The two communities have had their eyes fixed on the land since 1962 when it was discovered that the piece of land is rich in minerals, especially oil. Since then, they have been on each other’s throat, trying to exercise control over the land. Now, the story has developed an internal dimension as OKEY MADUFORO tells from Awka
The peace in Agu Enu village, Oba Ofemili community in Awka North Local Government Area was recently jolted when at about 12:30am one night, a gang of hoodlums stormed the riverrine area, attacked rustic villagers, burnt and destroyed houses. The hoodlums numbering over 35 had earlier attacked Ibite Olo community in Enugu State and made away with their property, including farm produce and chased the innocent villagers out of their abode.
According to an eyewitness, who gave his name as Mr. Kenneth Nwankwo, the youth chairman of Agu Enu village, who spoke to this reporter, the attack on their village has to do with their refusal to join the hoodlums in attacking Ibite Olo, a neighbouring community in Enugu State.
Continuing, Nwankwo said: “They said that youths that will be involved will be given charms by their native doctor to be immune against bullets and knife attacks, and to be able to do all these and purchase the gun, bullets and dangerous ammunitions, that they would collect N2million from the seven villages in Awba amounting to about N250,000 for each village, so that they can attack Ibite Olo Community successfully.”
“On hearing this, we the Agu Enu quarters (youths) of Awba Ofemili decided not to be part of such an evil arrangement. And we refused to either pay the levy or join in the invasion of Ibite Olo and people. Even though the National Boundary Commission(NBC) is yet to issue the white paper on the Enugu/Anambra State boundary, it is not a good reason to fight Ibite Olo people, to burn and loot their houses and properties in a such barbaric and gruesome act, when nothing warrants such acts of the most grotesque manner of behaviour. So, we declined. But surprisingly, on April 19, 2018, to be precise, these people took off to make good of their threat by invading Ibite Olo and their houses.
We saw them coming back with tractor load of goods belonging to Ibite Olo people in the evening of same day, and some Ibite Olo people they abducted and brought home to Chief, Eze Maduagwuna’s house. What happened later is now history.
The following day, they sent their thugs and some youths with guns, knives and dangerous weapons to our houses forcefully and collected our properties and monies under gun points. Those who care to ask them reasons for all these; they said it is for failing to join in the attack of Ibite Olo people”.
The land dispute between Oba Ofemili Community in Anambra State and Ibite Olo Community in Enugu State dated as far as 1962, when the Shell B.P Oil firm came to prospect for oil and gas in the area. When it was discovered that the large expanse of land which is also a rice farm settlement sharing boundary with Ayamelum Local Government Area in Anambra North District is rich in mineral resources, the two communities started laying claims to it.
According to a letter to the then Governor of Anambra State in 1999, signed by the then Traditional Ruler of Oba Ofemili, the Late Igwe Sam Akabueze, Chief R.V Iloka and the then President General of the town, Chief Gilbert Okoye,: “We send to you a copy of our memo to the Federal Boundary Adjustment Commission over our land being encroached upon by the Ibite Communities in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. Furthermore, we wish to alert you of the overwhelming interest being shown on this portion of land by the Enugu State Government. More importantly, we wish you to know that this land in question has tremendous values. In 1962, Shell B.P. as it was then called discovered and opened up some oil wells which were later closed and labeled reserve on the said land.
The land is very large covering about 10sq kilometers. The Doo River, which runs through the land is the major tributary to the large Anambra River. It is invaluable for water transport when properly opened-up or dredged.
The Eastern part of this land which is permanently water logged is a very fertile land indeed for massive rice production. All the rice produced at Awba Ofemili comes from this piece of land. This land belongs to us since the days of our forefathers. But Enugu State Government wants to take it because of its oil potentials.
We appeal to you to use your good office to prevent this land from being placed in the map of Enugu State by the Boundary Adjustment Commission. We shall make available all necessary information required to claim our treasured property.
While the National Boundary Commission is still sitting over the ownership of the land, the Traditional Ruler of Oba Ofemili Community, Igwe Eze Maduagwuna, allegedly assembled some youths and members of the vigilante group in the area to take over the land with the mindset of selling it.
According to a petition to the Anambra State Police Commissioner, Mr. John Abang, signed by Barr. O.E. Nnajiofor, Esq. for G.C. Enekwechi Grace Chambers, the traditional Ruler was accused of: “Laying unlawful claim to peoples’ lands and claiming same to be a communal land just so he can unlawfully appropriate to himself the power to dispose of those lands at his whims and caprices; which said lands his predecessor in writing acknowledged to belong to various individuals and families and not in any way a common land.
Extorting from the villagers under the force of arms as no member of the village is allowed to access his farm or harvest produce from his farm save there is mandatorily paid the sum of N5,000 to the Vigilante Boys acting under the instruction and authority of the Igwe. Visiting mayhem on the community, using the force of bandits to burn, loot and destroy people’s houses and properties. We annex pictures of some destruction and looting perpetuated by the Igwe, incident of which occurred sometime on 28th January, 2020.
The petitioners went further to accuse their monarch of “Operation of an illegal dungeon, where citizens of Awba Ofemili Town are unlawfully detained, tortured and treated inhumanely. We shall upon request avail your good-office of a video of citizens of Awba Ofemili stripped and filmed naked while held up in detention by the Igwe. Conspicuous marginalization of the people of Aguenu Quarters of Awba-Ofemili Town in the policy and affairs of Awba Ofemili Town. On November 23, 2019, the Igwe directed one Anthony Oforkansi and others to open fire/shoot at some Youths from Aguenu Quarter of Awba Ofemili who converged at his palace to peacefully protest the unlawful detention of their members in the Igwe’s dungeon. The said instruction by the Igwe saw about five persons being inflicted with gunshots and matchet injuries.
A petition dated 18th December, 2019 that was made in that respect in herein annexed and marked as an annexure. The Igwe authorized the forceful extortion of N5,000 from youths of Aguenu Awba Ofemili for refusing to participate in the plan orchestrated by the Igwe to ambush and invade Ibite Olo Community of Enugu State due to a boundary tussle. The youths of Aguenu Awba Ofemili refused to participate in such violence, which led the Igwe penalizing every youth of Aguenu Awba Ofemili. A petition dated 8th May, 2018 was made in that regard to your office and a copy of same is herein annexed”.
The Traditional Prime Minister of the town Chief Bernard Nwanelo, who spoke on behalf of the Traditional Ruler, dismissed the allegations, contending that it was a case of bad losers to the contest of who becomes the Traditional Ruler of our town.
“An election was conducted in the community for a new Traditional Ruler and somebody emerged the winner and those who lost in that contest ganged up to start causing trouble.”
“This is a case of bad losers and I want you to put it on record that our Traditional Ruler is a peace loving person and a law abiding Nigerian, who had been a Local Government chairman of Awka North Council Area.
“He does not have thugs or hoodlums working for him and the issue of arresting or intimidating people is not true and he has never taken anybody’s land or community land before” he said.