*Natives seek FG’s intervention
*POLICE: Crisis being investigated
By Nnamdi Ojiego
If stories emanating from Oruku, an agrarian community in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, are anything to go by, the village currently faces existential threat following the resurgence of communal crisis.
In the last three weeks, no fewer than 50 houses have been razed while many residents have been displaced.
The crisis, which is traceable to age-long moves for a part of the area to become an autonomous community, has made another set of people in the area to have taken up arms, resulting in the destruction of property worth millions of naira.
The remote factor leading to the controversy, Vanguard learned, is the pressure allegedly being mounted by the Umo Ode clan for another part of the community to be separated from the entire town.
The matter, which predates the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was said to have resulted in the creation of an autonomous community from the community. The action was aimed at ensuring that peace returned to the troubled area. But reverse became the case.
Ever since, Oruku community, Vanguard learned, has been in one form of crisis or the other, with the latest being fallout of the death of one Emma Mba from gunshot injury sustained in the hand of the Police. The Police were said to have stormed the village to rearrest the deceased.
Until his death, Mba was regarded as the traditional ruler of the community, though some members of the community didn’t recognise him as such. The state government, however, recognised him as the traditional ruler of Oruku.
Following his death on December 26, 2020, it was gathered that the community has not known peace as youths believed to be sympathetic to him have been burning houses and intimidating perceived opponents.
As of press time, many people have deserted the community, making the indigenes call on federal government to urgently intervene in the matter.
Explaining these to Vanguard on behalf of Oruku community, a legal practitioner, Mrs. Amaka Nwigwe, said it became imperative to seek federal intervention since efforts of the state government have not given way to peace.
She said members of a vigilante organisation founded by the late Mba are the ones currently terrorizing villagers unrestrained. As of press time, Nwigwe said the number of burnt houses had risen from 12 to 50, calling for quick intervention by the federal government.
According to her, “the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the event of December 26, 2020. The men of the Nigerian Police who arrested the late Emma Mba, his younger brother, Ejike Mba and four others in Abuja got a hint that the above named, after jumping bail granted them in 2020, were in Oruku community, moved to rearrest them.
“Unfortunately, the location of the late Emma Mba which was the Oruku Town Hall was already surrounded by members of neighbourhood watch/bodyguards.
“On sighting the Nigeria Police, the neighborhood watch members opened fire, leading to an exchange of gunfire between them and Nigeria Police. The late Mr. Emma Mba was caught by a bullet on his thigh while running away.
“The Police rushed him to National Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu, for treatment before he died.
“The arrest of the late Emma Mba unsettled his neighborhood watch/bodyguards, which led them into burning and wanton destruction of property belonging to his perceived opponents. The perpetrators are patrolling the community fully armed, searching for people.
“Since December 26, 2020, the good people of Oruku community have kept sleepless nights in bushes having run away from their homes following the mayhem which the neighbourhood watch is causing the entire community.
“Enugu State Police Command and the state government are aware of this situation, yet Oruku community is yet to have peace.
“Hence the need to call on the federal government and all well-meaning Nigerians to intervene as the lives of an entire community are under threat of total annihilation.
”We have the details of the properties burnt in 10 days starting from the late hours of December 26, 2020, till date. It was carried out daily.
”As of the time of this statement, the arsonists are still armed and patrolling the community. They are yet to be arrested by the Enugu Police Command.
In an attempt to deceive the public, they have made people whose houses are yet to be burnt to demonstrate in Enugu and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Enugu, to create the impression that the community was protesting because of the death of Emma Mba.”
Shedding more light on the events leading to the current crisis, she said:” Truth, they say, is bitter but must be told for peace to reign. For if you bury truth, it will germinate and still bring forth truth.
We as a people have dusted ourselves up and have decided to defend our darling community, Oruku as there exists none other to be called ours.
The chicken must come home to roost, if not now, in the future, as we believe that every deed has a corresponding reward whether good or bad.
This ancient belief made us reveal to the public the atrocities that have visited Oruku community unabatedly in the last 18 months via the instrumentality of a supposedly elder statesman who ordinarily would have been a thing of pride to our community. Unfortunately, we are faced with a stark contrast of such an expectation.
“The bizarre twist to this whole event is the inaction of Enugu State government to whom we have reported the issue in question in the past.
“In May 2019, the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in his wisdom, dissolved the duly elected Oruku Town Union and put in place, a caretaker committee. To the embarrassment of the community, he appointed the late Mba as the chairman of the committee.
”In fact, almost all the members of the caretaker committee, including the late chairman were either primary or secondary school dropouts who were in their 20s and 30s. This action added to the bewilderment that has befallen the Oruku community in recent times.
“It is worthy of mention that the state government mandated the caretaker committee to review the Town Union constitution from which a new Town Union would be elected, and thereafter, an Igwe would be elected for the community.
“Mba crowned himself the traditional ruler “Igwe” of Oruku on December 26, 2019. The picture became clearer when, to the astonishment of the Oruku community, the state government issued a certificate of recognition to the late Emma Mba.
“This was irrespective of the protest, outcry, and resentment the self-imposition of late Emma Mba had generated in Oruku community. Since the self-imposition of the late Emma Mba as the “Igwe” of Oruku community, we have known no peace.”
When contacted, one of the supporters of the late Igwe, Mr. Okey Ukeh, denied the allegations that the people loyal to the late Mba were responsible for the destructions in the community.
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He said: “Yes, violence erupted the day our Igwe was killed and some houses were burnt but none of the people loyal to him was involved.
“The good news is that one of the people that carried out the arson has been arrested by the police and he is making useful information on how to arrest his accomplices.
“Anybody telling you that people in support of the Igwe are causing the mayhem in the community must be a big lier. The person is not telling the truth. Very soon, the police will unmask those behind all the problems in Oruku.”
When Sunday Vanguard contacted the Public Relations Officer, PRO, of Enugu State Police Command, Mr. Daniel Ndukwe, he said he wasn’t aware of any new crisis in the community, saying the one he knew about being investigated by the force headquarters in Abuja.
The state governor had while inaugurating a judicial commission of inquiry into the matter, headed by Justice Harold Eya, urged the people of Oruku community to be peaceful.
He charged members of the panel to expeditiously discharge their duties, saying the outcome would inform the action of the state government on Oruku crisis.
Meanwhile, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry has called for Memoranda from the public, individuals, organisations and concerned persons.
A statement by the Secretary of the Commission, Godwin Anigbo, said: “the Memoranda shall be in ten (10) copies typed in A4 paper, and addressed to: The Chairman, Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the killing of HRH Igwe Emmanuel Chidiebere Mba, Court 8, Judiciary Headquarters, opposite WAEC Office, Enugu.
“The deadline for submission of Memoranda shall be two weeks from January 16, 2021, but not later than Monday, February 1.”