…Community accuses police of sabotage
…It’s not true – police
By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA- THE protracted land dispute between Abba community in Njikoka Local Government Area and its neighbours, Ukpo and Ukwulu communities in Dunukofia Local Government Area, all in Anambra State has taken a new dimension with Abba community accusing the police of being biased in the matter.
Abba community alleged that the police have embarked on indiscriminate arrests and hounding of prominent Abba indigenes into various police detention camps and even prisons, under trump-up charges.
But the Anambra State Police Command has denied the allegations, saying there was no iota of truth in it and insisted the police in the state are doing their professional job of protecting lives and properties.
The Command’s spokesman, SP Haruna Mohammed, denied that the police have taken sides with any of the parties, but claimed rather that they are working tirelessly to avoid breach of peace in the area. He said that “the best thing for them to do is to go to court and sort themselves out, rather than causing a breach of peace”.
Abba community in a petition to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP in-charge of Police Public Complaint Response Unit, Abuja, dated October 15, 2019, by their lawyer, Ejike Efobi Esq., urged the ACP to respond urgently in this matter.
Entitled, “Abuse of Police Powers by the Trio of Anambra State Police Commissioner, John Abang; the Officer In-charge of SARS, Patrick Agbazue; the Investigating Police Officer, IPO, Evristus Chike and his colleagues of the SARS, Awkuzu, Anambra state”, they reminded the ACP that the institution of the Nigerian Police Force is greater than any individual or group and warned its image should be protected.
“We are surprised that the police are declaring prominent people of Abba wanted in connection with armed robbery, including the traditional ruler, Igwe Leonard Nwankwo Eze; a prominent transporter, Chief Benneth Anaekwe; President-General of Abba Town Union who has just retired as a Director of Electrical Department in the Anambra State Ministry of Public Utilities; Chief Pius Nweke, an industrial giant and Chief Executive Officer of Best Aluminum Limited; the Secretary-General of Abba Town Union and every other son and daughter of Abba town who they can remember his or her name”, the petition said.
They accused Ukpo people of framing prominent Abba community members as armed robbers in a petition to the SARS just to circumvent a subsisting order of court. They accused the police of “unleashing police powers against Abba people in subversion of the rule of law with the sole aim of making Abba people relent in the defense of their ancestral property”.
Abba, in the petition further said, “Since this development, several Abba persons including Edwin Onwumelu, Sunday Okoye, Charles Okogba, Chief Christian Onyebumuo, Abuchi Onyebumuo and Chukwuma Nwikwu have been taken into SARS custody and detained.
“The most tragic of the detentions is that of Chief Christian Onyebumuo, an elderly person, who went to inquire about Abuchi Onyebumuo but was himself arrested and detained for daring to come to SARS at Awkuzu and ask for an Abba community person who was in their custody.
“Our clients are of the firm view that the whole exercise of the mass arrest of their people is just for the purpose of the abuse of police powers for the advancement of their opponents’ cause in a civil matter which is land dispute.
“Before this development, members of Abba community have been charged to court in charge No. MCU/54C/2019, MCU/65C/2019, MCU/68C/2019 and MCU/78C/2019, all on account of the same land dispute.
“It is on record that on May 20, this year, a popular Ukpo born billionaire convened a meeting of the parties at Geneva Hotel, Awka where he offered Abba community N100 million and demanded that the disputed land be shared into three parts: one for Abba, the other for Ukwulu and the third for himself and warned that if Abba people rejected the offer and refused to share the disputed land, he would unleash police on them.
“Another salient point is that the Community Secondary school, Abba was commissioned by the Government in 1980 but in 1985, five years after its establishment, Ukpo joined Ukwulu to claim ownership of the land where the school is situated and that explained why they went and demolished the school fence in the name of land dispute.
“We are still wondering why the police are still disrupting trading/business and commercial activities at Oye Abba market by stationing a multitude of policemen inside the market and preventing people from coming near the market in gross violation of the court order restraining the police from sealing the market or harassing, intimidating, arresting and dispersing the plaintiffs/applicants and members of the public from lawfully trading at the Oye market”, the community lamented.
The order was granted by Justice J. K. Omotosho of the Federal high court, Port Harcourt in August when he served as a vacation Judge.
“In the circumstance and in accordance with our client’s instruction, we pray you to intervene in the matter by calling to order the police officers who are involved in bringing the reputation of the force to the mud in this matter and recommending possible sanctions against them”, the community pleaded.
But Ukpo community, in their own petition written through their legal lawyer, C. C. Ozumba, claimed that the Supreme Court had on February 15, 2019, delivered a judgment in their favour, saying that it was on the strength of that judgment that they assumed possession of the place as the rightful owners of the land in dispute.