… As govt, police move to staveoff communal clashes
From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
Tension is mounting in Effium and Ezza-Effium, two Ebonyi State communities, following the murder of some residents of the areas. Some people in the two communities, Daily Sun gathered, have started fleeing to avoid bloodshed.
A particular spot called Ikpoki junction, otherwise known as Troublesome Junction in the heart of Nwafia, a major market in Effium community in Ohaukwu Local Government Area, has been deserted.
It was learnt that trouble started following the alleged murder of one Ndubuisi Nwali from Ezza by some people suspected to be from Effium. Tension rose when news of the murder of Ndubuisi, a father of one from Nwekendiegu, Effium, hit the community.
Daily Sun gathered that the two warring communities had for long been at each other’s jugular. While the Effium indigenes, believed to have migrated from Efiom in Cross River State, are laying claim to the town, the Ezza people insist that they are the real owners of the area. Incidents of armed robbery, murder, cultism and other crimes are said to be rampant in the areas.
Last August, gunmen suspected to be assassins killed 89-year-old Nwigwe Nwonu and his son at Inikiri-Umuezeoka Effium. Police said two suspects were arrested in connection with the murder. Cell phones allegedly belonging to one of the deceased were recovered from them. However, the matter took a different turn when stakeholders from Effium allegedly accused the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Effium Police Station of arresting their brothers during the New Yam Festival.
Daily Sun learnt that the suspects were later released. But the people of Ezza raised the alarm over the way the suspects were freed by the police without proper investigation, thus raising more tension. This happened barely few weeks after the state government finally resolved a similar crisis between Ezillo and Ezza-Ezillo in Ishielu Local Government Area of the state.
It was learnt that shortly after the death of Ndubuisi, some youths quickly mobilised for a reprisal. But the quick intervention of some stakeholders from both sides as well as state government officials reportedly calmed frayed nerves.
However, tension rose again when youths of Nwekendiagu, Ezza-Effium, gave the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government Area, Clement Odah, 24 hours to produce the suspects, who allegedly killed their son and ensure that all those who were fingered in the killing were brought to justice or face whatever action that could follow.
Again, the state government was said to have quickly intervened and called for urgent security meeting of all stakeholders from both Effium and Ezza to deliberate on ways to arrest the situation before it escalated to a communal clash.
Speaking during his visit to the warring communities, Governor David Umahi, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Bernard Odoh, described the killing of the deceased as barbaric and assured that the state government would do everything it could to restore peace to the areas.
The governor frowned upon conducts capable of dragging both communities into war, regretting that the state government spent a fortune in settling the Ezillo and Ezza-Ezilo crisis.
The governor’s representative first visited the traditional ruler of Effium community, Ezeogo Emmanuel Ekwueme, to commiserate with him on the unfortunate incident, which led to the death of one of his subjects and called on him to ensure that peace was maintained in the community.
He reminded the ruler that there would be no visible development amid crisis, adding that the state government would do all it could to ensure that those who perpetrated the dastardly act were apprehended and tried.
Ezeogo Ekwueme thanked the state government for its prompt intervention and disclosed that the major cause of the issues was who controlled the royalties from the forest reserve located in the area.
He took a swipe at the leadership of the council for constituting a lopsided committee made up of people from same side. He said that had been the cause of intermittent crisis in the community.
“I discovered that some people are not happy that one group has been benefiting from the royalty from the forest reserve and that a committee set up was a lopsided one in favour of Effium people,” he said.
Another indigene of Effium, Sunday Ejeh, alleged that the crisis was as a result of fear of reprisals from the people of Ezza over the murder of their son and maintained that people of the areas had been living in peace as one indivisible unit.
In their separate reactions, the General Chairman of Ezza-Effium, Mr. Titus Nworie, accused Mr. Odah of causing panic in the community by evacuating his family members to Abakaliki.
“I speak on behalf of Ezza people and I want to assure the state government that we will maintain the peace. But let it be on record that we have been at the receiving end.
“The people of Effium will come into your house and ask how much you bought the land on which your forefathers built their houses and offer you money to relinquish it. We consider this as embarrassing but we have been keeping quiet because we know that some unseen hands were using them.
“As it stands, the Ezza man no longer walks the streets free. Those boys who are mainly cultists rape our women and beat us up. Then recently, they ambushed a young man, attending a burial of his friend’s father and without any provocation, shot him dead and fled. We are calling on the state government to investigate who did this.”
Mr. Joseph Oke, from Umuezeokoha, bemoaned the situation in both communities, fearing that the murder of Nwigwe Nwonu and his son had escalated everything. He called on the police to revisit the matter and prosecute the two suspects earlier arrested. He said the action would pacify the people of the area, even as he persuaded them to believe that government was doing everything to punish those who committed the crime.
Youth leaders of both communities, Monday Nwankwo and Monday Enyim, lamented the presence of some hoodlums in the committees constituted and called on the state government to take decisive measures to arrest the situation before it escalated.
Meanwhile, the DPO in charge of Effium Police Division, Superintendent of Police, Ibrahim Imam, has confirmed that some people involved in the killing of Ndubuisi had been arrested.
He assured the people of Effium and Ezza-Effium of adequate security while maintaining that all the suspects involved in the incident would be prosecuted.
A man, identified as Sunday, who said he was with Ndubuisi when the deceased was killed, told the reporter that Ndubuisi and others were going for a burial when the assailants intercepted them and shot the deceased.
“When the boys intercepted us, one of them brought out a gun and shot Ndubuisi in the chest. When I raised the alarm, his colleague shot in the air and they fled the scene,” he narrated.
He alleged that the suspects, whom he identified as members of Forest Committee set up by the council chairman, intercepted them and inquired why the deceased harvested trees in the forest, a situation which he said led to an argument before the death of Ndubuisi.
“It was one guy known as Double, who said he identified Ndubuisi as one of the Ezza persons who used to cut down trees in the forest and said he would deal with us. Then another guy called Friday shot Ndubuisi in the chest. After that, he and his colleague fled when they noticed that people had started rushing to the scene,” Sunday said.
Wife of the deceased, Adaeze Nwali, who cuddled her two-year-old baby, said her husband left for the burial of a kinsman and was ambushed by the suspects at Ngamgbo-Ariom and killed. She disclosed that her late husband was never in the forest in Effium.
When the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mrs. Peace Ibekwe Abdallah, visited the area, she ordered the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government Area, Clement Odah, to produce members of the committee or face the consequences.
The police have assured that the seven suspects fingered in the murder would soon be prosecuted.
Many troubles of Soluyi- Gbagada community
•This is the only village in Lagos metropolis, residents lament
By Ola Kehinde-Balogun
Soluyi-Gbagada is a residential area in Lagos State. The place houses upscale and middle-class estates.
On a typical day, it is difficult for people to pull out of the vast area, which houses more than eight large residential estates. The situation is worse at the weekends. Some residents of the area said once they got home every Friday, they were better off remaining indoors all through the weekend to avoid being stuck for hours in the traffic, which is a common feature in the area. They said that on a busy day, a large number of the estimated 600,000 inhabitants of the area were often seen streaming through the lone access road that leads in and out of the community.
According to Daily Sun investigation, the only access road in the area is Soluyi Road, which links Ayodele Okeowo Street. It is home to a large number of worship centres. At the weekends, the road is a no-go-area because of the number of vehicles that are parked on it by worshippers and visitors alike.
Chris Williams, a resident of Soluyi Street, told the reporter: “Our only access road is locked down every Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday during the service hours and activities of many of the churches around.”
Indeed, the two-lane Soluyi Street could easily pass for a church avenue. For instance, the Lagos Province 13 of the Redeemed Christian Church of God is situated at Plot 1, Popoola Bamijoko Street, few steps away from Soluyi Road. Another major church on both sides of the road is Gospel Apostolic Church (GAC), also known as Baba Isabela church. A Catholic Church is equally located few strides away from the GAC.
Moving further down is Christ the Way, the Truth Evangelical Mission. Seated right at the entrance of the community and dominating a large part of the road is the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Gbagada, which hosts no fewer than 30,000 worshipers. A few other Pentecostal churches in the area also compete for space.
The presence of these worship centres compel the residents to always struggle through the access road, which often gets busy anytime two or more of the worship centres in the area are in session.
Some residents feared that the gridlock they had been encountering might be a child’s play when the new cathedral of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry is put to full use at the end of the year.
“Ever before the construction work commenced, anytime the church (DCLM) was having her programme in the old building, movement out of the estate was always hell. By the time that facility is commissioned and full service starts here, I can tell you that the nightmare would be worse, because we do not have link roads here,” Williams added.
Many residents said they had no worries with the churches, if only they could access their homes in good time. One of the residents, Mr. Samson Ebhoaye, tasked the government to ensure that proper planning of the area was done. He said: “Here, we are surrounded by canals. If government can erect link bridges, this place will be opened up to the outer Lagos.
“Mende in Maryland, just across the canal, is a few strides away from Soluyi, yet there is no road linking the two. If both areas are linked, the bridge would be a useful facility to the both Maryland and Ifako areas.”
The Baale of Soluyi II, High Chief Solomon Olamiju, said Soluyi was the only village in the heart of Lagos. He was expectant that with the developmental strides of the Akinwunmi Ambode administration, the area would witness better days just like Ogudu GRA and Maryland. “Our major problem now is the gridlock being experienced here as a result of the poor road network. But we can only appeal to our governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, and we hope that he will come to our aid soon,” he told the reporter.
The residents alleged that the authorities of one of the big churches in the community had at some point, promised to construct a proper bridge to provide an alternative route. The Soluyi Renewal Initiative, an association of stakeholders in the community, said the promise which was made sometime in 2012, was yet to be fulfilled. The association claimed that hope for the new bridge collapsed when the church authorities claimed that they could not get approval from the Lagos State government.
But in a follow-up letter by Soluyi Residents Initiative dated May 25, 2016, to the state Commissioner for Environment, the group raised the importance of opening up the area to other parts of the neighbourhood. The group noted: “Having these two deck-on-pile link bridges would provide easy access roads into our neighbouring communities: Mende-Maryland and Ifako. From a life-saving perspective, these link bridges will provide most direct access connection between Gbagada General Hospital complex and Ikeja LASUTH facility, completely devoid of the perennial traffic bottlenecks at Anthony Village and Ikorodu Road.”