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Tension is high now in Isi-Uzo local government area of Enugu State following last Sunday attack on Ikem community by armed Neke Community youths who destroyed hectares of palm tree belonging to Chief Paul Ugwuagbo of Umuaram-Ikem, on Sunday.

Ugwuagbo who conducted newsmen round the farm on Monday narrated that his labourers were attacked on Sunday, chased out from the farm, uprooted over 100 palm trees of Eight years old and claimed ownership of the land.

“This is a land that my farther owns Ikem Asokwa has cultivated from time immemorial. I am now 70 years old and the Enugu state boundary commission had resolved this land dispute, up there at Ugwuokwunenne. The two communities, the state and local governments, the Catholic and Anglican Bishops from Isi-Uzo including Bishop Olinya of Eha-Amufu, Bishop Agbo of Nsukka Diocese who is from Neke, all these people signed the document, yet some people from Neke said no and went to court.

“We have been in court getting to ten years and Neke that went to court cannot exercise patience but has been attacking Ikem since 2012. If you go up you will see houses they are building but our people have maintained peace to allow the court make pronouncement.

“We are therefore begging the state government, the commissioner of Police and other security agencies to wade into this matter because Neke has over stretched the patience of our youths. The community leaders in Neke should hold their boys. The leader of these rampaging boys is a former councillor from Akpani Neke, we know these boys and I am pleading for the intervention of all and sundry to avoid breakdown of Law and order,” Ugwuagbo pleaded.

In a previous petition he produced that was written to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and state Commissioner of police in 2019, the Ikem community said it was constrained to bring to the knowledge of the Governor that his efforts on security matters are being undermined by activities of Neke community who insist on breach of security in the local government through persistent invasion, abduction and forceful encroachment into Ikem community in a land dispute already settled by Enugu state Boundary Committee in 2012.

Part of the petition reads: “Despite resolution of the dispute and demarcation of boundary between the two communities by government, Neke disobeyed the government decision and instituted a legal action against the peace deal. The matter is still at Obollo High court in Suit No. OB/5/2012.
While the matter subsists at the court, it is expected that both parties should maintain status quo until the case is decided, but in the instead, since that 2012 Neke youths have continuously, most especially during farming seasons, encroached and attacked Ikem indigenes in their farms, beat up our women, chanted war songs, whereas we decided to restrain from violence and resisted retaliation.

INSTANCES OF ATTACK:
“On May 14 2018 Neke youths mobilized over 25 men and invaded a farm land belonging to Chief Paul Ugwuagbo, chanting war songs. They cleared and cultivated Ugwuagbo’s farm in front of Isi-Uzo Technical College. On May 30th 2018, the Neke youths returned in greater numbers and cultivated the rest of his farm. Security agencies in the local government were notified. On June 14 2019, six youths from Neke kidnapped 80 years old Elder Richard Ezhigune Ugwogbu (the oldest man of his Umunna, family linage) from Umuaram-Ikem and held his labourer hostage in his palm plantation. His release was negotiated by Ikem peacemakers.

“On June 17 2019, the same Neke youths attacked Igbogebe village, Ishioroto, in Ikem-Uno. The aggressors seized Ogbogirigiri farm land and the roads leading to the farm and erected beacons all around the large expanse of the land. The Ikem villagers once more toed the line of civilized engagement and petitioned the town union.

“On August 22 2019, the Neke youths returned with seven men to Chief Ugwuagbo’s farm and attacked him. He was ordered to vacate his farm, claiming it was Neke land. Once again the matter was reported to the security agencies and the Chairman of Isi-Uzo local government, Dr. Benjamin Edeoga summoned an emergency meeting where he asked leaders of both communities to hold their youths until the matter is dispensed with in the High court.

“A woman from Ishiolu, Umuram-Ikem, after harvesting cassava in her farm was forcefully made to surrender her harvest to Neke youths and the woman chased out of the farm that she cultivated. Your Excellency, the instances of Neke assault and provocation on Ikem are too numerous to mention.

PRAYER
“As law abiding citizens, we have restrained ourselves from retaliation but we don’t want our meekness to be misplaced as weakness. We therefore plead with you to use your good office to prevail on Neke people to retreat from the war songs they are chanting until court pronounces verdict on the matter. We suppose that Neke has confidence in the matter they instituted as applicants, since they lost confidence in State Boundary Committee (SBC) decision. They should therefore wait as Ikem is doing until judgment is pronounced.

“Accept our highest regard for your esteemed office, even as we await your action on our plea.”

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