…Let accusers prove allegation – HRM Ogbolu
…’Criminals give land to the police’
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
SINCE Delta State Commissioner of Police, CP, Hafiz Inuwa, sensationally, revealed to Vanguard that some monarchs in the state were collecting money from herdsmen and giving them sanctuaries to build camps in the state, traditional rulers from Delta North (Anioma), where the practice is seemingly rampant, have been under fire.
One of the monarchs fingered by some youth of his community, even before Inuwa’s bombshell, is the Ugoani of Okpanam Kingdom, Oshimili North local government area, HRM Dr. Mbanefo Ogbolu.
Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers, under the chairmanship of the Obi of Owa Kingdom, HM Emmanuel Efeizomor II, invited Inuwa to shed light on his allegation and other issues.
Okpanam Kingdom has been one of the theatres of battle by kidnappers who shot dead the Chairman of the community’s vigilante and his deputy, Messrs Emeka Nwaedozie and Festus Monye, on May 6, while chasing them after they had abducted a woman and her daughter.
‘Let accusers prove their allegation’
The monarch, who recently led his chiefs, subjects and others to lay curse on the killers of Emeka and Monye and perpetrators of criminal activities in the kingdom, played host to Sunday Vanguard in his palace recently.
He stated unequivocally that he did not give any land to herdsmen, but admitted that a former vigilante chair, who had vehemently denied the charge, could have given them a portion of land between Okpanam and Ibusa.
His words: “I never gave them (herdsmen) land. Anybody who accuses me of giving land to herdsmen in Okpanam, let him prove it.”
‘Criminals allocate land to police officers’
According to him, there were criminal elements in the community colluding with dangerous herdsmen and also want to overthrow the elders of the community.
The monarch said they were working in cahoots with some police officers who, he said, they had allocated plots of land to.
Ogbolu said: “However, at the same time, I must be careful in the method they (herdsmen) have to be treated. I am too straightforward to act in a manner inimical to the interest of my people.
“That is my nature. I am a completely detribalized person. If the Hausa and Fulani live here with us and respect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will be the last person to ask for their eviction.
“I met the Commissioner of Police weeks ago and I told him that police have not been helpful to us, some of them, criminals, allocate land to them, that is the truth; if they say it is lie, let us look at their private bank accounts and let them disclose how they came about such fantabulous wealth and state- of- the art buildings they own.
“For me, the general feeling and things happening across Nigeria and Delta State, Okpanam cannot be isolated from it.
“We noticed that recently kidnappers have brought their notorious activities to Okpanam Kingdom.
“Prior to this state of things by kidnappers, we have asked ourselves as leaders, how the usual people (herdsmen) they accuse came to Okpanam.
“We have been living with the Fulani and Hausa in Okpanam for quite a while and we did not have problem with them.
“There is a meeting we always call here (palace). All ethnic nationalities domiciled in Okpanam, they come. Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Ndokwa, Igbo from the South-East and all of them agreed that Okpanam is our home and we must work assiduously to make it a safe place for us to do business and live in.
“I equally remember when Issele-Azagba Mixed Secondary School, Issele-Azagba was attacked by these people, some of them (herdsmen) penetrated Okpanam and we brought the Fulani people living with us here, some of them were even born in Okpanam, to do identification parade and they told us that the ones that came in were the very dangerous ones and they should be chased away by youths of community’s vigilante and anti-cult groups.
“Sometime last year, a group of Hausa infiltrated Okpanam and gave themselves abode. When we queried how they came in there, one of the Special Advisers to the Governor came down to this place, begging that we should give them time to move.
“And I told them that it would be foolish on our part to allow them domicile there.
At the end of the day, some of our lawyers signed an agreement to the effect that they would be in that place for six months to enable them find another place that will accommodate them.
“The one along Okpanam/Ibusa Junction came there. I suspect the former Okpanam vigilante Chairman, who is denying that they came through him and that he had no knowledge about it. All efforts to remove them from there have proved abortive.
“With things happening now, we have to look for a way to get them out, but I must confess that in getting them out of that place, we must be careful because I was born in the North.
“With my background, I co-habited with the people from diverse backgrounds without problem, but what has transformed them to monsters today still marvels me.
“It is something we have to sit at a round table, the Federal Government must be involved to look at what has happened between the 1980s and now that has turned herdsmen to terrorists and it is not a matter you handle with kid gloves.
“If you take a look at the war in Libya, the original master plan, which sees cattle move across Nigeria, if we have encroached on their route, we examine it and find solution.
“The seeming non-committal attitude of the Presidency to this menace is not good for Nigeria.
“I must be very frank with you, the mad quest for acquisition of land cannot be divorced from what is happening.
“I want to tell you with every sense of responsibility that, for the past two years, I have been complaining about the importation of hirelings into Okpanam by young men, who want to displace their fathers in the administration of land.
“They go to all extent to get control of the land; what is happening cannot be divorced from these gangsters and government too.
“When we point to somebody as a criminal, regardless of his party loyalty, the matter should be treated on merit.
“Let me tell you, hirelings were brought into this town, they were rounded up, charged before a court, taken to Ogwashi -Uku Correctional Centre awaiting trial.
“All of a sudden, a matter in court for justice to be dispensed, they were brought to my palace by people who said I should find a place in my heart to accommodate them, that they are my children.
“And I made a statement on that day, that with what they had done, they may have escaped the judgment of man, but the judgment of our ancestors and God will come upon them and I stand by that statement.
“They cannot exonerate themselves from complicity from the things happening in this town today’
He added: “In a letter dated June 19, 2019, addressed to the Secretary to the State Government, I brought to government attention early enough the disdainful security breaches occurring in Obodogwugwu village of Okpanam Kingdom.
“The truth is that some youth, with the active connivance of some shameless middle class men, have, in a manner reminiscent of a military coup, sidelined the elders, forcefully broke into the community’s hall and engaged in infamous act of sale of community land to unsuspecting members of the public whilst stationing suspected members of outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPoB, on their farmland to intimidate indigenes, who do not buy into their nefarious activities and members of the public who ventured there in search of livelihood”.
The monarch identified the kingpin who had been acting as the go-between the hoodlums operating in Obodogwugwu community of Okpanam and men and officers of the police, particularly at the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja to kill petitions and investigation of crimes being committed in Obodogwugwu farmlands.
“My major concern presently is that the area in question shares a common boundary with the seat of governance within the state capital territory, Asaba, and the incendiary effect of all criminal activities will snowball into the seat of government with its attendant security risk, which collateral damage to human and material resources shall be untold, with a consequential effect of gulping a whopping chunk of scarce state resources to restore sanity,” he wrote.
In another letter, dated June 13, 2019, to the Commissioner of Police, the royal father, obviously, irritated by hirelings terrorizing indigenes and others who ventured into Obodogwugwu farmlands, said: “I have it on impeccable authority that your predecessor in office invited the perpetrators of this insecurity to your command to broker a truce, but, to the consternation of Okpanam community, the persons laying siege on the aforesaid farmlands walked out of the meeting, whilst the elders waited for their return to no avail with no consequences for shunning dialogue initiated by constituted authority as the Nigeria Police Force.
“As a green horn in the incubation and blossoming of crisis, I wish to hint you, though you know quite well as much as I do, that the booty the elements laying siege to Obodogwugwu farmlands are raking into their kitty shall eventually result to major crisis due to disparity in the sharing of loots, which shall lead to a major crack in their rank and file, thereby dovetailing in a full-blown native war that shall waste a lot of lives and material resources, which situation shall gulp enormous state resources to restore sanity”.