By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA—The protracted leadership crisis rocking the mineral rich Eluama Umuchieze autonomous community in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State appears to have subsided, following a peace pact brokered by various security agencies in the area.
Among the security agencies that played active role in the peace process, according to the community leaders, included the Nigerian Army, the Police, the Department of State Services, DSS, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the court of law, just as the state ministry of local government and chieftaincy matters and Umunneochi local government council also contributed towards the peace process.
At the centre of the crisis were the traditional ruler of the community, Eze Moses Okwale and his younger brother, Dr. Borke Okwale working with Mr. Albert Izuegbu-led former executive of Eluama Development Union, EDU and others loyal to them on one side, while the opposing camp was led by Pastor Chukwudi Okoli, teaming up with those who identified themselves as concerned citizens of Eluama who claimed to have the support of about 90 percent of the entire populace.
Specifically, the Chukwudi Okoli-led faction had accused the Okwale-led faction of allegedly diverting a whooping sum of N15 million and other revenues accruable to the community from Memochris Nigeria Limited, a quarrying company based in the area, as rent for a five-year land lease into their private pockets and toll gates proceeds.
At a stage, the Okoli-led faction wrote petitions to the police, EFCC and other security agencies and even went to the court asking them to compel the Okwale-led faction to release their funds and allow a fresh election of the town union executive to be conducted because according to them, the tenure of Albert Izuegbu-led EDU executive who were working in alliance with the Okwale royal family had since elapsed.
The crisis lingered for a long period until they were advised by the law enforcement agencies to conduct a fresh election as the only solution to the crisis which both parties, including their lawyers embraced and fixed Saturday, July 23 as a date for the election.
Consequently, the court also granted them a leave for out-of-court settlement to go and conduct the election, after which they would report back to the court.
The electioneering exercise which was conducted amidst tight security and was properly supervised by the eagle eyes of all the above-mentioned security agencies, including the soldiers, the police and DSS from various formations, was equally observed by officials from Umunneochi Local Government Council and others from Abia State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters.
At the end of the exercise which was adjudged to be transparent, credible, free and fair by the government officials, the Returning Officer, Joseph Maduka, assisted by Jude Ubah and moderated by Hon. Samuel Nweke, the traditional Prime Minister of the community, declared Pastor Chukwudi Okoli winner of the post of President-General of EDU with 970 votes, as against the 97 votes scored by his rival, Chukwudi Udeh.
The Returning Officers also declared Mr. Chisom Ahieke winner of the EDU youth wing chairmanship position, just as Mrs. Rebecca Offor emerged winner of the newly elected President of the EDU women wing.