By Emma Amaize and Festus Ahon – Okpanam
Hundreds of residents of Okpanam community, Oshimili North Local Government Area, Delta State, have escaped from the community, following the worsening insecurity, which culminated in the killing of Chairman and Secretary of the town’s Vigilante Group, Emeka Nwaedozie and Festus Monye, last Thursday, by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
The deceased persons and another person battling for life at a private hospital were reportedly pursuing the kidnappers, who abducted a woman and her daughter when they were gunned down. Both mother and daughter were released weekend.
Commissioner of Police, Delta State, Mr. Hafiz Inuwa, met, last Friday, with the Ugoani (traditional ruler) of Okpanam, HRM (Dr.) Mbanefo Ogbolu and Obuzor (traditional ruler) of neighbouring Ibusa, Prof Louis Nwaoboshi, to find solution to kidnapping and other criminal challenges in the two towns that share boundaries with Asaba, the state capital.
Vanguard was at the office of Commissioner Inuwa when the royal fathers met him, but was not privy to their discussions.
Commissioner Inuwa, however, later confirmed to our reporters that he met with the monarchs to discuss insecurity in the two communities.
He complained that both the leaders and citizens in the affected communities were not providing the police with information on criminals in their midst and activities to enable his men to track them down.
We gathered that the monarchs poured their hearts to the state Police boss on the insecurity in their communities and called for police presence in the affected areas.
HRM Ogbolu, who spoke to Vanguard at his palace in Okpanam, Saturday, said he had scheduled a mass meeting of Diokpa of all quarters of the kingdom, red-cap chiefs, clergymen, all Okpanam indigenes, police, vigilante group, anti-cult volunteer group, and all stakeholders on Tuesday to place curse on criminals and proponents of destruction in Okpanam and environs.
The letter read in part: “Suffice this as sufficient notice to you good-selves addressed above that the Ugoani of Okpanam Kingdom in liaison with Ugoani-in-Council has in fact scheduled a mass meeting with stakeholders at 6.00 am on Tuesday, May 12 (Olie) at Ishu Ani-Okpanam by Afor Market ostensibly to place a curse on criminal elements and proponents of destruction reigning supreme in the kingdom, which backdrop has resulted to the ambush and dastardly act of killing of the chairman, Okpanam vigilante group, Mr. Emeka Nwaedozie and one of his lieutenants, Mr. Monye Festus on 6th of May, 2020.:
There was uneasy calm in the community when Vanguard visited the town, as residents in affected areas were packing their luggage, including Fulani residents, who fear retaliatory attacks from angry Ibusa youths.
A legal practitioner, Onwuegbuna Chiemelu, who led distressed residents to the Ugoni of Okpanam, weekend, informed the monarch that over 70 families had deserted Nnemiyi Estate, Okpanam, adding: “We are filled with fear, our legs are shaking and trembling, we are scattered, people are scared, our quarters is like a graveyard, our families and children have ran away.”
He said those carrying out the kidnapping and dastardly acts, including the killing of the vigilante officials were Fulani people from the evidence of victims and other eyewitnesses.
He said: “The problem that has now grown to a monster started some months ago in the Ministry of Justice Estate, Okpanam, when they kidnapped one person and shot another, but the kidnapped person was later released.”
He disclosed that between 7.00 pm-8.00 pm, they struck again at the Nnemiyi estate, abducting some persons, but two of the victims escaped with wounds.
Chiemelu told the monarch: “Another one in Nnemiyi estate was when they came and asked the wife of the owner the house they invaded to prepare food for them, after she prepared the rice, they took the man away with the rice.”
“Not up to three weeks, these same people attacked a landlord, series of gunshots were fired, it was like a war scene just a few minutes after 6.00 p,m. The man they attacked his house was inside, but refused to open the door, but somebody working for him was hit by a stray bullet and died,” he said.
On the latest incident that led to the death of Emeka Nwaedozie, the vigilante chair, he said: “A distress call was put to him and his group and he rushed to the scene with some of his members, only to be murdered with one of his members. One escaped and is at the hospital now receiving treatment.”
“Testimonies from people point to Fulani herdsmen, the descriptions match Fulani and the killing of Emeka is the epic of what the residents of Okpanam have been passing through, that is why we are here.”
His words: “The situation has overwhelmed us to the point that we are confused. We have come here as your children, we are bleeding, we are crying, we are saying that Fulani should be dislodged from the bush where they are residing and any of them who wants to live in Ibusa should come into the community and rent house like every other person.”
“They should not have a camp there anymore, it is a security threat to us, my wife and children have run away, I do not sleep well, as I am speaking, I have a heavy headache right now,” he added.
A victim, Joseph Esegbe, said the people, who kidnapped and tied him with rope at their den were Fulani people.
HRM Ogbolu said the police asked the royal fathers for clues to the perpetrators of kidnappings in their areas, adding, “I have written several petitions since 2019 drawing the attention of the Commissioner of Police and Secretary to the State Government of the threats to security in Okpanam.”
“I told the police that they have done nothing and that if they took action on my petitions since 2019, the things happening today will not be happening.”
The monarch maintained that there was internal conspiracy in the killing of Emeka, adding that his killers not only butchered, but spent time there to ensure that he was dead.
He, however, assured the worried residents that he had contacted both the Commissioner of Police and Commander of 63 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Asaba.
According to him, the Army was ready to said 30 soldiers to the area to provide security permanently if accommodation could be provided immediately, while the Police were ready to build a police station in the area if land is made available.
He confirmed that criminal elements in the community were conniving with outsiders to commit heinous crimes in the area, saying, “One day, their cups will be full, they will not escape justice.”
The monarch scheduled another meeting with the embattled residents on Sunday to know if they could provide immediate accommodation in their area for a joint letter to the Commander, 63 Brigade, Nigeria Army, Asaba, to deploy soldiers in the area.