…Petitions Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs
By Evelyn Usman
This is certainly a time to dread for members of the Whoba family of Umuode, Ihinna community in Ihitte Uboma Local Government Area of Imo state, following what they described as alleged threat to their lives and a murder attempt on one of their own, Chima Ezeoha Whoba, by policemen deplored to the Speaker of the Imo state House of Assembly, Benjamin Uwajumogu.
The family in a petition to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Igwe Igwuagwu, accused the Speaker of allegedly using the Police to intimidate, harass and brutalise their members and therefore called on relevant authorities to act urgently before the situation leads to loss of lives. Indeed the fear of being attacked by thugs stationed in the community or even killed has prompted members of the family to flee their homes.
At the moment, Chima Whoma, a member of the family is said to be in a critical condition at an undisclosed hospital, following a gun shot wound allegedly inflicted on him by the policemen.
Trouble, as gathered, started for the Whoba family on July 30, 2014, following the invasion of the community by armed policemen alleged to have been led by the Speaker.
The unprecedented invasion was said to have been prompted by the demolition of the gateway entrance into the community following on-going road construction, an action that was reportedly kicked against by members of the Whoba family , who explained that the gateway was built by their late father in 1996 as a historical and cultural research centre for the benefit of the community . They therefore, posited that for it to be demolished, their consent must be sought. While the family claimed to have sought for means of having a round table meeting with the construction company,with a view to demanding for compensation, it however, alleged in the petition signed by its lawyer, Mr Victor Ukutt, that the demolition of the gate was based on the instruction of the Speaker , whom Vanguard Metro, VM, learnt is also from the community.
The petition read in part: “ Instead of the Speaker, whom we understood is the owner of the construction company handling the road construction, to heed or negotiate with our clients on the modalities for the payment of compensation, the Speaker on July 30, 2014, brought his police details to beat, maim and shoot at our clients”.
After the demolition, Ukutt stated in the petition that members of the Whoba family lodged a complaint about their demand for compensation from the construction company at the Ihittee Uboma Police division, as well as contacted the speaker via SMS . But the Speaker was said to have shunned invitation by the police.
But the response the family claimed it got, according to the petition, was an alleged invasion. The petition said: “ The speaker mobilised his thugs… who invaded our clients residence… Members of our clients’ family fled into the bush to avoid being killed. But Chima Ezeoha Whoba was not so lucky as he was beaten and shot. At the moment, the speaker has stationed militia group in our clients village to kill and maim any member of our clients’ family that may come out to ask or demand compensation or discuss on the demolished entrance gate.
“The questions begging for answers now are: Why would a number three citizen of Imo State refuse to honour Police invitation? Why would a number three citizen of Imo State take law into his hands by using police to shoot and maim our clients for daring to demand their lawful right? Why would a number three citizen of Imo State resort to the use of militia group to deal with our clients?
“We would like to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the lives of our clients and members of their family are in danger, and should anything untoward happen to them, we shall look at no other place than the Speaker. We therefore urge the distinguished senator to call an inquiry into the unlawful use of policemen to maim , shoot and brutalise innocent citizens. It is also our demand that this matter be tabled before the Senate Committee on Public Petition and where infraction is established, an appropriate punishment should be meted out thereto.
“We demand that the speaker be arrested in order for him to produce those people he hired to come and shoot. We also demand that the people should be made to stand trial for the action of attempted murder. Furthermore, we would want government to disband the militia the Speaker is keeping in the community . That is what we want,” Ukutt said.
When VM contacted the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Benjamin Uwajumogu, on phone, he described the allegation as unfounded, false and a calculated attempt to tarnish his image. He stated that the land on which the gate was built does not belong to the family.
According to him: “During my campaign, that road was one of the roads I promised to construct because it leads to the new College of Education Technical which I also brought to the community.
When construction of the eight-kilometre expressway which passes through the house of the complainant began last year, work stopped when they got to the gate because the machine could not pass through. It took us eight months to bring the contractors back to work and the family was asked to bring down the gate but they refused. It took the contractors another two months of waiting , before I ordered that the gate be brought down in order for work to continue.
The gate in question is about 50 kilometres away from the complainant’s house and it was built in 1976. it has no economical value and everybody had been complaining about it because vehicles could not pass through. Besides, the gate links eight communities . So, will I because of one person’s interest subjugate the interest of others? I do not understand why anybody should be holding on to an ancient gate that is supposed to give way for modern development.
“Besides, the gate in question does not belong to the complaint’s father and it was not built on his father’s land but the community’s.
The claim that somebody was shot is false. Let them produce the person and show the world the bullet wound. What happened on that day was that one of their cousins attempted to climb the excavator while it was working . people of this community are rejoicing over the road because no government has ever worked on this road since the history of this state that a road of sort is being constructed”, Uwajumogu stated.