• 2,000 protest killing of 3, proliferation of arms in Nteje community
• ‘Cabal members grabbing our lands’
From Obinna Odogwu, Ekwulobia
The people of Ifite in Nteje community, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, are not happy. They are mourning the violent death of three of their sons gunned down in broad daylight over land tussle.
According to the villagers, Mr. Udoka Obi, Chinweze Ibefuna and Sunday Obika, were on March 11, 2017, killed by some armed hoodlums from the community. The killers suspected to have been sponsored by some certain influential persons in the area who specialized in selling communal lands.
Chairman of Ojiana Nteje (an age grade in charge of land sales and administration), Chief Charlly Edochie, alleged that the group for more than 10 years now, has been in the business of forcefully selling communal lands and pocketing the proceeds. The group, which he said, was being sponsored by wealthy cabals from the community had allegedly defied all warnings from the community’s leadership to desist from the acts.
He explained that their act created scarcity of land such that the villagers no longer have sizable portions of land to cultivate food crops. But angered by that trend, the youths of the community, he said, decided to sign a note of warning to them.
At a peaceful meeting they had convoked to decide on the best way to handle the situation, the hoodlums who got wind of the plot besieged the venue of the meeting. They were said to have opened fire on the young men, causing them to scamper to safety. Three youths were gunned down in the ensuing crossfire, which lasted for several hours:
“This group has been operating for over 10 years. Their chief sponsor who is based in Abuja has bought over the police in Anambra State. He recruits the youths and administers fetish oath on them so that they would always do his biddings.
“Our people don’t go to farms any longer because they have sold away a greater percentage of our communal lands. There is serious tension here. If not the soldiers, you won’t even come into this community as they have blocked the roads. They even attacked the soldiers when they arrived and you know soldiers don’t tolerate nonsense.”
The development has sent fears down the spines of residenrs. They said that they now sleep with their two eyes wide open:
“We no longer go to farms. Once its 6:00p.m, the streets are deserted for fear of the unknown. Our nightlife has been stifled. Even during the day, you tread with great caution and fear.”
Angered by the horrible situation, more than 2,000 residents recently trouped out to protest what they tagged “incessant killings” going on in their community. The protesters besieged the residence of the President-General of the community, Ichie Dave Enuah, before heading to the palace of their monarch, Igwe Rowland Odegbo, where they were addressed.
Armed with placards with various inscriptions such as “Give us education, don’t give us arms,” “Don’t sell our lands” among others, including banners bearing the photographs of the murdered persons and the alleged 11 sponsors of the criminality, the protesters also accused the police of complicity.
The monarch lamented that he had been traumatised by the incident: “As I speak to you, a lot of youths from the other side are occupying the major parts of the roads in Nteje with pump action guns; defying security agents and committing all manner of atrocities in this community. I condemn the killing of our young people in its entirety. I assure you that the perpetrators must be brought to book.
“I and my President-General, David Enuah, are doing everything within our powers to bring calm and sanity to Nteje.” He called on the relevant authorities to investigate “this nefarious act being perpetuated by some moneybags from this community.”
Enuah told the protester: “What is happening in Ifite Nteje today is something we have never experienced before. That day, the gunshots which started around 3:00p.m that fateful day were sporadic and it ended at 8:00a.m on the following day being Sunday. At 4:00p.m I got a call that the first person has been killed; at about 5:00p.m I got another call that another young man has been gunned down. The last person was gunned down around 8:00p.m.
“I contacted the police and they told me that they were aware of the situation. But they said that it was a helpless one; that they can’t come.”
Mrs. Jane Ilonze from Ifite-Nteje, participated in the protest: “We are protesting the killing of our sons. Women are most hurt. Our children are being killed. We don’t go to the farms anymore because of these things. They have sold off our lands. We even go as far as Umueri and Aguleri communities to rent land for farming at N5,000 per plot. Those who feel that they are bigger than us have sold off our lands.”
Another protester who pleaded anonymity, traced the problem to an eviction carried out by the youths on a boy from Nando community who she alleged was raping their girls:
“This act has been going on. But this particular day, there is a guy who hails from Nando community, but his mother is from Amakpu village, Nteje. Because of his criminal activities, the youths took him back to Nando. But the people of Orukabia and Amaogbo villages in Nteje who had no business in our affair went to Nando and brought the boy back to Amakpu.
“This boy in question has been raping our female children and causing problems in this community. So, when the youths gathered to deliberate on so many issues going on in the community with a view to bringing solutions, these hoodlums attacked them. The police were alerted but they didn’t come. They only came one week later.”
Meanwhile, all calls and text messages to the police’ spokesperson in the state, Mrs. Nkeiruka Nwode, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, to react on the matter were neither answered nor replied as at the time of filing this report.