Sunday Magazine

A Kingdom Against Itself: Blood, sorrow, tears in Ebonyi Community

The persistent rivalry between two political gladiators in Ekoli Edda, Afikpo South Local Government Area, Ebonyi State has led to fresh carnage in the community, reports UCHENNA INYA

 

Chief Stanley Okoro Emegha and Chief Eni Uduma Chima for long, have been political rivals. They have never agreed politically.

Incidentally, two of them are from the same place, Ekoli, a hilly tiny but very populated community in Afikpo South Local Government.

The two political gladiators have refused to come together even when they are now in the same party, All Progressives Congress(APC). Chima and Emegha’s rivalry are so pronounced that even a common man can easily notice it. They always clash in every political period be it local government, chairmanship and general elections.

Lives are usually lost whenever they clashed, properties are also always lost. Their rivalry continued till when Governor Dave Umahi defected to APC and brought them together in his administration.

Umahi appointed Chima, who was a two-term state Assembly Lawmaker the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the local government and later made him the substantive Chairman of the council and appointed Emegha his Special Assistant on Internal Security, Commissioner for Internal Security, Border Peace and Conflict Resolution, Caretaker Committee Chairman of APC and ensured that he became the substantive Chairman of the party, a position he is currently occupying in addition to being the Special Security Consultant to his administration.

With this, people thought that the two political heavyweights would come together but that was not to be as their rivalry continued. Their rivalry resurfaced during the primaries for the 2023 general election when Chief Okenwa Uka, who was Chima’s loyalist but now Emegha’s loyalist, picked form to contest House of Representatives for Afikpo North/South Federal Constituency against Chima. But for intervention of Umahi, Chima and Uka would have clashed.

Umahi had to prevail on Uka to withdraw from the race. To this end, Chima emerged the candidate of APC for Afikpo North/South Federal Constituency. The tension that was generated when Uka picked the House of Reps APC form to challenge Chima was doused.

 

But the tension resurrected after an youth group election was held in the community and Chima’s loyalists emerged winners while Emegha’s men lost out.

The election was cancelled. The current Chairman of the local government, Prosper Ekumankama, cancelled the election which did not go down well with the Chima’s loyalists.

The APC boss, according to sources, had allegedly expressed displeasure over the election and reportedly drew the attention of the new Council area Chairman, Ekumankama, who allegedly cancelled the election and called for the group’s disbandment.

On the Boxing Day, Emegha and Chima’s loyalists clashed in the community with three persons, including a Police Inspector killed, houses and other valuable properties burnt. Among   those killed is Emegha’s younger brother and a youth leader in the area.

Palpable fear and rancour rent the air that Monday night when a middle aged man, Eseni Kalu Egwu, was allegedly shot and killed by members of Ebubeagu Security outfit in the state.

The incident ensued when members of the Ebebeagu Security Outfit clashed with youths of the area.

The Ebebeagu operatives allegedly arrived the market square in the area in company of the Emegha, patrolled, shot sporadically into the air and left.

The development attracted youths of the community, who in consonance with some elders, announced that natives should go into their homes for safety.

Egwu’s eventual death and Onu Eku’s ordeal, it was learnt, ensued when the security operatives allegedly regrouped and stationed at Ogwuma, a hamlet close to Ekoli Edda community in the council area and engaged hoodlums of the community in a gun duel.

A resident of the area, who did not want his name in print said: “Ekoli Edda is seriously under siege. We experienced a total gunshots battle between boys loyal to Eni Uduma Chima (Vanguard) and Ebubeagu, who came in company of Stanley Okoro Emegha, from 5pm yesterday  INYAtill now. Many people have lost their lives and properties. Stanley’s two buildings were razed last night, his youngest brother, Emeka killed, two policemen are down, two members of the Vanguard are also down.

“My brother, they pointed gun at our convoy! But moved away immediately they noticed it was Ochiri’s vehicle! Nothing concern us, na the same people.. The type of ammunition that was rolled out in Ekoli Edda was massive… Never been seen before!”.

Emegha confirmed the incident. He said he was attacked by thugs loyal to Chima in the area, adding that his house had equally been burnt by the political thugs.
He said, “Yes. It’s true. They attacked me tonight at Ekoli Edda community, and the same people, some of whom I know, I have just heard, burnt my house.

“They attacked me and they are they people that burnt my house. I call on the police and other security agencies to swing into action. They know what to do to unravel the truth of the matter. They know what to do.

“We have three casualties, including a Police Inspector, Akpan, and two from the community. They burnt police Siena vehicle and then my hilux is still not found up till now”.

Chima however refused to speak on the matter. He refused to pick several calls placed across to him by Sunday Telegraph.

Narrating his ordeal, a Staff of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic Unwana, Mission Kalu Egwu, lamented that his sibling’s killing was    senseless and premeditated, adding that the community had been on lockdown as a consequence of the crisis in the area. He said: “What happened in Ekoli Edda today is an unfortunate and senseless killing. It is unfortunate in the sense that the life of a vibrant young man in active community service has been cut short. It is senseless that there is no provocation for his killing.

“Chief Stanley Okoro-Emegha, who usually comes to Ekoli with truckloads of security personnel comprising Policemen, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps members, soldiers and Ebubeagu guards came back to Ekoli today, the 26th day of December, 2022 and started patrolling the community with his Ebubeagu guards shooting sporadically at the Ekenta Market Square, Ekoli Edda.

This was bad for a community with incessant threats of IPOB attack and communal crisis with most Cross-River communities of Erei in Biase Local Government Area. “The alarming situation warranted the youths of Ekoli Edda to rush out as everyone else ran for their dear lives.

When the community youths started sounding traditional alarm as warning to villagers of the dangers, they ran away to Amangwu Edda from where they later regrouped with reinforcement at Ogwuma Edda and then came back shooting more heavily, making villagers scamper for safety and in the process shot and killed my younger brother, Mr. Eseni Kalu Egwu. “Onu Eku of Ekoli Edda, who was equally shot by them is lying in critical condition in a hospital.

As at this night, the shootings by Okoro-Emegha’s security guards are still being heard as the village is under complete lockdown. “I’m afraid to start moving to Abakaliki this night to make statements to the Police as the community is still under siege by Ebubeagu. I shall make official statements to the police by morning.” The state police command has confirmed the death of three persons, including a Policeman in the melee.

The Police image maker in the state, SP Chris Anyanwu, in a statement made available to journalists in Abakaliki, the state capital, said those killed included Eseni Kalu Egwu, a youth leader in the area; Eme Orji, a younger brother of the State APC Chairman, Chief Stanley Okoro Emegha and an Inspector of Police attached to SPU in the command.

He noted that the mayhem was caused by supporters of the Emegha and House of Representatives candidate of the APC for Afikpo North/South Federal Constituency, Dr. Eni Uduma Chima, who he said are battling for supremacy in the area.

He opined that the two political gladiators have been placed in protective custody to douse the tension in the area, while a thorough investigation has been activated by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in-charge of SCIID here in the State. “Ebonyi State Police Command is presently investigating a case of Murder and Malicious Damages to Government properties and individuals resulting from apparent struggle for supremacy and who controls the area politically among two notable political stalwarts in Ekoli-Edda, Afikpo South LGA of the State.

“At about 1630hrs of 26/12/2022, a day popularly known as “Boxing Day”, a distress call was received that sporadic shootings and killings were going on at Ekoli-Edda between Ebubeagu operatives who accompanied their boss, Chief Stanley Okoro Emegha, the State’s APC Chairman, and another group of men purported to be loyalists to the immediate past Council Chairman, Hon Dr Chima Eni, who is also the APC flag-bearer for National House of Representative in the area.

 

“It was further gathered that the open shoot-out was not far-fetched from previous grudges existing among the two factions. In the process, a youth leader identified as Eseni Kalu Egwu was fatally wounded, later rushed to a neighboring hospital at Ohafia, Abia State, where he was confirmed dead.

“Angered by his death, the youth of the area mobilized and went on rampage, killing Eme  Orji, a younger brother of the State APC Chairman and an Inspector of Police attached to SPU.

 

The irate youth equally set ablaze the village house of Chief Stanley Okoro Emegha, his Toyota Hilux van and a Toyota Sienna Space Bus belonging to the Police Command’s Tactical Teams. “When the Tactical Teams were despatched to Ekoli-Edda to take control of the situation, they were ambushed by the youth of the area at the village entrance.

However, the operatives manouevred unhurt. “The bodies of the three deceased persons have been evacuated and deposited at different morgues. Two suspects were arrested among the irate youth while others are still at large. “Also, the two political gladiators at the middle of the whole imbroglio have been placed in protective custody to douse the tension in the area, while a scrupulous investigation has been activated by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in-charge of SCIID here in Ebonyi State.

“The Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State Police Command, CP Aliyu Garba, who has visited the scene, advises that everyone affected in one way or the other in this ugly development should keep calm as he wades into the matter, please”, Anyanwu stated. Governor Umahi has directed the immediate arrest and prosecution of the State APC Chairman, Chief Stanley Emegha and candidate for Afikpo North/Afikpo South Federal Constituency in next year’s general election, Chief Eni Uduma Chima, for their alleged roles in the murder of three persons in Ekoli Edda, Afikpo South Local Government area of the state.

Umahi gave the directive during an on-the-spot assessment of the level of damages in the area. The governor also directed the Commissioner of Police to arrest all those connected with the carnage and ensure they face justice.

The governor while announcing the suspension of all social gatherings in Edda until normalcy returns, urged the Commissioner of Police to saturate the area with security presence to forestall further breakdown of law and order. As at the time of filing this report, the whole Ekoli Edda has been cordoned off by the combined team of the Police, Army and the Ebubeagu Security outfit.

Three days after, the governor lifted the ban placed on social gatherings in Afikpo South Local Government Area of the state following the killings. Umahi announced the lifting of the ban when stakeholders and people of Afikpo South paid him a Christmas homage at his Uburu Country Home. Umahi said the lifting of the ban followed pleas by Elders and Stakeholders of the Area.

He warned that he would not hesitate to hold the Leaders liable should there be further breakdown of law and order in the whole of Edda Clan. “I want to lift the ban today but if there is any place there is crisis in the area, I will hold the leaders of the place to account. “I am banning any shooting in the whole of Afikpo South, whether canon or whatever; no shooting in any burial or throwing of knockout. If you try it, I will arrest and prosecute you.

On the recent killings in Edda, the governor remarked that he will not spare anyone found culpable. “I will teach them some lessons so that other big men will learn”. He urged the Chairman of the Local Government to stand neutral. “Stand with the people, so far you are doing very very well.” He announced plans to sink boreholes at the Iyere Bridge to address obvious water scarcity in Edda Land. “Edda has the problem of water and I have discovered that I can get water at Iyere Bridge and I am going to sink so many boreholes.”

The governor announced that the State Government has acquired the whole landed space at Ogwuma Edda landslide site until the reconstruction is completed. He warned the people to keep off the area to avoid compounding the situation. The governor also reiterated plans to build 20 buildings to resettle those displaced at the site.

 

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