor. He is the Secretary of the Traditional Rulers Council in Anambra State.
“Because his own community is closer to our community, they now said since he knows the place very well, he should handle the matter and report back to the government.
“He now urged everybody to stay calm and that he will involve the two communities on how the matter can be settled amicably. He also warned that the two communities should steer clear of the disputed land until the matter is settled.
“Allah/Onugwa community started going there for farming. They started to plant crops in the land and our community confronted them for going to the land. We reported to Igwe, but he did not react on time and anytime they are coming to the land, they will be well armed and then lay siege to our people.
“This time, when our people confronted them, crisis started and three persons from our community were kidnapped. When people went there to look for our people they kidnapped, we couldn’t find them. But information reaching us said they have killed our people.”
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Haruna Mohammed, a Superintendent of Police, said that the situation has been brought under control and investigation commenced. He, however, blamed one of the communities for taking actions that triggered off the fresh crisis.
He said that there was an existing court case which judgment has not been delivered to ascertain the true owner on the contentious land, but instead of all the parties maintaining the status quo, one of the parties trespassed into the land.
“The truth of the matter is that there was a skirmish between the two communities and the situation was brought under control. The police are investigating to ascertain the circumstances surrounding that incident.
“The truth of the matter is that there was a judgment and the other community now appealed to the court. And they didn’t wait for the High Court to pass its judgment, they now went to take over the land forcefully. That was what triggered the problem. They caused their own problem”, he stated.