•Ihite residents allege brutality, demand compensation
•No, they were hiding police killers – CP
Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
Fear and agony have pervaded the serene community of Ihite in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State, following the storming of town by the police on Saturday.
The attack by policemen on the community left many villagers, including a pregnant woman, injured. The incident saw visible attacks on over 40 houses and business premises as well as the arrest of 28 indigenes of the community.
Seventeen persons have already been released on the orders of the Commissioner of Police, Garba Umar, following the intervention of some top state government officials from the community. But 11 of the victims, including the husband of the pregnant woman, Mrs. Chigozie Anyaoha, who was allegedly beaten and wounded by the policemen, were still in detention at the Special Anti-Robbery Squard (SARS) headquarters in Awkuzu.
Speaking to Daily Sun on the attack, president-general of Ihite Development Union, Nwoye Boniface Chimezie, said the community was invaded for no just cause; he wondered why the police raided his community on account of a crime committed in another community.
He said Ihite would demand compensation from government for the massive destruction of their homes and business premises by the police. He stated that the town also demands a written apology from the police.
Nwoye said: “Our community, Ihite, has law-abiding people. The reason for this invasion, we do not know. So, having invaded us for what we don’t know or a sin we never committed, our stand is that our people must be compensated. Most of the houses that were destroyed were built when their owners were young and active, making money. Now their houses have been destroyed, some cannot afford a bag of cement to rebuild them, and what will they do under this situation? So, government should come in and compensate the people.
“Secondly, the police must apologise in writing to the good people of Ihite for invading them and insulting the tradition of the community by invading the Igwe’s palace.
“We have an atmosphere of fear. Many of the people taken away, their families are mourning. They have not seen their husbands, sons or brothers that were taken away, so everybody is in fear. Even now, when people hear the sound of a moving vehicle, they run away into the bush thinking that the police have come again. So we are restless here. That is why we are calling on government and our lawmakers, both state and federal, to come and save us.”
Asked what could have necessitated the attack, he said: “It’s a big surprise to us, but, on inquiry, we discovered that the police had a problem with Umunze youths, that they visited one of the brothels in Umunze and wanted to take some people away and the youths resisted them and maybe they fought. A police vehicle, we learnt, was burnt. And they visited the sin committed by another community on people who were running their businesses in a serene atmosphere, very peaceful people of Ihite, who have never had any quarrel with government or the police. They visited the sin of our neighbours on us.”
Also, traditional ruler of Ihite community, Igwe (Sir) Benson Obiakor Ofu, said his community had never had any problem with government or the police. He described the actions of policemen that attacked his community and even his palace as an insult.
Igwe Ofu, who is one of the longest reigning monarchs in the state, having ruled for 41 years, said: “Even the former DPOs who were here named Ihite as GRA, and I asked, ‘what do you mean by GRA?’ They said, Government Reserved Area, where peace reigns. So, I have never had any complaints from the police that Ihite people were doing something against them or resisting anything.
“I want government to send people here to see what has happened here, what damage the police did here, and to properly investigate it to see if we were fairly treated by the police, if it is proper for the police to visit the problem they have with another community on us. If it is right for the police to so insult the monarch of Ihite this way. Desecrating the traditional stool of the people is something that cannot be condoned. Also, the monumental destruction of the people’s property and homes must be addressed.”
Reacting to the comments of Ihite community, the commissioner of police, Umar, told Daily Sun that the community was not stating the true position of what happened, saying that the trouble actually started from the community.
He said: “The people are not giving you the true picture. The first day the people from Zone 9, Umuahia, came, they came to arrest some people in Ihite. They made arrest of two suspects but the people prevented them from taking them. They came back the next day; that was when they went to Umunze and made arrests and they were prevented. When they were on their way back, there is a common boundary between Umunze and Ihite, they ran down to Ihite. That was where the policemen were beaten mercilessly.
“While they were going back, there was a fracas between the youths of Umunze and the policemen, which resulted in the burning and continued beating of the policemen.
“When the police re-inforced, all of them were running from Umunze into Ihite and Ihite people were putting them into their various houses. We have the record. It was covered with video. All the operation was covered. So, they ran, and that was when they made those arrests. They entered their houses.
“They killed one of our policemen, burnt our vehicle and they were running and, instead of you to assist the police, you are the ones keeping them. After preventing the first arrest, that was exactly what happened. So, when I came, all of them were making statements. Some of those we arrested, who were from Umunze, confirmed that they ran into Ihite and were arrested in Ihite. They were not arrested in Umunze and they were part of the group that attacked the policemen. So, that is the story. And you know they have a common boundary. You can’t say which one is Ihite and which is Umunze.”