Ette Border War: Villagers flee, as group invades community

on   /   in Crime Guard 12:18 am   /   Comments

BY CHINENYEH OZOR

Ette community in Igbo Eze North Local Government  Area of Enugu State is currently a shadow of its  old self following the violent dimension the agitation by a section of Igalla speaking people of the community to be merged with Kogi State, has assumed.

The community which used to be a beehive of activities, particularly on its market days,where  traders from the three major  tribes ; Igbo, Igalla and Idoma  and others from neighboring villages bring their farm produce to sell and at the same time exchange banters, is no longer at ease, as most of the Igbo speaking tribe have abandoned their homes for neighboring villages, for fear of being maimed by the rampaging group.

The rampaging group known as Pro -Kogi youths, have allegedly unleashed mayhem on innocent citizens, particularly on the Igbo, Igalla and idoma speaking community , destroying property worth several million of naira.

Precisely on August 13, 2012, the group’s target was the home of a  member of the Enugu State House of Assembly,  Hon. Tony Ogidi,  who represents Igbo Eze North II Constituency, where they  destroyed property worth hundreds of thousands.

The youths , extended their brutality to Ogidi’s filling station and supermarket. They were also alleged to have taken over the collection of   market tolls and further stopped  contractors handling MCC-Ette  road which was awarded by the Enugu state government. Following this worrisome development, public schools and  health centres were forcefully closed down since March this  year.

One of the vandalised cars

The clamour by  the youths to be merged with Kogi  State as gathered, dates back to 1980, when Chief Jim Nwobodo was   governor of  the old Anambra State. But it was reportedly  rejected by the Igbo  and Idoma speaking people of the community.

When Crime Guard visited the community, the expressions of the faces of the helpless villagers depicted that of fear. Reports said  that the agitation had defiled all political and domestic solutions. It was also gathared that the case was charged  to the Supreme Court for adjudication but  was thrown out on February 8, 2007 for lack of jurisdiction.

The court in its ruling read by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria  (CJN), Justice Aloysius Kastina-Alu stated that it was the duty of the  National Boundary Commission to delineate boundary between Enugu and  Kofgi states, thereby  prompting the Commission to visit the disputed areas  about two years ago.

Members of the panel who handled the matter  at the Supreme Court included Justice Umaru Kalgo, Justice Mahmood  Mohammed, Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, Justice Francis Talba and Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed.  It was  however not ascertained whether  the boundary commission had made the  demarcation.

Vandalised filling station

Signs of impending trouble reared its ugly head  during the  last National Population Census (NPC) and Independent Electoral  Commission (INEC) exercise when some of the  youths  reportedly prevented officials of the  National Population Census (NPC) and Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) from carrying out their statutory duty in the area throughout the two exercises.

Police accused
During the visit,the worrisome development was  attributed to the inability of the state Police Command  to curb the youths excesses. For instance, two police stations exist  in Ette. Surprisingly,  one of the stations is said to belong to Enugu State while Kogi State lays claim to the other.  But it was observed that while that  of the Kogi State had policemen working there, those posted to the acclaimed Enugu station have long been withdrawn over an unknown reason

Causes of the crisis:
If the findings of  Crime Guard is anything to go by, then, solution to the crisis-torn community may not be far fetched. First,  investigation revealed that the hallmark of  the Pro-Kogi youths’ demand was the request for the immidiate release of one of them who had been  in detention for long.

The detained youth whose identity could not be immediately ascertained was alleged to have been arrested over an undisclosed criminal offenses,with accusing fingers  pointed to Hon. Tony Ogidi for allegedly having  hand in the continued detention of their member.

Another possible reason  was  discovered to be the  magnanimity of Enugu state  government car gift “Hyundai Elentra” to some  recognized traditional  rulers in the state. But some disgruntled traditional rulers  who did not benefit from the state government gesture, were alleged to  be  fueling the crisis. About 15 of  the  traditional rulers(names withheld) were fingered as sponsors of the Pro-Kogi group.

When contacted on the on-going crisis in his constituency, Hon. Tony Ogidi  expressed worry over the development and  lamented that it had stalled the on -going  Ogugu road project awarded by  the Enugu State Government, following the invasion of the place by the Pro-Kogi group.

“They vandalised the contractors propriety and chased them out. Consequently, Primary and secondary schools in the  area were forcefully closed, together with Igbo Eze North health  centres and customary court, while government revenue officers at Ette  were chased out with the youths taking over collection of market tolls”

Continuing, he decried : “I do not travel  to my village any longer. My parents  are old and are being threatened almost on daily basis. Where else  will they run to? My property have been vandalized the second time in one year. Ette community where I hail from has an unbalanced security situation.

“Because of this, I traveled to Abuja with the governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime to meet with the governor of Kogi State over the border issue  affecting the two states. We resolved at Abuja that a committee be set  up to ensure that social institutions closed down since March this year be re-opened. The committee  is also expected to prepare ground for the two  governors to visit Ette and address the people to give peace a chance,  pending the outcome of the report of national boundary commission.

Police IG, MD Abubakar

“I was made a member of the committee with other members comprising  the advisers to the two governors on security matters, chairman of the boarder  local government areas, Igbo Eze North LGA and Olamaboro, the two  state security services (SSS) and policemen from  both states.

The  committee had its inaugural meeting in Abuja and another meeting was  held in Lokoja, while the third meeting was held in Enugu. At the  Enugu meeting useful discussions were deliberated upon and we even  issued a communique and passed resolutions. We resolved that each of  the two local governments, Igbo Eze North and Olamaboro Councils   should go and talk with the people so that peace will reign in the  area, pending  the boundary adjustment commission report.

We then scheduled another meeting to hold at Ette , my community on  August 13, 2012 by 10 am,where we resolved  that  governors of Enugu and  Kogi states should as a matter of urgency and necessity intimate  commissioners of police in the two states to provide adequate security  in Ette. Immediately we rose from the meeting, the traditional ruler of  Efoda was attacked and his car vandalized, We called the chairman of  Olamboro LGA, who arrived at the scene and offered to repair the  vandalized car.

About 1.30 am on August 14, 2012 that is the next day  after the meeting, I received a phone call from home that my filling  station had been damaged again. After causing much damage to the  filling station and my supermarket at the station,the hoodlums,  pro-Kogi youths, proceeded to my house and wreaked serious damage to  my property. They vandalized virtually every house hold item in my  compound, smashed all the alumaco glasses, windows and doors, power  generators, water plastics tanks and others.

They had before then burnt my Mercedes Benz which was parked  at my house together with some items. They are  now threatening to come back to set it ablaze. I am waiting for that evil  day. Prominent citizens of Ette are behind all the atrocious acts in  the community, they are known. Definitely one day the law will take  its cause and catch up with them. As I speak with you, the police have  not arrested anybody in connection with the incident.

No Police Arrest:
“ We have an unbalance security situation. Enugu state House of  Assembly committee on security had met with the Commissioner of Police  of the state thrice to post policemen to Ette but up  till now, nothing has happened to that effect, no attention has so far been given.

In fact, I am surprised that as I speak with you,  no arrest has been made. It is like Ette is a lawless community. No single arrest has been made since the incident.  I reported the incident on August 14, 2012, at the divisional police  station, Enugu-Ezike police station, Ogrute. The Divisional Police  Officer (DPO) informed me that he had gone to Ette and saw the  damages.

“I also learnt that the Area Commander, Nsukka Police command  visited the scene to see the damages himself but yet, no arrest has been made. My constituency Igbo Eze-North II is made up of 10 wards, three in Ette my community and seven in Igbo Eze-North II. I am in harmony with  the rest of my constituency and the wards. But  my own people have no  respect for me because they want to go to Kogi”

Asked what he knew about  the detention of a member of the group, Ogidi bluntly stated that he was not responsible for the arrest.

Also contacted, was the  Chairman Igbo Eze-North local government council, Mr. Bonaveture Onuh. He told Crime Guard  that the Ette crisis had created  problems for the counciland had also detracts developmental projects in the community. “We have executed a very good number of developmentalprojects in Ette, yet few people of the community are agitating for  merger with Kogi states”.

Mr. Onuh told Crime Guard that the matter would have taken a terrible  dimension  but for  the intervention  of governor Sullivan Chime. “ But for the governor, the  border war would have  broken out between my people and Ette. The provocation is too much,  but our governor has continued to caution us to avoid any reaction  that could lead to blood shed”, expressing  optimism that the Ette  issue would soon be resolved .

    Print       Email