By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
The police in Anambra State have begun investigations into the mayhem that took place at the sleepy community of Ogwuikpele in Ogbaru lLGA of Anambra State recently.
Though details were still hazy, it was gathered that following a misunderstanding in the area between the traditional ruler and some of his subjects, some youths in the town unleashed mayhem on the community leading toÂ the burning down of the palace and personal house of the traditional ruler, Igwe V.B.C Onyema. Also torched was the house belonging to the Igweâ€™s sister.
Altogether, five houses were razed down by the angry mob who were said to be allegedly protesting the killing of five members of the community by thugs who invaded the community on May 6 this year.
When Crime Guard visited the area, views differed on the reasons behind the incident. While some members of the community said the youths responded to an alleged earlier invasion of the community by some armed youths, allegedly sponsored by the Igwe and his son who is a member of House of Representatives, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, others said those who destroyed the Igweâ€™s palace were enemies of the community.
According to some of them who claim to be leaders of the community, the razing of Igweâ€™s houses and others were a sort of reprisals for an alleged killing of the five members of the community.Â Â Three people in the community namely, Odua Ogum Obidinna, Damian Azuka and Fidelis Imegwu said at Ogwuikpele:Â â€œOn the night of May 5, 2010, some strange faces believed to be thugs entered the community in a boat.
In the morning of May 6, 2010, the thugs armed with guns and other dangerous weapons, literarily sized the community, boasting that they were totally in charge and threatened to deal with any person who opposed or challenged them.
â€œInitially, people ran into their houses, but after some time, the youths in the town challenged them and villagers who went into hiding eventually came out and gathered around the town and there was confrontation. In the ensuing battle, four people were killed, while several other persons including women, were wounded by gunshots. It was this development that made the villagers, especially the youths, to react and burn down five houses, including Igwe Onyemaâ€™s palace.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the Anambra State Police command, Mr. EmekaÂ Chukwuemeka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) who confirmed the incident said that police are after the perpetrators of the Ogwuikpele killings and arson. No arrests have however been made.
Although, he said that the Police were yet to make any breakthrough, the command, he said, has spread its dragnet to track_down the hoodlums. In the meantime, he said, the command has dispatched its men to the town to ensure that there is no further crisis in the area.
Kenneth Onyema, one of the Igweâ€™s sons denied that his father and brother were behind the killings of May 6, 2010. He also denied the alleged high_handedness, oppressive leadership and insensitivity of his father which some members of the community gave as reasons for the crisis in Ogwuikpele.
He said that he could not recall if there was anything at stake in the community that would have warranted the crisis, but said even if there was, there should be a civilized way of handling matters and not for people to take laws into their hands.
The Igweâ€™s sibling said that those perpetrating the Ogwuikpele communal clash were those who took part in the Niger Delta militancy and bunkering due to the townâ€™s nearness to Rivers and Delta States, adding that as a result of the amnesty programme of the Federal Government, the people have become redundant as there was no more cheap money coming in, hence the attempt to hijack the communityâ€™s sources of revenue namely, the market, Motor Park among others.
However, Mr. Alphonsus Akaka, who said he is the President general of Ogwuikpele, traced the problem to about some eight years ago when Igwe Onyema allegedly wrote people that they owed him about N400, 000.Â â€œ Following the misunderstanding in the area, the community, including some titled men, passed a vote on no confidence on the Monarch.
They were also said that to have written to Anambra State Government to withdraw Igwe Onyemaâ€™s recognition as the Monarch of Ogwuikpele. They alleged that Chukwuka, representing Ogbaru Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives and a member of House Committee on Police Affairs has been using his position to influence police to take sides in the matter, saying that at a time, their people including elderly men were detained by the Police. They urged the IG of Police to immediately commence investigation into this matter with a view to arresting the thugs that terrorized , maimedÂ and killed their people.
Igwe Onyema who has been away from his domain for about three months for medical check_up dismissed the claim by some people in his community. He lamented the razing down of his houses, that of his sister and someÂ who theyÂ believed to be loyal to him; saying that the houses especially his palace which was vandalized and looted before being burnt down showed pre _meditated motive on the part of the perpetrators.
The traditional ruler said that he was crowned the Igwe 32 years ago and wondered why the people were just realizing that he was bad. He said that he had held several important positions in Anambra Traditional Rulers Council including deputy chairman and presently patron, adding that if he was so bad, he could not have been appointed into these positions.