The tussle on who becomes what and who gets what in Amankwo-Nkpoghoro, Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State has remained protracted. It has taken many lives, leaving some injured and consequently leaving the community in disarray as UCHENNA INYA, in Abakaliki, writes
he people of Ezi Ukwu Ewa Amankwo, Nkpogoro autonomous community in Afikpo North Local Government area have deserted the community following the killing of a 49-year-old man in the area and father of four, Azubuike Inya when loyalists of two men in the community, Chief Donatus Aja and Surveyor Titus Nwachi Obila who have been battling for supremacy clashed.
Some persons in the community sustained varying degrees of injuries especially in the melee of last Friday. The two factions within the area have been at war over who controls leadership of the community and its resources. A resident of the area, Pastor Ogbo Obila said the cause of the recent crisis was as a result of disunity among citizens of the community.
He accused Chief Donatus Aja, a former Commissioner for Border Peace and Conflict Resolution of gross misconduct and embezzlement of community fund and instigating all the crises in the area.
He also accused Ajah of unilaterally leasing out the community’s land to a Communication Company for mounting of their telecom masts and embezzling over N200million belonging to the community
Obila said the main cause of the last Friday crisis was the demolition of the building lockup shops built by the community for commercial purpose, adding Survey Titus Obila was opposing the place it was built on the ground that it closed the entrance to his compound.
According to him, Obila reported the matter to Afikpo North Local Government Area Town Urban Authority which ordered that order that the lockup shops be demolished.
He noted that after some days, the loyalists of Survey Obila went to pack out broken blocks to give way to entrance of his compound when some youths intercepted them and trouble started.
He said “there have been series of crisis in our village especially Eziukwuewa compound which is now spreading to the entire village Amankwo. It started with a kind of financial fraud which Donatus Ezeogo Ajah is not a signatory to the account and the other of his people are not also signatory to the account.
“They went and pulled over N22million from the account and lodged into Donatus Ezeoga Aja company account and some of his personal account and withdraw some funds. When this was noticed, the executives of the union petitioned the state CID Abakaliki who started investigation into the matter. They invited bank personnel and Donatus Aja went on his own and gave statement on the issue.
“When the criminal aspect of the case was being obstructed, the civil side of it continued and he was served on 15th May. He single handedly leased our communal land to network providers for construction of their mast and after a time, he came and told people in our town hall that the network providers came on their own with their compass and the compass fell here. He said he didn’t negotiate with them, that it is whatever they said that they will pay. and that the community has agreed to pay the community sum of N750, 000 for a lease of five years, after the five years, they will renegotiate with the community. He said that the company issued a cheque of N2million with the instruction to give to their staff for logistics the sum of N1.2million.
“We wrote to the company that this is a communal land and they should not do with an individual person. We told the company that we are not against the installation of their masts but that they should come and negotiate with the community. The company didn’t answer the letter and before we noticed it, they were already installing the masts. We decided that it shouldn’t be so and immediately sued the company and Donatus Ezeogo Aja. He summoned his supporters in his house while some people were sent to threaten Nwachi Obila that if he doesn’t withdraw the suit, he should bear whatever that happens to him. With this, we reported the threat to the police”.
In his reaction, Chief Aja denied all the allegations levelled against him.
He told New Telegraph that he was not in the village when the recent bloody clash between his loyalists and Surveyor Obila occurred.
He accused a member of the community, Ifeanyi Obila of being the cause of what is happening in the area by refusing to relinquish power after the expiration of his tenure as Chairman of a five-man caretaker committee to audit account of the previous leadership of the community from December 2011 to December 2012.
He explained that the interim committee led by Obila had terms of reference to audit Godwin Arua’s dissolved executive and the community’s town hall projects amounting to N42m and that instead of doing the job as assigned within a period of one year, Obila teamed up with Arua against Amankwo people and started withdrawing from the remaining money in the bank to share among themselves.
Ajah further explained that the community set up a committee headed by Collins Agada and the report indicted Obila.
He explained that, “Obila and his cohorts have been holding Amankwo village hostage since he came on board as the interim Chairman of Ezi Ukwu, Ewa Amankwo, from 2011 December till date. I even offered him one million naira in 2013, being what he claimed he had spent, to allow peace to reign. However, he refused because he saw over N30m in the bank account. The N1m was a sacrifice from my hard earned money in order to restore peace, yet Obila refused .
Obila, also known as Bunk, is the cause of every bad thing happening in Amankwo today. He was appointed interim chairman of a five-man caretaker committee to audit the account of previous leadership from December 2011 to December 2012 and to handover to elected executives. That’s where the problems started. That’s the “crime” Amankwo people committed by bringing Obila into the leadership of Amankwo. Ifeanyi Obila-led interim government in Ezi Ukwu Ewa, Amankwo, had terms of reference to audit Godwin Arua’s dissolved executive and our town hall projects amounting to N42m. Instead of doing the job as assigned within a period of one year, from December 2011 to December 2012, Obila teamed up with Arua against Amankwo people and started withdrawing from the remaining money in the bank to share among themselves.
Nkpogoro community set up a committee headed by Agada and the report indicted Obila. He was advised to hand over as far back as 2013, but he refused till date. Ezi Ukwu Ewa Amankwo people obtained judgment from High Court against them to account for the N42m. Obila, Arua, Joseph Egwu Ekuma, Christopher Oko Abagha and Emmanuel Oko Obila refused. Instead they went to Appeal Court just to stop enforcement of the judgment, which has not been heard till now.
“I have no personal interest with community money. I was a treasurer in the past EXCO and handed over to Obila, so I know what I am talking about. In fact, I congratulated him during the handover and he came to my house to collect the check book and signatories to the account as treasurer. He also accepted different kinds of drinks Andre, Brandy, name it, from me.
However, like I said, after one year, they have not been able to produce any report or anything worthwhile apart from the violence they’re causing in Amankwo. Obila did not call for any meeting for the whole one year he was made chairman caretaker committee and still he refused to handover. The truth is that he saw money in the account and wanted to embezzle everything, hence his reluctance to handover documents in his position. He said he must be the one to access the money and share to those whom he likes: not the community again. The money is from the community, not even from the Association. So, Ifeanyi Obila is the foundation of the crisis in Amankwo today. The crisis has lasted from 2011 till now because he refused to handover
“Even as a Commissioner, Obila and his cohorts didn’t honour my invitation or directive. They countered my radio announcement with impunity. On 30th June 2012, I was invited with my team from the Government house to attend a meeting to discuss the Ezi Ukwu Ewa Amankwo Town Hall that collapsed and make peace among members. Obila, who was presiding over the meeting, refused to offer me a seat in my own village, in the presence of my staff. Also Ezi Ukwu Ewa Amankwo dissolved the Ifeanyi Obila-led interim government and directed my office to announce it over the radio. I did it, with a letter to Ifeanyi Obila dated 2nd July, 2012. He still neglected the letter and the announcement till date and has been threatening that peace will not reign in Amankwo.
“Ifeanyi Obila is the foundation of the whole crisis by refusing to handover after his tenure as caretaker committee chairman. If he had handed over, we wouldn’t be having problems in the community today. If he hands over to elected executives today, I believe the crisis will stop. Amankwo people can do anything for peace to return to the community, because we don’t want to lose more lives.”
A resident of the community, Kelechi Uche said the death of Azubuike Inya in the crisis was still like dream to him. He described the deceased as a man so dear to him and wondered why his life should be taken away from him when it is not supposed to be so.
He urged youths of the community to eschew violence and embrace peace. Uche said, “for past seven days, I have been going through a traumatic experience on hearing sad news of the killing of my elder brother, Azubuike Inya, depression seemed to have conquered me as I found it difficult to regain my original state of mind. “I am particularly pained by the murder of bro Azubuike Inya, ever since this took place, it has always seemed to me like a dream that will never appear real, because the deceased happened to be my closest brother who won’t cease to echo “my father!” each time he sights me from afar because I and his father shared same matrilineal lineage(Ibe Edo), and I will always re-echo, “the boss man!” in reply.
“I had preached on why our youths need to shun violence and make peace their watchword, With AMANKWO community in my mind, I had written on March 12,2020 on why Afikpo people, particularly the youth, need to embrace peace if they really need to grow positively in a post I titled” Peace as an instrument of sustainable growth and development”, the records are there on FB.
“Finally, I urge concerned agencies and Bodies to wade into the matter and ensure that justice, peace and unity is restored in Amankwo, even as I extend my heartfelt condolences to the immediate family especially, his son, Collins Azubuike.”