Across the various communities in the State, there has been barrage of reports of intimidation, harassment and threat to life of politicians and their followers who refused to tow the path of the Governor. From Ezza South, where the Council Chairman, Ken Eze, sealed the private school belonging to the PDP Chairman in the area, Friday Agbom, for allegedly refusing to join the APC, to Ohaozara, where the youths of Ihenu in Uburu recently protested illegal and forceful land grabbing by agents of the State Government, it has been sordid stories of human rights abuses.
Meanwhile, the most disheartening part of the entire brouhaha is the fact that the greater chunk of the crises seem to be obviously targeted on the indigenous local government areas of some political heavyweights who have decided to continue to remain with the PDP in spite of the Governor’s compulsive beckoning. Probably, Effium community in Ishielu Local Government Area could be said to have received the major brunt of the artificial crises allegedly perpetrated by government forces in the State.
The community, which houses both the Effium aborigines and naturalized Ezza settlers, was recently thrown into regrettable intra-communal war that resulted in loss of many lives, with destroyed property worth billions of naira. Preliminary investigations revealed that the crises was allegedly instigated by the Council Chairman, Clement Odah, whom the Governor often refers to as his son, in flimsy struggle with another politician over who controls the motor park in the area.
But apart from the recent pronounced Effium crises, Ohaukwu has been notorious for fatal internal wrangling and local cult clashes, which have been exacerbated by political appointees of the Governor taking undue advantage of the present political situation in the state.
Ohaukwu is the home local government area of the first Governor of the state, Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu, who was initially maligned by Umahi alongside the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, and others for alleged refusal to join his train.
Some days ago, a group of stakeholders of Amagu in Ishiagu, Ivo Local Government Area of the state, raised a petition against the State Government and its few appointees in their area over a ploy to instil crisis in the community by illegally meddling with the communal land in spite of subsisting court order. In the petition, titled: “Gross Abuse of Rule of Law by Ebonyi State Government,” made available to some journalists, the stakeholders drew the attention of appropriate authorities to the brewing crises in the area, which they alleged was being sponsored by the State Government.
The Community lamented the development where few aides of the governor in the area appropriated the community land for themselves, leveraging on purported executive orders issued by Governor Umahi in total disregard to subsisting Court Order. They regretted that the political appointees from the area have failed to attract development like other communities, but were busy attracting crisis, and urged Governor Umahi to call his aides from their area to order over flagrant abuse of court orders.
The petitioners described the development as both worrisome and a strategic plan to introduce the recent Effium, Ohaukwu kind of crises, which claimed scores of lives in their area.
Part of the petition reads: “It is worrisome that the Ebonyi State Government neglected the standing court order and reordered that no activities whatsoever should be carried out on the land as against the initial court decision on the subject matter.
“The crisis started when the delegation of government instructed that the court order validly secured by Amagu should be ignored and what they called executive order should be followed…
“This order which obviously did not go down well with the community triggered crisis immediately to the extent that government delegate narrowly escaped being lynched…
“To this end therefore, I call on necessary agencies to call the Ebonyi State Government to order and that they should observe the supremacy of the law and avoid taking laws into their hands, before they created problems bigger tha them.
“A stitch in time says nine.”
Investigation revealed that the land in contention is a community land, which onus rests on traditional stakeholders to decide what use it should be put into. Meanwhile few political appointees of the Governor in the area had attempted to covet the land for their personal uses but were resisted by the community people. The entire episode had resulted into legal dispute in which the Court ruled against the few individuals with an order to desist from the land.
However, following the political situation in the State occasioned by the defection of Governor Umahi to the APC and its resultant discontent with some major political gladiators who chose to remain in the PDP, the Governor’s aides took the advantage to foment crises in the community by stepping again into the land in spite of the existing court orders.
From the foregoing, most of the community stakeholders expressed suspicion that the Governor was using his Aides from the area to instigate crises to spite Anyim and other political weights from the area who refused to decamp with him.
Narrating the development, the Amagu Ishiagu Development Union Chairman, Livinus Uka, explained that the land belonged to the entire community and not to any individual, adding that it was wrong for very few individuals to dictate for the community. Uka said: “The land in question is just a general land of the community. Now because our population and homesteads are increasing, we decided to make that community land a home settlement.
“The people living in the land knows that the land is a community land and they do perform a kind of rent to show that they are not the original owners of the land. These few individuals took us to court in January but on 17 November, 2020, the court struck out the case to our favour for lack of merit.
“All of a sudden, this people again started destroying the beacons the community planted in the land, running to the government because of the political crisis in the state so that government will use their power to support their undesirable plans. One of them had issued us with Appeal Notice, which assumed that the case is still in court.”
Uka further lamented that the once peaceful community has been turned into a crises zone by the actions of the few politicians and urged Government appointees to desist from using their privileged positions to intimidate the people. He said: “This is a misunderstanding in the community where some people think that they can do anything they like in the community.
“They are just trying to stop what the community is doing and I pray to God to help them realize that there is no gain in crisis and align themselves in what the community is doing and stop accusing fingers on innocent person because they want to attract public sympathy from anybody. The struggle is for the interest of the whole community and no individual has a hand in it. Anyone involving Senator Anyim Pius Anyim is doing so to attract sympathy for himself because Anyim is a big figure in the country.
“The land is a farm settlement but now the community want to share it that every family will have a portion and it took the community 20years, to get the actual figure of the community so that every family will be accommodated. I urge those in government to stop using government to intimidate the common people in order to gain what is not due to them.”
Corroborating the story, the Chairman Ovumte Land Committee, the village where the land is domiciled, Chinedu Makwe, maintained that there was no crisis in the community. Makwe, however, stated that the problem was from few individuals who were claiming that the community land belonged to them.
Makwe added: “We only have problem with some individuals in the community that claimed that the community land belongs to them and went to court, and on the basis of that, court gave us (community) judgement in November 17, 2020. After the judgement, this People did not go to appeal within the stipulated 2weeks and that is clear that they don’t have any more claim to the land but because they are Ebonyi state government employees, they are trying to use the political situation in the state now to turn our community to a war zone, but by the grace of God, it will not work.
“This group of people are the ones inciting problem , creating tension where there are not. We are telling them that we need development like other communities. We don’t want crisis. They should attract development for us and not crisis. We also urge the state government not to put crisis where there is non. That is all we plead.”
Meanwhile, while briefing journalists on Friday on the outcome of State Executive Council meeting, the State Commissioner for Information, Orji Uchenna Orji, assured that calm has returned to Effium community. Orji also confirmed the withdrawal of security agencies from the area, stressing that the State Government was on top the security situation across the State.