By Peter Duru

Makurdi—The traditional ruler and District Head of Edikwu community in Apa Local Government Area, LGA, of Benue State, Chief Stephen Ochekwu, has been murdered in his sleep by unknown armed men.

The death of the royal father was confirmed in a statement, weekend, by the state Police Command in Makurdi, which stated that the royal father was shot at his residence where he had been living on self-imposed exile in Ugbokpo, the Apa LG headquarters.

According to the statement by the command’s Public Relations Officer, Catherine Anene, “on December 31, 2021 at about 12:45am information was received that Chief Stephen Ada Ochekwu of Ukpogo Edikwu village, Apa LGA of Benue State, but resident in Ugbokpo town and a Chief of Edikwu community who was suspended and recently reinstated by Benue state government over a chieftaincy crisis in his community was shot on his stomach in his house by unknown persons while asleep.

“The victim was rushed to a nearby hospital before being transferred to Otukpo town for further medical attention. He eventually died at the hospital as a result of the gunshot injury. Investigation in to the matter is in progress.”

Vanguard gathered that before his gruesome murder,  Ochekwu who since 2014 was on self-imposed exile and resided in Ugbokpo over a prolonged chieftaincy dispute in his community was recently reinstated to his position after being suspended from office by the state government in 2020 following the protracted crisis and killings in his domain.

The crisis, according to findings, which erupted in 1994 over the people of Edikwu’s preference for District Head had in 2014 escalated and claimed the lives of six people, including two personnel of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, who were murdered by a gang of militia.

Again in August of 2020 another bloody conflict erupted over the same disputed throne which also claimed the lives of 13 persons in the community.

Findings also indicated that the late beleaguered traditional ruler was arrested over the matter and a case preferred against him which was later dismissed for lack of diligent prosecution.

Besides, Edikwu District, which is made up of 13 communities and two council wards had in the last 27 years witnessed intermittent crisis over the disputed District Head stool.

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