City Life

Ebonyi: When elders probe mysterious deaths in Ezza

The sudden death of Ebonyi Commissioner of Infrastructural Development for Concession, Engr. Fidelis Nweze, has sparked off a probe of mysterious deaths of prominent sons of Ezza clan by the elders, UCHENNA INYA reports…

The death of Engr. Fidelis Nweze last month shook Ebonyi State to its foundation. Till today, the state has not recovered from his sudden demise, prompting a probe of mysterious deaths of prominent sons of Ezza clan by the elders. Weeks after his death, widows and other less privileged that Nweze catered for while still alive are still crying uncontrollably. But as the people were mourning, the came this rumour that Nweze, whose body was lying in the mortuary, had resurrected.

The state immediately erupted in jubilation with everybody celebrating the resurrection which later turned out to be false thereby worsening the sorrowful conditions of the people of the state. On June 19, 2021, Engr. Fidelis Nweze was travelling to Enugu in his Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) with his driver and police orderly.

It was in the night that they were travelling to the coal city state. On getting close to Enugu, tragedy struck. His car rammed into a lorry carrying granite and Nweze, a former Commissioner for Works and Transport during the first tenure of Governor Dave Umahi, suffered fatal injuries while his driver and police orderly had minor ones.

Nweze was said to have suffered an intestinal perforation as a result of the auto crash and was taken to a Turkish hospital in Abuja where he was said to have under gone surgery successfully but died on Tuesday June 22, 2021 after suffering complications. However, his driver and orderly were treated and discharged. Incidentally, there are different accounts on where and when the accident occurred. While the state government said it happened at about 7pm at Eke Obinagu axis of the Enugu road, an eyewitness, Okoro Chinoyelum Lovelyn insisted that it occurred at Idodo axis of the road and at 8pm.

Lovelyn said: “I saw the accident. It happened at Idodo not Ekeobinagu. This Jeep is the exact car, but I guess it had already been towed to another destination before this picture was taken. “You can verify the accident by going to Royal mass. Ask of driver 1158 (that’s the driver conveying us from Lagos to Abakaliki that night. Our driver even used his fire extinguisher to quench the small fire on the engine.

“The driver may know the Peace driver that carried the victim to Enugu that night. It happened around 8pm at Idodo. It was raining and the area was dark, so you don’t expect anyone to bring out a phone under the rain to take pictures of the accident at the scene.

“The road was actually free and few vehicles, so it was just our vehicle coming from Lagos through Enugu to Ai and a Peace (Motors) driver coming from Ai, which eventually conveyed the man and the police man to hospital. “Few other private vehicles passing later refused to stop.

The driver and the policeman in the front seats were wearing their seat belts whereas the man was not and so the impact might have caused some internal bleeding. “Even the money box inside the car shattered and money scattered inside the car. The driver and the police were not hurt but they were the ones that helped the man out of the can and were hurrying to take him to the hospital by any means available. “When the accident occurred, the engine started sparking and caught fire, hence my driver used his fire extinguisher to extinguish the small fire.

The man had no physical injury but obviously could not stand nor walk on his own and in pains also. “The police accompanied the man to the hospital, whereas the driver stayed back at the accident scene. Thereafter we continued our journey to Abakaliki.

The vehicle rammed into a lorry carrying granite from the back perhaps the lorry had no brake light and the driver was on top speed because the road was free but was raining and dark.” Governor Dave Umahi, in an emotionladen voice, had personally confirmed Nweze’s death to reporters in Abakaliki, the state capital.

He described the commissioner as “irreplaceable” and one of the pillars of his administration. The Governor said: “Nweze died this morning at Turkish hospital Abuja at about 9:50am. He was traveling to Enugu on Saturday with his driver and orderly. “At Obinagu in Enugu State, they rammed into a stationery truck. He was wearing his seat belt and they were all conscious. He was rushed to Niger Foundation Enugu. “I got to know about it on Sunday and I insisted they move him to Abuja. I sent a doctor to the Turkish hospital.

“He was having severe pains so they did an examination and discovered that the seat belt had ruptured his intestine. “They did a successful operation and wanted to move him to the ward but we said no they should put him in intensive unit for three days to be sure everything was okay. This morning they said he had a crisis and at about 9:50am he died.” The governor described him as one of the pillars of his administration.

“I feel so sad and empty. To me it is like a dream. It is like my younger brother, my son or very close friend just slept and died,” he wept. He declared Tuesday as public holiday in the state, adding no market or any other business will open in honour of the late commissioner. On Wednesday June 22, 2021, markets, schools, banks and government offices were shut down completely in honour of the late Nweze. Youths of his Ezza South Local Government Area of the state on that Wednesday, barricaded Onueke/Afikpo Expressway protesting his sudden exit and demanding a more detailed explanation on his sudden demise.

The protest disrupted both vehicular and human movements along the ever busy Abakaliki-Afikpo Expressway. The youths had besieged the road in their numbers chanting songs and carried placards with inscriptions like: “We need investigation into Nweze’s death”, “Engr.Nweze’s death, one too many”, “Furnish us with more details into his mysterious death”, among others.

They used-tyres and empty drums to block the road thereby forcing travellers to either wait or return back to Abakaliki. Several efforts by some stakeholders of the area to calm the situation down proved abortive as all their appeals fell on deaf ears. The youths also trooped to the Ezza South East Development Centre Headquarters in the local government and vandalized many of the office equipment and the building while expressing their anger over the death of the commissioner. It took the quick intervention of security personnel who mobilized to the area to restore normalcy and also pave the way for motorists and commuters travelling through the area to continue their journey.

Some of the protesters who spoke expressed sadness over the death of the commissioner and called for an investigation to unravel the real cause of his death. Chinedu Nworie, a beneficiary of Nweze’s empowerment programme described his death as unfortunate and colossal loss to the youth of the state.

He called on the Enugu State government to urgently relocate the tanker drivers that usually park along the Eke-Obinagu axis of the Enugu-Abakaliki Expressway. He noted that hundreds of motorists and commuters have lost their lives along the axis while many others spend several hours as a result of traffic congestion occasioned by the huge number of trucks that park along the two sides of the highway. Another beneficiary, Mrs. Chineye Uwa commended Governor Dave Umahi for declaring a public holiday in mourning the late commissioner and urged him to immortalize Nweze for his contribution to the development of the state.

Incidentally, on Thursday June 24 the state erupted in jubilation when unconfirmed news filtered in that Nweze had resurrected. His Abakaliki residence was filled with a jubilant crowd who were celebrating the “good news”. The crowd was singing praises to God for the ‘miracle’ The euphoria even rose further after word spread that he had reportedly made a video call to members of his family.

Prominent politicians, including some members of the state House of Assembly, were seen in Nweze’s compound celebrating his ‘return’. Markets, the state mechanic site and business operators shut their businesses to join the celebration of the return to life of Nweze.

Many social media users in the state took to their various platforms to post the ‘resurrection’ of Nweze. But their joy soon evaporated when the Special Assistant to Governor Dave Umahi on Media, Francis Nweze made a Facebook post and described the ‘resurrection’ as fake news.

He said: “People should stop spreading news that is not verified, it is inflicting more pain on those that are currently mourning. “No picture evidence, no confirmation from the hospital or mortuary, why on earth should we engage in hearsay at this critical time? “The state is still in a mourning mood. Though it is a very hard pill to swallow but we have to accept the reality before us.”

The late Nweze was a preacher of the gospel who built church branches for his Living Faith (Winners) Church, built houses for widows and other less privileged in the state and empowered many youths, men and women. Nweze handled most of the projects in Umahi’s administration including the over 10 flyovers across the state that have been built and the ones that are currently on-going, roads, the on-going international airport construction, the 199-kilometre ring road that was just flagged off by Umahi last month among others. Meanwhile, the Ezza Ezekuna Council of Elders, known as Ozo l’Ochimkpuru, have expressed deep sorrow over inexplicable premature deaths of their illustrious sons in recent time especially the demise of Nweze.

The Chairman of Elders Council, Chief Bartholomew Ugbo made their feelings known after their emergency meeting at Ezza Ancestral Home, Okpoku Ezekuna, Nchionu, Ezza South LGA, Ebonyi State. Ugbo explained that Ezza Ezekuna Council of Elders usually meet on Afo traditional market day whenever an important issue arises to invoke their ancestors, hence the special traditional prayer at the premises of Ezekuna and his wife – Anyigo. “There are so many prominent and promising Ezza sons who recently died in confusing and strange circumstances.

That’s why we came here to pray according to our culture and tradition, so that God who created them – late Engr. Fidelis Nweze and late Sir Samuel Nweke, late Senator Vincent Usulor and so many others who died in mysterious ways. If their deaths are caused by anything or anyone, let the spirits of our ancestors and their own spirits go and retaliate.

“We prayed that God may console our youths. We appeal to them to remain calm. Let them join us in this prayer. We are equally asking our women to join us in prayers for the good of Ezza land and for the good of others. Let God and our ancestors fight on our behalf,” he said. The Council of Elders called on the leadership of Ezza Union to schedule a day for General Prayers for all Ezza Ezekuna sons and daughters both at home and in the Diaspora. The members of Ozo l’Ochimkpuru, who attended the prayer meeting, included: Ozo Nweke Eze, Ozo Igboke Idor, Ozo Opoke Una, Ozo Nwoba Nwafo, Chief Linus Igwe, Chief Francis Unah and Ezaa Ezekuna Ndewo Media Team.

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