From Magnus Eze and Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Leaders of Isienu, Amagunze and Ndiuno Uwani-Akpugo, two neighbouring communities in Nkanu West and Nkanu East local government areas of Enugu State respectively, are having grey hairs on how best to forestall bloody clashes in their areas. This followed a recent invasion and destruction of properties in Isienu Amagunze allegedly by youths from Akpugo.
Daily Sun reported that some youths from Akpugo on December 10, 2020, allegedly attacked the farming community, vandalised properties. A Magistrate’s Court building was also torched in the process.
Amagunze then petitioned the Commissioner of Police, accusing a prominent native of Akpugo of sponsoring the attackers. The petition signed by the traditional ruler of Isienu Amagunze, Igwe Christopher Nwafor; President General, Chief Okey Nwatu; Chairman, Isienu Amagunze Land Committee, Uche Mbah (Alhaji); his secretary, Sylvester Nweke and four others, explained that a portion of land has been disputed by the two communities but the court struck out the suit filed by the Akpugo people for want of diligent prosecution.
They also petitioned the State Boundary Committee when their neighbours started cultivations on the said land towards end of 2019. Recently, when they noticed another encroachment, they wrote Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi: “Youths from Akpugo mobilised, armed with dangerous weapons and attacked commuters suspected to be people from Amagunze Community.
“They blocked the only access road leading to Amagunze, set fire on the road, molested travellers and stopped both human and vehicular movements on the said road for hours.
“They later moved down into Amagunze town, destroyed and set ablaze multi-million naira newly erected giant statue of the late Igwe E.S Nnaji, Nze 1 of Amagunze and Atakata of Wawaland, smashed the window glasses and set ablaze the newly constructed court at Nkanu East Local Government headquarters.”
Consequently, government delegated the chairmen of the two LGAs to convene a meeting of stakeholders from both sides with a view to finding lasting solution to the crisis. The meeting was held at the headquarters of Nkanu West attracting traditional rulers, Presidents-General and youth leaders from the affected communities except the Chairman of Nkanu East Local Government Area, Uchenna Nwobodo, who only walked in after the meeting had ended.
Chairman of Nkanu West LG, Chief Nwabueze Nnamani, stated that violence and destruction were against development: “We called this meeting for peace. We are not here for both parties to start debating who is right or wrong. What we were told is to make sure that peace reigns, because the cause of the crisis is now on the table of the National Boundaries Commission.
“They will do their own work, ours is to make sure that there is peace. It is true that someone was killed and there are accusations and denials but we know that once there was peace, no one would be killed. It was because there was crisis. I want to also say that the creation of Nkanu East and Nkanu West is just for developmental purposes. We all know that we are brothers. We are all Nkanu people.
“We cannot start to kill ourselves because of an artificial boundary created by government. If we kill someone because of land, this land was here before we were born and will still be here after we are gone. I am pleading with all you to be patient. The two communities are currently living in fear of attacks and reprisals.”
Traditional ruler of Isienu Amagunze, Igwe Christopher Nwafor, expressed gratitude to government for being interested in resolving the matter, assuring that he would do everything within his power to ensure that there was peace in the two neighbouring communities:
“When Nwakaibeya started building the factory, we were not consulted. The building had gone on for two months. We did not at that time know the person behind the project. We asked the government to explain how someone could go into the land to start building when there is an order that no one should enter the land for any reason.
“It was then that Nwakaibeya (Uche Nnaji) summoned us. He told us that the land was for development and that he was not interested in the land tussle. We said even though we also want development, it should be clear who the owners of the land are.
“He suggested that we write a memorandum which will allow him to continue what he was building until after the demarcation then he will compensate the rightful owners of the land. We were at that meeting with the people from Akpugo. We all agreed to this. There was no quarrel at all.
“Then on Friday, someone was killed. It beats my imagination how this could happen after the peaceful agreement and not before it. I am saying that anyone who was responsible for the death of that person would die the same way. Any person from Amagunze who has a hand in the death of the young man, let him die the same way.”
His Uwani-Akpugo counterpart, Igwe Innocent Ogbodo, agreed to ensure that there was peace, but warned that his community was ready to fight back if attacked: “The only thing I want to say is that if you are beating someone you don’t tell the person not to cry or if you push someone you do not show him where to fall.
“We went somewhere and a threat was issued and that threat led to this killing. We will sheath our swords. We will go home to tell our people the resolution reached at this meeting. But we insist that the killing should not happen again.”
Chairman, Land Committee of Isienu Amagunze, Chief Uche Mba, told Daily Sun that tussle over the land started in 1958 but was ended when community leaders accepted that the land actually belonged to the people: “We are not against development or the factory but he started without even consulting us. So, that is it. They called us here for peace and we believe in peace.”