Metro & Crime

Warlords sack Ebonyi community over deity

Police, Army arrest 14 suspects, recover arms

Fear has gripped residents of Ihe Autonomous community, Ishiagu in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State following the wanton destruction of property worth millions of naira in Ndi Iheme village by warlords. The assailants were believed to be from Ndiobasi, a neighbouring village.

But the police and the Army said they had arrested 14 suspected warlords in connection with the attack. Ndiobasi and Ndi Iheme are neighbouring villages in Ihe Autonomous community of Ishiagu. They have been in dispute since 1996 when Ebonyi State was created. Ndiobasi people have been accusing Ndi Iheme of receiving blessings from a deity in the area which the Ndiobasi regard as their goddess. They alleged that the Ndi Iheme people were the ones blocking the blessings accruing from the deity and decided to evict them from the area since 1996.

But the Ndi Iheme people insisted they would not leave the area as, according to them, it is their ancestral home. This has led to a series of disputes between the two villages who have been intermarrying. The disputes degenerated last weekend when at 12.15am, armed men invaded Ndi Iheme and destroyed houses and other valuables. Some of the people sustained varying degrees of injury. A 64-year-old retired school principal, Madukwe Cletus Ikechukwu, narrated what transpired to our correspondent, who visited the village.

He said: “It was a horrible experience on that Sunday early morning when they invaded our village. When I opened my door and came out because of heavy gunshots I heard at 12.15am of that Sunday, I saw young men dressed in black attire with axes, sledge hammers, guns, and machetes.

I immediately shut the door and entered into the bush where I had a clear view of what happened because the moon was on. I was able to recognise some of them. That night, luck ran out on them as they were apprehended by the police. ”It has been a protracted dispute.

This thing started as soon as Ebonyi State was created in 1996 when Linus Ukachukwu was appointed the chief of our community. Since then, the people of Ndi Obasi saw it as an opportunity to drive us away from the community to take over our land.

“They have been accusing us of taking the blessings they are supposed to be getting from the deity they worship in the community. They have been insisting that we must park away from the community so that the blessing that is due to them can come to them. They have been doing everything possible to ensure that we go away from here.

“In 1997, if you go to the police station you will see it, they wrote an undertaking that they would be of good behaviour when they threatened that they would come and burn down our village. We went to the police and reported the matter and they wrote an undertaking that they will be of good behaviour.

“We thought they would abide by the undertaking they took. The next thing they did was to start harvesting our crops and destroying our things. We wrote to the police again and they were summoned by the police.” The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Loveth Odah, said a team of policemen and soldiers had arrested 14 persons who carried out the destruction at Ndi Iheme. The PPRO said some “offensive” weapons were recovered from the suspects. She said: “The DPO of Ivo has actually stopped the destruction.

I can beat my chest that normalcy has returned to the area because he actually responded quickly and he went there and arrested about 12 persons. He even recovered some weapons from them. “Also, a Captain from the Military Cantonment, Nkwagu Abakaliki, who led a team of soldiers to the area, arrested two persons too. The two persons the Captain arrested were hired from the neighbouring community of Abia State by the opposing village. “Double-barrelled guns and other offensive weapons like machetes and rods were recovered from the two suspects. All the suspects are in police custody. “The Commissioner of Police has mandated the DPO of that area and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives of that area should be patrolling the village and ensure there is no further breakdown of law and order.”

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