By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA—AFTER months of exchanging allegations and blames between the people of Abagana in Njikoka local government area and Ukpo in Dunukofia local government over the land dispute between the two neighbouring communities, the Anambra State government has finally waded into the matter with the appointment of a panel of inquiry to look into and resolve the dispute.
The panel, which has Justice Chinyere Anigbogu (retd) and Mr. Nwabufo Nwankwo as secretary, will swing into action as soon as the necessary logistics are put in place.
From September 9, 2016 when a group of people invaded the police post situated between the two communities and destroyed five buildings under construction, burnt two vehicles belonging to the Nigeria Police and sent a security guard to the great beyond, the area had known no peace.
Several people arrested by the Police after the incident were later charged to court by the state police command and since then, petitions have been flying to various quarters from the two communities, whose indigenes maintain their innocence and have continued to lay claim to the land in dispute.
In a counter move, some people from Abagana sued the Inspector of Police, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, the Investigation Police Officer, IPO, in charge of matter, ACP Okocha, prominent indigene of Ukpo, Prince Arthur Eze, Traditional Ruler of Ukpo, Igwe Robert Eze and the President General of Ukpo, Mr. Ben Okoye, praying the court to prevail the respondents from further arrest in Abagana.
However, tension has continued to mount in the area such that the road linking the two communities has virtually been abandoned by the people for fear of being arrested in connection with the dispute. Worried by the development, acting President General of Abagana Welfare Union, Chief Ben Ugha, wrote the state Commissioner of Police, pleading that security operatives should take measures to avoid acts likely to cause more civil disturbances.
His letter reads: “The land dispute between Abagana and Ukpo has of recent been silently escalating for no just cause, other than greed and avarice. Wise men and women of both communities have been shouting themselves hoax for the path of caution to be toed, to no avail. This is because the two communities truly know their boundaries and have so intermarried that they have become kith and kin. But greed is blinding some individuals and they want to set the peaceful communities on fire.”
Going down memory lane, Ugha further said: “On the night of 8th September, 2016, some individuals came to Obeagu Orofia Village, through Ukpo and shot one Mr. Erneka Ozogbo on his leg. The bullet also injured his wife. The assailants escaped into Ukpo town.
On the morning 8th September, 2016, some Ukpo Vigilante men came to Ndiagu Orofia Abagana and ordered all the students of the National Open University of Nigeria located in the area, to vacate their houses as they wanted to carry out an operation, The students started parking.
“On the night of 9th September, 2016, there were series of shootings and blaring of siren around Ndiadu/Obeagu Orofia Abagana and since then, strange faces have been parading suspiciously along Nidiagu-0beagu Orofia Village in Abagana.
“In the evening of 10th September, 2016, some Police Officers marched through Oheagii/Ndiagu Village with arms and this made many families to run out of their houses to take refuge in other villages.”
Appeal against Judgment
South East Voice recalls that Abagana and Ukpo communities were living peacefully until sometime in 1995, -when one Ichie Austin Ezudu and others and on behalf of Isiewulu Akaezi Oranto Village, Ukpo sued late Chief Augustine Ezenwa and others for themselves and Abagana Town in Suit No: A/174/95, contesting the ownership of all their boundary land.
Judgment was given in favour of Ukpo community in the suit and Abagana community appealed against the Judgment in 2012. The appeal was slated for hearing for 2nd October, 2016 and before then, the mayhem took place at the land in dispute.
Also, the traditional rulers of both communities and their leaders met severally to peacefully resolve the land dispute, but this was not possible before the attack on the land two months ago took place.