By Chidi Nkwopara
To say that Ohaji axis of the Ohaji/Egbema local government area of Imo State, has periodically been in news and for very bad reasons, is stating the obvious. From Awarra, Assa, Obile, Mgbuishii, Obitti, Umuapu and a host of other communities, the story has been that of killing, maiming, armed robbery, raping, looting and burning of houses.
Human life appears to be meaningless and worthless in these areas and from the look of things, anybody or group can suddenly rake up an issue that would ultimately snowball into a life-threatening crisis.
The lists of these gory tales are endless, as they are debilitating. Indeed, strange and bizarre things are happening in Ohaji/Egbema. Not too long ago, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr. Anthony Obinna, played host to some aggrieved women from Mgbuishii, a sleepy rural community in the local government which is a border town between Imo and Rivers States. Their sordid story sounded like tales from fantasy land but real.
The middle-aged mothers complained bitterly that they had been under siege for many years. Apart from what they described as “palpable government neglect of their community,” they equally cried out over the criminal activities of their own sons and daughters! The leader of the women, who addressed the Archbishop (name withheld) bared her mind to Archbishop Obinna. “We are raped and molested by our own children! You cannot come to Mgbuishii and return home safely because of the level of crime in the community, he said. Umuapu, another community in Ohaji, has not known peace for some time, following the alleged gruesome murder of one Joseph Ihueze, who was himself accused of poisoning another villager, Mr. Robert Ihueze.
The Police naturally waded into the issue and invited the traditional ruler of the community, Eze Boniface U. Ihueze. Having waited in vain for his eventual return to his palace, scores of angry youths recently barricaded the ever busy Owerri-Port Harcourt dual carriage way at Umuapu, to register their annoyance.
Speaking to newsmen at the scene of the protest, one of the community’s youth leaders, Evangelist Ethelbert Ajoku, said they were protesting the arrest and detention of their innocent royal father.
The Chairman of the Eze’s Cabinet, Chief Silas Amadi, and a member of Umuapu Elders’ Forum, Elder Solomon Chukwukere, however described the killing of Ihueze as “a mob action” and called for the release of their traditional ruler.
“We hear that the Eze went to Owerri and from there to Abuja. It appears that his return is now difficult. This is why the elders joined in the current protest,” the elders said. Meanwhile, two rival cult groups, Deewell and Deegbam, have equally enacted their war of supremacy in the Awarra/Assa axis of the same Ohaji, as the Imo State Police Command confirmed that 10 people died in the fresh crisis. Among the dead included a deaf and dumb man who was killed onhis farm.
The Command’s Public Relations Officer, DSP Andrew Enwerem, who confirmed the number of casualties in a telephone interview, also said that two suspects have been nabbed for questioning over the incident.
“The police have arrested two persons in connection with the ugly incident, while the bodies of the victims have been deposited in a hospital morgue, preparatory for post mortem examination,” the PPRO said. Giving an insight to what happened, Enwerem said that a gang of hoodlums, who were dressed in army uniform attacked the community, killing and maiming innocent people.
“The Police are aware that deadly cult groups have been ravaging parts of Ohaji for some time now. In this case, the report at our disposal has it that a gang of hoodlums, probably cultists, who were dressed in army uniform, stormed the village and started shooting at anything and anybody on their way. Like I told you earlier, 10 people are confirmed dead in this particular incident”, the PPRO said, adding that the command had despatched policemen to the area, to maintain peace.
“This was a clear case of people emerging from the bush and attacking innocent people and later disappearing. The command is working on all leads and we will not rest until we get to the root of the incident, as well as nab the perpetrators of the devilish act,” Enwerem promised.
He however appealed to well-meaning individuals from the affected communities to avail security with any useful information that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the act.
Apparently irked by the gory tale, some concerned citizens operating under the umbrella union of Ohaji Political Elite League, OPEL, have constituted an ad-hoc committee to critically look into the incessant crises bedevilling their communities, as well as enunciate ways of resolving them permanently.
This was the major resolution taken at an emergency meeting held in the country home of the member representing the constituency in the state House of Assembly, Emma Orieh.
The group was particularly irked by the incessant inter and intra-communal crises, leading to displacement of people from their homes, murder, looting and destruction of family houses in Awarra, Assa, Obile, Obitti and Umuapu communi-ties in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State.
The committee members were given only two weeks to submit their findings and recommendations to the body, which will eventually move same to the state government for study and possible implementation.
Addressing the participants earlier, the leader of the group, Dr Goddy Obodo, gave his words that OPEL would cooperate with government and all the security agencies operating in the state to bring sanity and a lasting solution to the periodic mayhem in their communities.
Speaking also, Mr. Orie asked the committee to do a thorough job, promising that he would make the report available to the legislature for appropriate action.
Reacting to the periodic orgy of violence in his Easter message, Archbishop Obinna, decried what he called “inhuman invasion of other lands, unjust wars of conquest, genocide, colonial and local enslavement of peoples.”
Obinna also regretted that “enough heart-breaking news is now what bombards us every day in our newspapers, radio and television and on the internet with a real war of opinions in the social media.”
The bishop further said that it now seemed “that the powerfully violent and brutal criminal are the true owners of the world, which he noted was “blinded or overwhelmed with so much evil, brutality, sin and shame that it is difficult to see God and Jesus in our world.”