By Vincent Ujumadu
THE sleepy town of Igbariam in Anambra East local government area of Anambra State has become a ghost community as youths of the area have run to neighbouring villages for fear of mass arrests by security operatives, who invaded the area following land dispute.
No fewer than 16 persons, including an 84 year –old man, are still being detained in the federal capital, Abuja following arrests by people suspected to be members of police special squad. Over seven houses were torched by suspected hoodlums allegedly aided by some security operatives and among the houses torched was that of a permanent secretary in Anambra State, Dr. Edwin Emenike.
A visit to the community showed that only elderly women walk freely and only few volunteered information about what was happening in the area. Mrs. Agnes Atomba, 80, whose son’s house was among those destroyed, said the hoodlums, after shattering the glass windows in her house, collected N200000 sent by her son for her upkeep.
She said: “I was sleeping at night and suddenly I heard some noise in the compound. They were shouting and asking everybody in the house to come out. They came into my room and dragged me out and searched the entire house.
“When I asked why they stormed my compound, they said they were looking for my son, Lambert and I told them he was not at home. My son, who they said they were looking for, lives in Lagos and has not come home for a long time,.”
Another woman, Mrs. Catherine Ogini said in addition to destroying her house, the youths collected N30000 belonging to her church and her women group in the community. She also claimed that they collected a plasma television from her house and threatened to deal with her if she screamed.
Mr. Nnalue Iloegbune, whose house was also destroyed, called for government intervention in the matter, adding that the entire community was living in danger. Going down memory lane, Iloegbune, who also ran away for fear of being arrested, said: “The land in question was part of the Igbariam Farm Settlement which our community donated to government during the Michael Okpra administration of the old Eastern Nigeria. After the civil war, 360.085 hectares of the land, which was part of the farm settlement, was given back to Igbariam community. The community decided to share it among the seven villages and to keep one share for capital project.
“We have been making use of the land, but in 2014, our president -general, Mr. Ikechukwu Orizu said we should keep part of it for him. When we objected and called for the survey of the entire land for proper demarcation, our traditional ruler, Igwe Nneli Kelly refused and threatened to banish Ubaru village, which was in the forefront of the demand. “
Although the villagers claimed that the hoodlums destroying people’s houses were aided by security operatives, the Police public relations officer in Anambra State, Mr. Mohammed Haruna, appears not to be aware of the situation as he said he was yet to be briefed on the matter.