This is the most difficult opinion article I have written in my entire career as a writer. Difficult, because I enjoy painting glowing pictures of my town. Most people do. Now jarred by recent ugly events unfolding before my eyes, framing this opinion becomes a difficult task. And no matter how it is framed, the truth is that peace has left Enugwu- Agidi – the beautiful, and the town is now enveloped by uncertainty and violence orchestrated by land bandits whose speciality is auctioning ancestral lands to strange people without the mandate of the community. Enugwu Agidi-the beautiful is a small hilly community in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State.
The land bandits have successfully overpowered the town, using raw violence while aided by the police who look the other way, as crime and terror are unleashed on hapless villagers. Yes, you heard me well! The local police that were supposed to protect the people due to self-interest and corruption allowed themselves to be compromised by these criminal elements, who share their illicit proceeds with them.
According to available crime records, Enugwu-Agidi is currently topping the chart for all the wrong reasons in Njikoka Local Government. The once peaceful community is now the thriving capital of violence, kidnapping, cultism, illicit drugs and armed robberies. Due to recent violence unleashed by cultists and imported armed hoodlums, the town has become a ghost of itself and economic activities grounded to zero. Youths who tried to push back on the new wave of crimes were marked down. Many were inflicted with various degrees of injuries. About 27 persons were wounded and hospitalized in various hospitals. The palace of the Igwe and Okpalanriam III was overrun by the hoodlums. The Igwe and his Onowu escaped by the whiskers and are currently living in fear of their lives outside their domain. Hundreds of youths were forced to flee the community. The women and the children who stayed back live in palpable fear of their lives and on the edge, as the hoodlums go house to house in the dead of the night, haunting down their victims and inflicting various degrees of injuries on them.
The most pathetic of the stories was the case of the Caretaker Committee President General of the Enugwu Agidi Brotherly Union. The caretaker government was appointed by the Anambra State Government to supervise the affairs of the town for a brief period pending the conduct of a general election. Upon resumption, the caretaker government headed by Hon. Ndubisi Obijiofor was greeted by avalanche of petitions by people whose lands were forcefully taken away and sold by the land bandits. Most of these complainants were widows who rely on those lands for sustenance. To restore a semblance of order and sanity, the caretaker government held wide consultations after which it issued a streamlined process that will allow verification and authenticity of ownership of any vast plots of land exceeding four plots being put out for sale by any member of the community.
The Town Union also temporarily banned deployment of caterpillars into Enugwu Agidi for the purpose of clearing bush lands without authorisation, because what the bandits do is to sneak in caterpillars in the dead of the night to clear targeted undeveloped parcels of land and in the process purposely uproot ancient landmarks so as to confuse existing boundaries. For having the audacity to halt indiscriminate land sales, the bandits abducted him in broad daylight, and in the presence of security agents, beat him to stupor, inflicted machete cuts on him, stripped him naked to his bare buttocks and paraded him round the market square as a trophy. That’s how the bandits humiliated the President General and snatched the peace and control of the town.
Having tasted blood and like a shark, the bandits roared. They upped their game to take over control of the town through intimidations, threats, violence and physical attacks. They purportedly installed one of their own as the new President General. The kingpin installed himself as ‘Igwe’ and another of the renegades as ‘Onowu’ in clear violation of the Anambra State Chieftaincy Edict. These men are not faceless. They are known to both the community and are chummy with the police.
As usual the community have filed fresh reports over the recent incidents to all relevant authorities and hoping this time for a respite.
All past reports about the activities of these individuals and the rising incidence of violent crimes in Enugwu Agidi to the police ended up as cold cases. In some cases, the complainants are turned into the accused just to frustrate their case. According to a report filed by an online news medium, 247 Reports, ‘numerous reports to the police have failed because a retired senior police officer that might have risen up to the rank of Deputy Inspector General of Police is allegedly one of the backbones behind the criminals. He protects them and each time they were reported to the police, the said retired police officer squashes it from his end’.
The same medium further reported that the said ‘retired senior police officer influenced the posting of the Divisional Police Officer who is not only his kinsman but does his bidding by giving a free hand to the bandits to continue with their nefarious operations unchallenged.’ Now emboldened, they have expanded their crime ring from not just land banditry but to illicit drug distribution, robberies and abductions.
The allegation against the police and the alleged influence of the retired Senior Police officer in the on-going criminal enterprise is very weighty and should be thoroughly investigated by the authorities to ascertain the veracity. The nation is here reminded that high-ranking police officers in the past had been arrested and were successfully prosecuted for aiding and abetting various crimes including armed robbery and kidnapping. The End SARS protest, which engulfed the nation and nearly brought it down wasn’t just about police brutality but also about the public perception of the police in bad, corrupt and oppressive image. The legacy which the current Inspector General of Police must strive to leave behind, even if it remains for him a day in office is to restore public confidence, especially the confidence of law-abiding citizens in the police as their friend, and not a police force that is the friend of the lawless.
This opinion article is an appeal to the President, the National Security Adviser, the DSS and the Inspector General of Police to order independent investigation into the Enugu-Agidi crisis, as there may be a nexus in the crisis with the rising criminal activities in parts of the State and South- East. I further appeal to the Anambra State Governor who have made a success story of security to look into the situation in Enugwu Agidi. The people are in pain and live in fear. The more this situation lingers, the more things will get awry. If anything, untoward happens to the peace of Enugwu Agidi again or to any of her good people, the state and the law should know the direction to look. Law-abiding citizens have theright to live in peace and to be protected by the law. No one or group of persons should constitute themselves into a nuisance to the extent of overpowering a whole community and its constituted authorities.