By Emma Njoku
Youth leader of Eziowelle community, Idemili North Local Government, Anambra State, Ugochukwu Valentine Asikwo, has raised the alarm over alleged serial attempts to kill him by some security agents, including members of Ebubeagu and a certain land developer.
He alleged that he and some other youths and prominent indigenes of the community have been under serial attacks and indiscriminate arrests on trumped up charges over a communal land dispute.
He told Daily Sun: “Around 5am, on a Tuesday last month, I was sleeping in my parlour when I heard loud sounds from my gate. I got up and looked through the window and saw people jumping into my compound through the fence. They were over 40 in number, all dressed in dark clothes and masks, fully armed with pump action rifles.
“They broke the iron doors. Four of them who entered through the gate were carrying AK47, which suggested that they were government officials. Their four Hilux buses and a shuttle bus were parked in front of my gate. Those who carried pump action were operatives of Ebubeagu, and they surrounded the whole compound.
“They met one of my boys washing clothes early that morning and asked
him, ‹where is the owner of this house? Where is the shrine located?
He told them he didn›t understand what they were saying and they started beating him.
“They asked him to take them to all the rooms. He first took them to the building at the back because he didn›t want to take them to my apartment first. I was watching everything through my glass.
“I woke my wife up and told her not to make noise. I instructed her that should anyone ask after me, she should reply that I went to work and didn›t return. They eventually forced themselves into my apartment after they had destroyed the doors of all the tenants and dragged them out of their rooms, asking them, ‹who is Ugochukwu?›
“They also went upstairs, broke the iron door leading to my younger brother›s room and dragged him out of his apartment to where they had gathered all the tenants outside, downstairs.
“There was a young man I helped secure his release at Zone 13 Police Station, Ukpo. I met him inside the cell during one of the days I was dragged there on trumped up charges.
e»He came to my house for the very first time to thank me. He came late, so I asked him to sleep over till the next day. They dragged him out and beat the living daylight out of the young man.
“They kept torturing him to reveal where I was, shouting that there was an allegation that we killed people and deal on hard drugs and gun running. They also accused us of terrorising the Igwe (traditional ruler) and his people.
“The young man said he knew nothing about all the allegations and that it was his first time visiting Eziowelle. They turned the entire house upside down in search of me, but they couldn›t see me because I hid somewhere. They were in my house from 5am till 7am.
“Eventually they collected my car key, which was on the television stand and my handsets, entered my private room, took two of my power banks and my necklace. They took six phones belonging to youths whose parents seized and reported for being stubborn. They also collected the phone of my visitor and took every cash they found in the house.
“When they threatened to waste my wife and children, my brother raised his head from where they laid him down and said they were innocent.
They used the butt of the gun to hit his head and threatened to kill him if he uttered another word.
“After they finished and left with my visitor. I came out from hiding and discovered that they left with my car and the balance of the N1.5 million I withdrew the previous day which was inside the car, as well as my ATM card, everything.
“Two days later, my visitor who was abducted and taken away came back and narrated what happened to him. He said they took him to their cell and continued to torture him. The young man sustained severe injuries from the beatings he received from them. He said they blindfolded him until they threw him inside a cell and removed the blind.
“He saw so many helpless innocent people inside the cell. He said they continued to torture him, tied his hands backward for four hours till his hands were numb from lack of blood circulation.
“They insisted that he must disclose where I was. He said he saw another prominent indigene of the town, abducted the same day, inside the cell. When they wanted to take them out of that place, they blindfolded them again till they found themselves in Awka.
“That was the next day after the ugly incident. They took them from
Ogidi to the DSS office in Awka, where they met their boss. When their boss saw them, he was angry with his boys because of how they tortured them when it was not a criminal case, but mere allegation from the village still under investigation.
“They were released the next day after their main boss came back. He said their abductors began to beg the second man who was also abducted from the community the same day not to pursue the case further. And that they would pay for damages for his dog they killed, his son they shot and his wife they stripped naked.
Genesis of our travails
“Four years ago, people in the community came together and said they wanted an election for the position of chairman of the youths. Our traditional ruler, Igwe Michael Okonkwo Etusi, appointed one Emeka as the youth chairman without conducting an election. Unfortunately, majority of the indigenes rejected the Igwe›s choice because they had no access to him. They began to suffer legal privileges.
“We rose in unison and denounced the oppression the youths were going through in the hands of the man appointed by the Igwe. We decided to hold a new election, in line with the government›s guidelines, which was acknowledged. I was elected the youth chairman among other officials. We took the names of the executives to Awka and they gave us an acknowledgment copy.
“After that, we embarked on consolidation and extensive developmental projects warmly welcomed by our community. We also resolved not to confront the other people appointed by the Igwe, but to work harmoniously towards the development of our community.
“We built four furnished houses for widows who didn›t have children, paid school fees for indigent children from nursery to secondary levels and over 100 of them were given scholarships. We decided to take care of those who were sick and needed urgent medical care.
“We began to take them to hospitals for both operations and other things. Those widows whose lands were snatched by the high and mighty, we went in there and began to retrieve their lands and gave back to them. Based on these projects, the whole community embraced us. We deliberated and resolved all the cases pending for years. That was where the war started.
“In 2020, they wrote a petition against me to DSS in Ogidi. I was invited and defended the petition. Their commander after investigating the case, asked me to go because I had no case. They petitioned us to Abuja and I went back home free. Later, they came through state CID, Awka, we went there to finish the case successfully.
“They came again two weeks ago from Zone 13, Ukpo. It was the same action that they played. I have video evidence. They are fronting for one Anthony, who claims to be an estate developer. They invited him to come and convert the lands in our community and sell them.
“Our women complained that they were being stopped from farming in their lands. We intervened, only for them to petition police alleging that we attacked and brutalised them. We were invited by the police and were exonerated, too.
“After that, they started arresting our youths and taking them to Zone 13. They said one of the suspects indicted me. They came from Zone 13 with operatives of Ebubeagu. More than 30 fully armed men invaded my house and were firing gunshots.
“They took me to Zone 13 and as we were approaching, they told the operatives of Ebubeagu to go back, while the policemen among them took me to the station. Fortunately, when I was brought before the AIG, he was able to fault their claims and rebuked them seriously. He instructed the IPOs handling the issue to allow us to go and come back in two days.
“Unfortunately, they invaded my house with the same deadly team from Ebubeagu with the intention of killing me, but God saved me. I am totally convinced that both the AIG and head of DSS did not know what
they were using Ebubeagu team to do illegally. I appeal to them to investigate these cases and stop the unwarranted attempts on my life.” The traditional ruler of Eziowelle, Igwe Michael Okonkwo Etusi, reacted: «Eziowelle is peaceful and everybody is going about his or her lawful business. If there is a breach of peace, there are appropriate places anyone who feels aggrieved should go and lodge a report.
“The so-called youth leader who is going about, nobody elected or appointed him as youth leader. He›s just acting on his own. The land dispute in question has been going on four many years. It concerns the entire community, not just the Igwe. You can come to Eziowelle to talk to other stakeholders»
“The land developer, Anthony Dibor, who was alleged to have conspired with the traditional ruler to mastermind the attacks on the youth leader, also dismissed the claims: “On the issue of land, it was a long disputed issue between Abagana and Eziowelle, which was settled. “The Eziowelle people invited me to develop theirs and I made sure our agreement passed through all legal processes. The Igwe, his cabinet and the Igwe-in-Council, including elders, approved my engagement. There is no illegality in what I am doing for the community and they appreciate it.”
When contacted, Assistant Inspector-General of Police in-charge of Zone 13, Umar Musa Muri, said: «We are investigating and looking forward to getting more information.
“We want to get to the root of the matter. If we find the information to be true, we will arrest whoever is involved. If it is not true, we charge the informant for giving the police false information. We are on top of the case.”