Chief Chaka Nweze is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State. In this interview with UCHENNA INYA, he speaks on persistent communal crisis in the state and the way forward
What is your view on series of communal crisis in Ebonyi State?
The situation is really regrettable and unfortunate and should call for the concern of all well-meaning Ebonyians. The crises are unfortunately coming at a time the state government under the leadership of Chief David Umahi, in collaboration with security agencies, have made the state one of the safest in Nigeria. The escalation of the crises calls for concern and I hail the proactive steps the state government has taken to ensure that they are quelled. My concern, however, is that permanent solutions should be sought for the crisis because they keep re-occurring even when assurances are given that they have been permanently tackled.
What do you think are factors responsible for escalation of the crises?
The most potent of the factors is the politicisation of the crisis. Unfortunately, politicians who are hell bent of escalating the crises, make utterances that fuel such crises. It is pertinent to mention in this regard, a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led by Elder Fed Udogu. This faction of the party could have joined millions of Ebonyians to condemn the wanton killings of hapless indigenes of the area instead of politicizing it. This group of individuals should know that no form of political interest or aggrandizement is worth more than human life. We are talking of crises that have led to loss of lives and destruction of property worth millions of naira. It is obvious that this faction of PDP has not been comfortable since Governor Umahi took the patriotic giant leap of defecting from the PDP to the APC. They should however be reminded that issues such as wanton destruction of lives and property should be severed from politics.
The crises started with the Effium/Ezza Effium crisis followed by the Enyigba in Abakaliki Local Government Area/Enyibichiri in Ikwo council unto the Ovumte land dispute in Ivo Local Government Area. What is actually happening?
Well-meaning Ebonyians have expressed concern over the mayhem and called on the warring parties to sheath their sword and allow peace reign in the areas. The Effium/Ezza Effium crisis gave a huge call for concern because of the area’s huge agricultural and business potentials. When the Effium/ Ezza Effium crisis escalated, the governor directed and enforced the arrest of all stakeholders from the area. The move was commendable and it helped to a large extent in curtailing the crisis. Though pockets of disturbances are still being reported, it is expected that the proactive steps by the government and security agencies would go a long way in permanently quelling the crisis. The governor showed unimaginable political-will to nip the crises in the bud. He swore that all persons no matter highly placed in the government and the society would be prosecuted. Investigations are on-going and security agencies are on top of the situation. The governor’s courage is a rarity in this country, where political aficionados and sentimental considerations reign in our political system and this shows that he is a no-nonsense governor. The deputy governor of the state, in conjunction with security agencies, daily visit the area and even led the operation which saw to the raiding of criminal elements perpetrating the mayhem as well as arresting over 70 of them and taking them to the state Police Headquarters, Abakaliki. The governor also visited the area, held positive dialogue with the people, assured them of their safety and provided humanitarian assistance to them. He is also in close contact with various mobile telecommunication networks to screen the conversations of all political stakeholders from the state to ascertain the various conversations they held within the period to aid in the intensive investigations.
How about communal crises in other areas; what is the state government doing to resolve them?
The Enyibichiri and Enyigba communal crisis is also unfortunate because successive governments have done enough to ensure that it is permanently resolved. So, I think that stakeholders from both areas should do more to ensure lasting peace in the areas. The state government convened a meeting chaired by the deputy governor alongside the speaker of the state House of Assembly, who both hail from the affected clans. The outcome of the meeting was fruitful and it is hoped it would ensure permanent peace.
What was the outcome of the meeting?
Stakeholders from both areas were enjoined to compel their youths to cease fire and give peace a chance for amicable resolution of the crisis. The government further maintained that the traditional oath taking by Ikwo and Izzi clans instituted in 2019 is still in force. This means that no group or persons should unleash attack on the other as stakeholders were directed to arrest and submit to security agencies, culprits who defy this directive. I also hail the decision that proper demarcation of lands in the disputed areas should immediately commence, while severity agencies are mandated to arrest anyone found in the buffer zone. It is worthy to note that free movement in all roads leading to Ikwo and Abakiliki areas such as Nwezenyi- Noyo, Onuebonyi-Obubra roads, among others should be maintained, while security agencies should also patrol all affected roads. I also commend the government for replicating the policy it adopted in the Effium/Ezza Effium crises where stakeholders would be held responsible for failing to apprehend perpetrators of violence.
What is your advice to the people of the state?
I urge the governor not to be distracted by the antics of the opposition but concentrate and find lasting solutions to the crises as he permanently resolved the Ezillo/ Ezza Ezillo crisis. It is to his credit that he permanently resolved the endemic Ezillo/ Ezza Ezillo crisis which defied all efforts of previous administrations and he should replicate the same feat in the present crisis. He should deploy the same arsenal with which he resolved Ezillo/Ezza Ezillo crsis to the communal crises in the state. I must, however, state that the governor’s defection to the APC has attracted unrivaled attention and commendation across the country and has projected Ebonyi and the South-East geopolitical zone at the forefront of national discourse. It is already aiding in addressing the imbalance of marginalization being expressed by the people of the South-East. I advise the opposition in the state to be mindful that the governor is the chief security officer in the state and would discharge such functions to all citizens. The state government and all meaning citizens are pained by the crises and it would be ridiculous to link the governor or his administration to the crises, which affect the people he swore an oath of office to protect. I also commend the proactive response of security agencies to the situation as it shows that the new commissioner for Police in the state, for instance, is desirous to rid the state of all forms of criminality.