The relatives and entire community of 53-yearold Joseph Isu of Amata Akpoha, Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, who was butchered in his farm, packaged and thrown inside a river with stones tied on his neck, are insisting that perpetrators of the crime must be brought to book by security agents. UCHENNA INYA writes
“I am calling on government and security agents to look into the gruesome murder of my father seriously and bring the perpetrators to book to make sure they pay for this heinous crime that they have committed. They should not be allowed to go free. “
I will miss my father in all ramifications. I will miss his constant advices. My father was always warning me against making trouble. He will always tell me, “Nicholas, stay away from trouble, trouble is not good”. I have been following his counselling and I have never had any problem with anybody. Now, my father has been killed. Who will be giving me those advices? I lost my father at a very tender age when I needed him most.”
These were the exact words of grieving Nicholas Sunday Isu, son of the deceased. Joseph Isu went to the farm alive but was brought back dead in a pitiful condition following his butchering and cutting off of his intestine by his killers.
The situation has thrown the whole community into mourning with the indigenes insisting that the deceased’s killers be fished out and punished in accordance with the law. Amasiri and Akpoha do inter-marry and share many things in common as very close neighbours in Afikpo North Local Government Area.
The two tiny neighbouring communities, which are richly blessed by nature with vast arable lands and mineral deposits have been enjoying relative peace until September 28,2020, when Joseph Isu of Amata Akpoha was gruesomely murdered in his farm. It was alleged that the Amata Akpoha people and Ezeke Amasiri people had issues regarding boundary and quarry mineral deposits and Isu went to his farm and never returned. He was butchered like an animal.
Three other persons from Amata Akpoha were shot and are receiving treatment at Mater Hospital, Afikpo. Isu’s family waited for his return but to no avail. A search party was organised by the people but Isu was not found either dead or alive, thereby, leading to tension in the community. Three days later, his body was found floating on a big river in the area by some of the villagers, who were in their farms working. They alerted Isu’s family.
His son, Nicholas led the community and security agents to the river to know if the corpse that was floating was that of his father and it was actually his father’s body. Nicholas told New Telegraph that he was so embittered when he saw the way his father was killed. He said: “That Monday 28 September, my father went to his own farmland to work.
He was working in his farmland when a group of people attacked him there and killed him. They shot him on his right leg and then killed him. They took away his body from his farmland to another place. They put his corpse inside 300kg extra-large sack bag and tied him with very big stones and put him inside a river. “Three days later, we were looking for my father’s body and we didn’t see him.
His corpse was later found in a very big river bank floating and a call came telling us to come to the river that a dead body has been found there. I was called and when I went there, I saw the dead body and it was my father. I was shocked and wept, I was so embittered.
This land they are talking about is my father’s land and it is not the land in dispute. That land is his land and he has been farming on it yearly. So, I am calling on government and security agents to look into the gruesome murder of my father seriously and bring the perpetrators to book to make sure they pay for this heinous crime they committed. They should not be allowed to go free.” On her part, his mother, Mrs. Florence Sunday Isu, a mother of seven, said: “My husband was killed like a goat by Amasiri people and if not for the help of the community, I wouldn’t have seen my husband’s body.
I am finished. Government should arrest killers of my husband. Let them die like him.” Prof John Igiri, Chairman Ekpuketo traditional ruling council of Amata Akpoha said: “What you saw us at police was an issue we never anticipated and have been avoiding over the years.
They are like our neighbors and brothers. “Precisely, on the 28 of September, 2020, an innocent person went to his farm and was rounded up and gruesomely murdered.
That man was shouting according to the people that went to the farm but they couldn’t leave him but they killed him. When the matter was reported to division of police in Afikpo, the DPO and the rest of them came and saw what happened, saw the pool of blood, saw where they dragged him.
Four days after, the body of the deceased was seen floating on the upper face of Akpoha River. “The question is what led to the killing? Why the killing? From the origin, from time immemorial, our fathers and their forefathers, great forefathers have been farming.
Farming is our major occupation and these people in their ancient years created boundary between the two communities of Akpoha and Amasiri. They naturally created boundary and allowed it to be and they have been farming on both sides without rancour. “Because of the emergence of rock, people felt those ancient boundary are not necessary. That is what happened.
When the Ezeke people started encroaching, the Amata people do not share boundary with Ezeke. Amata Akpoha share boundary with a family called Umukaka not the entire Ezeke. Our forefathers had documented the boundary in the past years. Two years after, the same Ezeke joined Umukaka to come and take our own section of the land. Umakaka elders washed off their hands saying they are not involved. Umukaka with Ezeke went to court to obtain injunction restraining us and they lost.
We have the record of it,” Igiri said. Chief Uche Donatus, a stakeholder in Amata Akpoha, called on government to uphold the panel report on the crisis between the two communities to prevent people from taking laws into their hands. “We have not been at war with Ezeke people. In fact, the people of Ezeke and people of Akpoha from our ancestral information, we were told that we were one people.
We and Ezeke people have a blood covenant and this is our belief in Amata Akpoha. We have a blood covenant that we can’t shed blood with Ezeke people and it is on that premise that the Ezeke people even when they come to claim our land, we try to have that restriction. “We are surprised that their youths have gone weird and they don’t remember the blood covenant that our forefathers had.
They go to any extent to kill and maim Amata Akpoha person. “Also, government should restrain the company there from paying royalties to Ezeke people because from the information available before the police, they said that they pay Ezeke people N60million annually and they are not owing them,” he stated.
Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Loveth Odah, said: “You would recall that on 28th September, 2020, one Joseph Isu, aged 53years was declared missing by the family after the attack on Amata Akpoha people at the farmland by suspected Ezeke Amasiri Community over land/quarry ownership where about three persons were also reported injured and were taken to the hospital for medical treatment.
“The search party organised by the Afikpo north Divisional Police Officer (DPO) has on 01/10/2020 recovered the body of the said Mr. Joseph, packaged in a cellophane bag with heavy stone hanged round his neck, with gunshot injury on his right leg and his stomach cut wide open.
The corpse has been deposited at Martha memorial Hospital Mortuary for preservation and Autopsy. “Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police Ebonyi State, CP Philip Sule Maku, who described the incident as barbaric and inhuman, mourned and commiserated with the deceased family, the general public, especially the people of Amata Akpoha Community in Afikpo North LGA of the State. He urges them to remain calm and not to take laws into their hands as he has ordered full scale investigation into the matter with a view to arresting and prosecuting the assailants.
The CP, while admonishing the residents of the state to always embrace Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) instead of violence, urged the members of the public with useful information that will lead to the arrest of the culprit(s) not to hesitate to call the Police through the Command distress call. Chairman of the Local Government, Mrs. Obiageri Oko Enyim, who is from Amasiri, condemned Isu’s gruesome murder and urged security agencies to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the dastardly act to serve as deterrent to others.
She appealed to the two communities to sustain the spirit of brotherhood that has existed between them from generations. She urged the people to desist from taking laws into their hands no matter the provocation as according to her, government will ensure that justice is not only done but seen to have been done. The council directed that nobody should enter the disputed land for any reason till the matter is amicably resolved.
She called on community leaders on both sides to join hands with her administration to ensure peaceful settlement of the disputed land. Speaking to New Telegraph, the Coordinator of Amoha Development centre, Theodore Ihite, explained that there has been a long time land dispute between the two communities and that several arbitrations have been set up to mediate on the land after having gone to the court and they decided to settle out of court.
He alleged that arbitrators have always at the end of their findings, passed their judgment in favour of Amata Akpoha and accused the Ezeke Amasiri people of constantly fomenting trouble. Ihite said: “I think the murder is just a pre-meditated attempt to instill fear into the people of Amata Akpoha by the people of Ezeke Amasiri because the place they committed the murder is not even in contention.
“But there has been a long time dispute between Amata Akpoha and Ezeke Amasiri at an area called Nkalezi. Several arbitrations have been set up to mediate on the land after having gone to the court and they decided to settle out of the court. The arbitrators have always at the end of their findings; have always passed their judgment in favour of Amata Akpoha.
But Ezeke Amasiri people have always contentiously refused to adhere to the advice of the arbitrators, thereby always going into the land, contravening and even leasing out part of the land to quarry company which has been paying royalty to only Ezeke Amasiri people.
Court is aware of this and has served the company to stop operating and yet they have been disobeying with impunity whatever advice that has been given to them for the sake of peace.” Divisional Police Officer, Livinus Nwenyim, said the police in conjunction with DSS, was working assiduously to bring peace to the two communities.
He assured the people that perpetrators of the act must be arrested and made to face the full weight of the law, adding his men will maintain 24hours patrol/surveillance on the disputed land in line with the directive of the Council Chairman.