There is anger in Nkalagu, Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, following attack and destruction of livelihood of the people by suspected thugs in the area. UCHENNA INYA reports from Abakaliki
Nkalagu located on Abakaliki/ Enugu Expressway is one of the most popular communities in Ebonyi State and even the South-East. It is where the Eastern Premier Cement factory, NIGERCEM, which had over 5000 workers before it went into comatose is located. The community is also blessed politically and has produced Senators, House of Assembly members, local government Chairmen, Commissioners and many notable politicians.
The people are homogenous and share many things in common. They have been living in peace but the peace was recently shattered when houses and other valuable properties of some of the people were destroyed by suspected thugs. The thugs inflicted injuries on over 10 persons and carted away some money `belonging to the victims. Among those whose buildings were destroyed by the hoodlums include, Acting Traditional Ruler of the community, Eze Livinus Umeanu, Town Union President of the community, Omaha Joseph, Village Chief of Imeoha, Chief James Mbagu among others.
Motorcycles, numbering five, were set ablaze and an undisclosed amount of money burnt by the thugs. Other items destroyed include: four deep freezers, GP tanks, two generating sets and other household appliances. Narrating their ordeal, the Town Union President, Joseph Omabe, said trouble started when the community rose against a youth leader in the community, Emeka Onukwube and his gang, who he said specialises in vandalism of properties of NIGERCEM Cement Company in the community. He expressed regret that despite the efforts of Chief Cletus Ibeto to revive the premier cement factory in the community, Onukwube and his gang allegedly goes into the factory armed, cart away equipment of the company and sell them as scraps to waiting buyers.
He noted that when the community realised what was happening, they mobilised security personnel who accosted them and ensured that their activities were stopped. He added that the community also removed him as the youth leader. The Town Union President noted that he vowed to create crisis in the community and also ensured that anyone who has a hand in his suspension as youth leader and stoppage of his activities would face his wrath.
Omabe expressed regret that few days ago, Onukwube had a fight with his cousin who according to him, was also against his activities in the community, adding that after the fight, he left and mobilised his friends and other thugs, brought them into the community, attacked people and destroyed properties worth millions.
The Town Union President also alleged that the hoodlums were acting on the instruction of a prominent politician from the area whom he said used the thugs to unleash mayhem on his supposed political enemies. Another victim, Awara Sampson who described the attack on the community as unfortunate called on the Commissioner of Police, the Director, Department of State Services (DSS) and the state government to ensure the arrest of those who masterminded the attacks on the members of the community.
He cautioned against using thugs to attack innocent members of the community, adding that the community will continue to protect the equipment at the cement factory against those who are against the revival of the company. Following the incident, women from the community took to the streets to protest what they called incessant attacks on the people of the area.
They called on both the state government and security agencies to curb the attacks and save them from the fear that has engulfed the area as a result of the attacks. The women, who dressed half naked, also protested on the highway The women leader, Mrs. Chinwe Onyirugwu, said if government and security agencies continue to pay deaf ear on the attacks, they would have no option than to use every available of their tradition to place generational curse on the sponsor of the attacks, who she said, was the Chairman of Ishielu Local Government Area. She said: “Ishielu Council Chairman, Mr. Sunday Eze, is sponsoring all kinds of cult activities in Nkalagu Community by giving guns and other dangerous weapons to few Nkalagu Youth which they have been using to terrorize Nkalagu Community regularly.
“Today our people, some sustained bullet injuries, some machete cuts, houses razed and other attacks. We cannot continue like this. “If government fails to do the needful, we will use every available Igboessa tradition to place generational curse on the Chairman of Ishielu local government Area for bringing destructions of lives and property instead of democracy dividend,” she said.
The member of the State House of Assembly representing Ishielu North Constituency, Okechukwu Ali, while addressing the women condemned the continued cult related attack in the community. He accused the Chairman of Ishielu Local Government Area of allegedly sponsoring the attack. But the Chairman, Sunday Eze, dismissed the allegation against him. He accused the Senator Representing Ebonyi Central zone in the National Assembly, Obinna Ogba, of sponsoring the crisis. He said: “I didn’t cause any crisis, the crisis is happening at the community where the Senator is coming from, he was just hurting those that are not supporting his political ambition of becoming the governor. “If you go round, you will see the houses that were destroyed including the councilor, traditional ruler and some others. “Chinwe is the closest person to Senator Ogba’s wife, ask anybody in Nkalagu.
So I can tell you the protest is just an arranged one.” But Senator Ogba berated Eze over the allegation. Ogba reacted through his Media Aide, Godfery Chikere. “The same senator he is accusing today is the same man he has been sleeping in his house before he was made local government Chairman.
“On the day of his swearing-in, he had no car, it was the same senator that gave him car, and bought clothes for him to wear on the day of his swearing-in. You are a journalist, can you trace any form of violence to Senator Obinna Ogba not to talk of his own community? “If he is assuming that the women that protested today were sponsored, I expected him if he is a council Chairman that loves peace, to organise a counter protest if his people love him.” “I want to ask him if he cited senator Ogba at the protest or the way he is alleging that the protest was sponsored by senator Ogba’s wife. “For your information, Senator Ogba’s wife is an academics, she is currently the Dean, Faculty of Education, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo(AE-FUNAI).