Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia
Tension is building up in Olokiri community, Lokpanta, Abia State, where a 36-year-old man was shot dead by soldiers allegedly invited by people from another nearby community in Ebonyi State, following a dispute over the ownership of a granite quarry in the Abia community.
The deceased victim, Ikedichukwu Christian Egwu, a father of five children, whose wife is currently nursing a baby delivered two weeks ago, was shot at close range by the soldiers, who were in joint operation with a team of mobile policemen from Ebonyi State.
The tragic incident happened on last Sunday, June 16, 2019 at the community square when Egwu and other youths were engaged in a discussion.
The volley of bullets tore through his abdomen and exited from his back. Following the shooting, the victim was rushed to Ebenezer Clinic and Maternity, where he was given first aid, but eventually died by 3.30am on Monday, the next day. The police in report stated that the massive laceration of his vital abdominal organs led to his death. His corpse was later deposited at Our Lords Mortuary, Awgu, located along Enugu-Port-Harcourt Express Road.
Giving an insight to how the trouble that claimed the life of Egwu started, a joint petition by Uru Improvement Union and Uru Autonomous Community, Lokpanta, written on their behalf by the law firm of Emeka Anosike & Associate to the member representing Umunneochi Local Government Area at the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon Bar Okey Igwe, the people of Olokiri stated that granite-rich land located in Lokpanta, Umuchieze, Umunneochi Local Government Area, belongs to them.
They stated that their kinsman, Egwu, was shot dead by soldier who stormed the site with in company of their neighbours from Amaeze community in Ebonyi State and officials of Yiter Quarry, who they alleged came to sell off heaps of granite chippings valued at over N500 million.
Youths of Olokiri were said to have implored the soldiers to stop collaborating with the company and the Amaeze people in selling the chippings.
“We explained to them that the Abia State Deputy Governor, Ude Oko Chukwu, had directed that operations at the site should stop pending the determination of the matter, during his visit to the site in 2018. Since that time, our youths had obeyed the Deputy Governor’s directive by staying away, but were surprised to see people from the Ebonyi community coming into the site to sell the chippings,” a member of the Lokpanta community said.
Sunday Sun further gathered that the recent order of the Inspector General of Police, who deployed armed mobile policemen from Mopol Force 32, Ebonyi State re-activated the zeal of Amaeze people and reinvigorated the dispute between the two communities over the ownership of the area. This development prompted the Ebonyi State government to allegedly reinforce the strength of the soldiers who came in support of Amaeze people and Yiter Quarry.
The explanation given to the soldiers by the youths was said to have infuriated them and they stormed the place where the youths gathered and opened fire on them, and in the process killed Egwu and inflicted injuries on many others.
In ensuing stampede, the youths ran for their dear lives, leaving behind their motorcycles, bags that contained cash, phones and other personal belongings, which the security men took away.
Expressing anguish over the incident, the community said: “We are at loss over the barbaric disposition of this set of security men, mainly the army, who are deployed to protect lives and property, but turned around to kill the citizens they have been deployed to protect. They have gone to the extent of harassing innocent citizens around the area and their actions have resulted to Uru people abandoning their homes for the safety of their lives.”
They appealed to the authorities concerned to intervene with a view to ordering a full-scale investigation into the activities of the security men at the site and to stop further killing of their citizens with impunity.
Meanwhile, Secretary General of Uru Improvement Union, Mr Chukwudi Ikwu, decried that sales of granite chippings at the site, which led to the killing of Egwu was still going on. He appealed to the authorities to intervene to forestall the situation from degenerating into a clan war.