From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Many are the troubles plaguing residents of Enugwu-Agidi community in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State. Since last year, when kidnappers relocated to the Amawbia – Enugwu-Agidi – Nawgu – Ukwulu – Igbariam Road, residents of the town have known no peace.
The road, which passed through the heart of the town, has become a regular operational route for kidnappers, thieves and other criminal elements. And given that scores of persons have fallen victims, the people now literally sleep with two eyes wide open.
It was on that road that a female lecturer with Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU), Igbariam, Prof. Silvia Okonkwo, was kidnapped.
Okonkwo was abducted on October 28, 2020 along Enugwu-Agidi/Nawgu axis of the long, lonely stretch but was reportedly released the following day, October 29 at about 7:12pm.
Another victim on the same road was a Nigerian businessman based in Cameroon. The victim, Mr. Clement Uzoghelu, hails from Nawgu, a neighbouring community in Dunukofia Local Government Area.
He was said to be returning from a private visit when he was abducted around 6pm on the fateful day. That incident came barely 18 days after kidnappers abducted a man, his wife and child along the same road. The family of three was kidnapped on December 23, 2020.
It was gathered that the criminals usually positioned themselves at a dilapidated portion of the road where their potential victims were usually forced to slow down.
But while the Enugwu-Agidi residents are yet to find a solution to the security problems in their area, what appears to be a much bigger trouble has descended on their laps.
At the moment, Enugwu-Agidi brothers have literally drawn battle lines for themselves. And if something is not done quickly, the ugly situation might degenerate.
Traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Mike Okekeuche, summarised the situation in the town as being totally bad. He said fear, anxiety and high level of insecurity have enveloped the town.
Igwe Okekeuche told SATURDAY SUN that one of his subjects, Izuchukwu Okafor alias Okeke Ocheocha, for no justifiable reasons, decided to make the community ungovernable for him and the town union leadership.
The monarch accused him of selling lands belonging to the community and pocketing the proceeds. He also alleged that Okafor disobeys rules and regulations guiding the community especially on land sales.
Igwe Okekeuche alleged that Okeke Onyeocha mobilises some youths from within and outside the community to attack anybody that opposes his tyranny.
He alleged that so far, Okeke Onyeocha had sold about 2,000 plots of land belonging to the community without rendering accounts to the community.
He also alleged that Okeke Onyeocha crowned himself the king of the town, adding that anyone that fails to recognise him as such would be beaten.
But also speaking with SATURDAY SUN, Okeke Ocheocha described all the allegations against him as lies. He described himself as the Igwe of Ezinato, a man of peace who remains under the authority of Igwe Okekeuche. He said he was only fighting for justice and fairness in the community.
Igwe Okekeuche told SATURDAY SUN that the trouble with the community started sometime in 2019 when Okeke Onyeocha ventured into land business, noting that Onyeocha was selling other people’s lands and also defied every measure to checkmate him and others like him.
The monarch alleged that on February 15 this year, Izuchukwu mobilised youths who started attacking anyone opposed to his activities. In his words, Izuchukwu’s boys attacked him and threw stones at his residence for attempting to stop their boss. He said the boys also attempted to pull down his gate on the fateful day.
“We came up with a process that must be followed by anybody who wants to sell his land in the community. Anybody that wants to sell land should first of all obtain clearance from the family, kindred, village, and town union before you can sell your land. The idea was to ensure that nobody sells anybody’s lands.
“But these people refused to follow any due process. They continued the sale of lands. We tried letting them know that people were complaining that they were selling their lands but they didn’t listen to us.
“As if that was not enough, this Izuchukwu Okafor started parading himself as the traditional ruler of the community. He wears traditional ruler’s attire and some people hail him.
“He keeps mobilising hooligans both from within the community and outside; intimidating people and selling off their lands. And when anyone talks, they beat him up.
“We have reported to the police and every other place but nothing has happened. They have continued their dangerous activities. Even my security person was beaten twice.
“When the new president-general assumed office, he decided to reorganise the community’s taskforce to help the vigilantes. But this man and his boys won’t let him. They say if you are with the real Igwe, you are in trouble. They used cutlasses and other dangerous weapons on people.
“About 27 people sustained cutlass injuries. Even when the PG came in with some security men, they beat him mercilessly in the presence of the security people.
“They injured him, tore his clothes and cajoled him. He was rushed to the Regina Caeli Hospital in Awka.
“Enugwu-Agidi has been in crisis for the past four weeks now. They said that once they set their eyes on me, they will kill me. They said that they will burn my palace. If not that some group of boys are guarding my palace, they would have burnt it down,” the monarch alleged.
Mr Ndubuisi Obijiofo Obijiofo is the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee (CTC) of the town union appointed by the state government to pilot the affairs of the town until a substantive president-general would be elected. While corroborating the monarch’s account, he alleged that Izuchukwu’s boys also beat him up even in the presence of soldiers brought to restore order in the town. He also alleged that the boys took the sum of N450, 000 from him.
He accused Okeke Onyeocha of making himself the chairman of Ezinato Quarters in the community before crowning himself the traditional ruler.
The Chief Welfare Officer of the CTC, Mr Ernest Nebechi, also alleged that armed thugs invaded his house in the midnight of February 18 at about 1:30am, dragged him out and beat him black and blue with machetes.
“They broke glasses. And some new blocks numbering about 300 that were just moulded were destroyed by them. The damages I incurred were over N300,000”, he narrated.
Secretary of Etiti Village Home Branch and Chief Provost of the CTC, Mr Paul Okeke, said he was equally beaten by the angry youths.
He added: “I boarded a bike and was on my way towards Amawbia Junction, I don’t know how they got information that I was trying to run. About 50 of them pursued me. They caught up with me and wounded me. They left me when I became unconscious. Maybe they thought I had died. I regained consciousness at Dr Anumba’s Hospital. They took the N15,000 in my pocket and stole my two phones, my ATM cards and everything I had on me.”
But the man at the centre of the allegations, Izuchukwu Okafor alias Okeke Ocheocha, denied all accusations levelled against him. He said he was not an impostor, noting that his people crowned him the Igwe of Ezinato. But he said even at that, he remains under the town’s monarch, Igwe Okekeuche.
His words: “We had a caretaker committee headed by a man called Ndubuisi Obijiofo. After our election last December, one man called Ogazi, Chidi Okoye, won the election
“But they said that they won’t allow the man to rule. Right now, their village, Etiti, is occupying about eight posts in Enugwu-Agidi while the rest of the villages have two.
“So, after a meeting, we suggested that the positions in the town should be shared among all the villages in Enugwu-Agidi so that there will be peace.
“We reasoned that it was not right for one village to hold the position of traditional ruler, president-general, head of Ulo n’Abo, head of Ndi Okokpa (elders’ council), youth president, women’s leader, head of Ome na-Ana, and others. So, after the election, Obijiofo refused to hand over power. He quickly went to the government and they extended the tenure of his caretaker committee.
“I have no issues with Obijiofo. It’s those who participated in the election that are having issues with him.
“But what led to a little skirmish was that there was a man called MM Network. He came to me and asked me to buy a motorcycle for him. He is like our town crier. We donated money and bought the bicycle. But Obijiofo sent the taskforce of his village, not the community’s taskforce, after the MM Network was having drinks at a bar. They fought him and took the machine from him. Everybody witnessed it. When we heard what happened, we said no, that if we allow this kind of thing to start, before you know it, it would degenerate. So, the youths rallied themselves and demanded that the machine should be released.
“But instead of releasing the machine, they took it to the traditional ruler’s palace, that is, Igwe Okekeuche, and kept it there.
“Abagana DPO was invited. When he came and told them to release the machine to him, they wanted to fight him. But while that was ongoing, their other group went and started attacking the other people, collecting their motorcycles.
“When the whole thing started to escalate, they themselves now called the DPO and handed the machines over to him. But the disaffection continued. However, the DPO later called the owners of the machines to come and collect them.
“That was the problem. They started giving people bad names. They tagged me a land grabber. They tagged the elected PG a land grabber. They tagged all of us land grabbers.
“I have been saying it for a long time, more than five years now; anybody claiming that I sold his land should come out and present evidence. I think the problem we have is that some people are envious of others.
“The community’s land was sold with the approval of all the villages that own it. The chairmen of the five villages involved all signed the documents. They also participated in the meeting where the decision to sell the land was taken.
“All the villages got their share of the money. Some used theirs to build village halls. The only people that have not asked questions about their own share of the money were Anaofia people. They’re busy shouting that we are land grabbers.
“Iruokpala Etiti, Irunnebo and Achalla villages used theirs to build halls; Iruoma village used theirs to buy a transformer and also drilled a borehole; others used theirs the way they wanted.
“It is only Anaofia people that have not asked about their share of the money and also don’t want to know. The money is there with them anyway. Obijiofo is from Anaofia; Agu Ji Egbe is also from Anaofia. All of them are of Etiti.
“The monarch is from Etiti, Obijiofo is also Etiti, Agu Ji Egbe, Etiti, Women’s leader Etiti, Chairman of Ulo n’Abo, Etiti. They are all in one community. And we told them that we don’t want it like that.
“We have 10 villages in Enugwu-Agidi and only one seized nine positions while the rest have one. Do you think other people will be happy?”
Asked about the allegation that he crowned himself the king of the community, he said: “It is not true. The position I occupy today, whoever that occupies it is called Igwe ndi Ezinato. He rules over the three villages that make up that quarter.
“Their brother was even the last person that occupied that position before me. He was addressed as Igwe. Ezinato is made up of Iruoma, Irunnebo and Etiti villages. But since the Ezinato kingship started, it is people from their side, Etiti, that have been occupying that position. This is the first time another village is occupying that position.
“Their brothers that occupied that position in the past were all addressed as Igwe. Nobody harassed them with the police or army. Onyechi was there. Igwe One Nigeria was there; Papa doctor. Igwe Nkwoalo was the last Igwe and he was addressed as such.
“Is it because it is me? Is it because I am not from their village that they are fighting me? I am from Irunnebo. They had a meeting in Abuja and decided that they will kill me. I am waiting for them in the village to come and kill me.
“I was on my own in Onitsha and Etiti people brought me back and crowned me Igwe Ezinato. I am a successful businessman in Onitsha and they came and asked me to come back and take up the position.
“They said that their village has ruled for too long; let it rotate to other villages. They, the Etiti people, crowned me the king of Ezinato Quarters. And it is only a few persons from the same Etiti that are fighting me.”
He said he had no hand in the crisis engulfing the town, noting that youths of the community who were displeased with what Igwe Okekeuche and the CTC chairman, Obijiofo, were doing were the ones defending the town against highhandedness and bad leadership.
Meanwhile, as the two sides continue to hurl allegations at each other, ordinary residents of the town continue to live in fear and anxiety. Appeals have been made to the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano to help restore order in the community.