Persons recently released from Police cells have constituted themselves into hoodlums burning people’s houses following a village head tussle in Amauzu, Igbeagu Community in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
The spokesperson of the Ebonyi State Police Command, DSP Loveth Odah, hinted this in an interview in Abakaliki, confirming that over seven houses were burnt and other properties destroyed.
Odah said over eight persons have been arrested in connection with the crisis.
The released detainees are beneficiaries of the recent directive of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to decongest Police cells as a measure against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Odah further confirmed that the Ebonyi State Police Command has arrested the traditional ruler of Igbeagu community, HRH Michael Ukwa, over the crisis emanating from the village headship tussle.
Also arrested was the village chief, Monday Nkwuda, and his wife, Rosemary Nkwuda, who is the Coordinator of Igbeagu Development Centre, Izzi LGA.
Although Ukwa and Nkwuda has been released on bail on self recognition, the Police spokesperson said they would be meeting with the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of investigations on Monday.
She added: “I have also invited Mrs. Nkwuda, the Igbeagu DC Coordinator on Monday for discussions to permanently end the crisis.”
Odah described as unfortunate that released persons went and burnt houses of people whom they felt earlier reported them to the police, noting that the culprits would be prosecuted after investigations.
She expressed dismay that in spite of all efforts by the command’s Criminal Investigation Department, which had been handling the matter, crisis still erupted, leading to the current colossal damages.
Odah explained: “We have arrested over eight persons in connection with the crisis, but the traditional ruler and Chief Nkwuda were released on bail to report back on June 8.
“The hoodlums who burnt the houses were previously in detention but were released due to the Inspector General of Police’s (IGP’s) directive on ‘cell’ decongestion during this COVID-19 period.”
Meanwhile, one of the Amauzu indigenes, Innocent Obiya, whose house was destroyed, alleged that HRH Ukwa and Chief Nkwuda had boasted that they would use their connections to intimidate those who oppose their views.
Obiya explained that in spite of the earlier court ruling over the matter, which made one Chief Anthony Nwite the rightful head of the village, Ukwa, Nkwuda and their group had insisted that the court cannot tell them who should be the village head.
According to Obiya, the duo and their cohorts defied appeals from the stakeholders of the village to accept the court’s ruling for peace to reign, but rather threatened to divide the village into five units or instigate restiveness, which they succeeded in doing.
He lamented that his house was totally destroyed with bullets scattering the entire roof, while the houses of over seven other stakeholders of the community were burnt down completely.
Obiya narrated: “They made good their threat when they sent hoodlums to burn houses and destroy other properties, which caused the displacement of several villagers.
“We have reported the incident to the police and relevant security agencies, including the state government’s Department for Peace and Conflict Resolution, which issued a White Paper, urging those dissatisfied with the court’s ruling to appeal it.
“All these were spited by those who think they should be calling the shots, and here we are today.”
Another source, who pleaded anonymity, lamenting the loss of all her certificates and other vital documents as her father’s house was set ablaze by the miscreants, traced the genesis of the crises to 2016.
The source narrated that some members of the community allegedly led by one Nkwuda plotted then to hand over a mineral-rich land in the community to a prospective miner, which the community resisted.
Angered by the development, Nkwuda and his cohorts backed the village executives to refuse handing over to the then newly elected ones on the expiration of their tenure.
The tensions generated continued to build up to the present crises.
The source explained: “They wanted to remain in power and use their power to force the community to hand over the land to them and their preferred mining company.
“This led to a court case, which lingered till March this year, when the court gave judgement against them and ordered the executives to hand over to a newly elected leadership, but they still refused to hand over.
“Rather than obey Court ruling and Government decision on the matter, they took to hiring miscreants to terrorise other stakeholders and members of the village.”
Meanwhile all attempts to contact the said Nkwuda and the Coordinator of Igbeagu Development Centre for their comments were rebuffed.