Raphael Ede, Enugu
There is unquantifiable pain in Ogbozinne-Akpugo community, Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu state where the traditional ruler, Igwe Stephen Nwatu, recently lost his life as a result of fracas in the area.
It was a tearful scene on November 1, 2018, as victims of the communal disturbance took turn to recount their ordeal in the hands of the suspected arsonists alleged to have been accompanied by a senior police officer when they invaded the community.
The invaders, who reportedly looted people’s property and set several buildings ablaze were said to have stormed the community in the midnight of July 11, this year, with over eight Hilux vans loaded with heavily armed policemen and were led by an alleged member of the late monarch’s cabinet.
These stunning disclosures were made when members of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the disturbances in the community, headed by Justice Ben Agbata; a retired judge, visited the area in continuation of efforts to unravel the cause of the crisis there.
Daily Sun gathered that the then brewing crisis in the community took a twist when the Igwe Nwatu was allegedly mobbed to death on July 11, 2018, leading to wild reaction from persons said to be in sympathy with him. The development led to destruction of property with residents fleeing to safety for fear of being arrested or killed by gun wielding persons who stormed the community.
Since the incident happened, policemen from both Enugu and Lagos state commands have turned the community to a hunting zone where women and children, were molested and sexually harassed including a British citizen.
The visit of the panel of inquiry members to ascertain the extent of destruction somewhat brought life once again to the desolate community. The panel visited the residences of Rev Joseph Okenwa, Uchenna Nwobodo, Mrs Roseline Nnamani, Mrs Comfort Okenwa, Henry Nnamani, Emmanuel Nwatu Ede and Osita Nnamani which were either vandalized or set ablaze as well as the palace of the late monarch.
One of the natives told the panel that the unholy visitor stormed the community around 1am and shot sporadically in the air which sent many fleeing their homes. They were said to have looted some of the property in the buildings before setting them on fire.
Mrs Comfort Nwobodo lamented how her 17 year-old son, Chinedu, a student of Ecumenical Secondary School was arrested in Lagos, where he had gone to see the brother; Uchenna and had been remanded in prison custody since then.
Conducting the Commission round her son’s one storey building that was reportedly looted and sent ablaze, she stated that she escaped through the back door with her husband when the hoodlums pounced on their building.
Mrs Sandra Ilodibe, a British citizen, who the Commission could not visit the residence where she was said to have been molested with her three kids by a police Inspector who later gave her his phone number for sexual affairs said that her British passport was still with the police.
According to her, the said Inspector had bluntly told her that her passport, golden wristwatch and other valuables could only be released to her if she yielded to his sexual advances.
She added that her two special dogs were killed by the policemen led by the said Inspector whom she said gave his name as Amaechi.
“I am not from this community actually; I came here to visit my aunty. I came from UK for some treatments with my three kids and on that fateful day; early hours in the morning around 1am, I heard my dogs barking. So, I looked through the window, the next thing I saw was the police who opened fire and started shooting the dogs andIranoffandhekeptonand on shooting and banging on the doors, shooting on the windows breaking up things; the Alumaco doors, protectors and at the end they gained access through the back and I and my kids were brutally beaten, with my aunt and my cousin,” Mrs Ilodibe narrated.
She continued: “I was just on wrapper when they finally gained access into the house and one of them an Inspector swooped on me with the pointy and said where is your husband and I told them that my husband doesn’t live here that he lives abroad and they said that I must come with them. I asked them why and after they whispered; the Inspector of police who gave his name as Amaechi said “you must come with us.
“While I asked them to give me a minute to dress up, they saw my cousin and slapped her and took her away. Then, Inspector Amaechi and the pointy Moses Nnamani followed me to the room; I asked them to leave so that I can dress up, they refused even when I covered myself with wrapper to put on my underwear and clothes they dragged the wrapper off me and said hurry up or I will shoot.
“The police inspector was pointing torchlight on me till I dressed up and followed them quietly and on getting out of the house, I saw that my two dogs I brought from the UK had been killed in cold blood and they were dragging them like nothing to their car. My kids were brutally injured by the police and when I asked the Commissioner why his men should point torchlight on my nakedness, he told me they had to be there.
“Till date, the police have not told me what offence I committed for that humiliation and assault on me and my kids.”
Majority of those whose houses were looted before they were torched identified the duo of Ikechukwu Nwobodo and Moses Nnamani as those who led the arsonists.
Chairman of Panel, Justice Agbata, who was emotionally touched by the level of destruction, appealed to the residents to ensure peace; stating that the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi set up the panel to find lasting peace in the area.
“We have not come to compensate you but to unravel the truth about this crisis. We want you to maintain peace, since you cannot live in isolation. The government is interested in peace and will do all that is possible to guarantee your stay in your community,” he assured.
Justice Agbata also asked the Police to stop further escalation of the crisis with arrest of residents, and declared that “from now on, let nobody come here to arrest anybody. We need peace and we must maintain peace.”
Meanwhile, the phone number the said Inspector Amaechi gave to the British woman was called for reaction, but the person who picked the call from the other end gave his name as Ogar Eku who said that he lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and also not a police officer.
However, Ilodibe maintained that the Inspector Amaechi had called her severally with the same number which last four digits were 7870 in all their conversations which she recorded.
While the search for peace in Ogbozinne-Akpugo continues; the people live in fear, and the truth remains that the deep wound might not heal any soon in the hearts of many.