Houses set blaze in Ebonyi community over leadership tussle

Houses set blaze in Ebonyi community over leadership tussle

Many houses were burnt while properties worth millions of naira were destroyed in Amuzu Igbeagu community in Izzi Local Government Area over a disagreement arising from leadership and land tussle in the area.

Though details of what happened were still sketchy at the time of this report, one of the victims, Jacinta Onyiyechi, said all her certificates and other vital documents were destroyed when miscreants hired by one of the factions set her father’s house ablaze.

Another victim, who did not want her name mentioned for fear of more reprisals, accused Maurice Nkwuda, the husband of the coordinator of Igbeagu Development Centre of masterminding the crisis.

Mr Nkwuda declined comments when approached by the reporter.

The source traced the genesis of the whole incident to 2016 when some members of the community led by Mr Nkwuda ”plotted to hand over a mineral-rich land in the community to a prospective miner.”

But the community reportedly resisted ”his attempts to take over the land.”

The source said the community’s executives’ tenure had ended then and ”backed by Mr Nkwuda, they refused to hand over or conduct another election.”

“They wanted to remain in power and use their power to force the community to hand over the land to them and their preferred mining company. This led to a court case which lingered till March this year when the court gave judgement against them and ordered them to hand over to a newly elected leadership but they still refused to hand over,” the source said

The source said the villagers wrote to the state government ”which ordered the executive to hand over the newly elected leadership”.

The source noted that having lost the leadership of the village, the group resorted to inviting gunmen ”to attack and intimidate the villagers”.

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“They hired gunmen who are at the border with Cross River State to attack us and burn down our houses,” the source said.

“They first came two days ago (Wednesday) and started shooting into the air. People ran away and they packed people’s properties and destroyed damaged some buildings.

“The community complained to the commissioner for border peace and internal security who called for a meeting and sent police there. But yesterday (Thursday) night after the police left, they came back and burnt down many houses and properties.”

PREMIUM TIMES could not independently verify the allegations against Mr Nkwuda or the said executive.

He refused to speak on the issue when contacted by our reporter.

“I am very busy. I will call you later when I am done,” he said on the phone to our reporter after which he cut the call.

Ono of the destroyed properties
Ono of the destroyed properties

He subsequently refused to pick several calls placed to his phone by the reporter. He also did not respond to text messages sent to him.

He was yet to call back as he promised at the time of this report.

His wife and coordinator of Igbeagu Development Centre, Roseline Nkwuda, also did not take calls placed to her phone line.

Leadership tussle

Meanwhile, police spokesman, Loveth Odah, confirmed the incident adding that ”Mrs Nkwuda denied the involvement of her husband in the attacks”.

She said the crisis was rather as a result of a tussle for the leadership in the community.

Ono of the destroyed propertiesOno of the destroyed properties
Ono of the destroyed properties

“Yesterday (Thursday), I had to contact the coordinator of the development centre. It was alleged that her husband was working with the former village head of the community,” she said. “She denied that her husband is involved in the attack. She also promised to come to the station on Monday.”

Mrs Odah said the police has sent a patrol team to the area to restore calm.

“The matter has been transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Abakaliki and we have commenced investigation,” Mrs Odah added.