Reporter : CHUKWUBUIKE MADU
Some concerned members of Oruku Community in Nkanu East Local Government Area have appealed to the Enugu State Government to reinvigorate efforts towards bringing lasting peace and improved security in the war torn area.
They made the appeal when the “Commission of Inquiry into the Killing of Igwe Chidiebere Mba of Oruku” visited the area on a fact finding mission.
Though people are gradually returning to the community after deployment of soldiers three weeks ago, many of them still live in fear because or intermittent attacks.
Just in 2020, there was joy in Oruku Community following a truce that ended the age long communal clash with the neighbouring Umuode Community.
But the joy appears to be short lived as another crisis erupted, this time between two factions within Oruku Community.
Radio Nigeria gathered that struggle for the traditional stool of the community sparked off the crisis, leading to the killing of Igwe Chidiebere Mba, who was recognized by the Enugu State Government as the traditional ruler after an election, which was reportedly boycotted by a faction opposed to his emergence.
The incident, which occurred on December 26, 2020, forced many people to desert the community for safety as houses were burnt down even many days after.
Worried by the development, the Enugu State Government deployed soldiers to the area after imposing a dusk to dawn curfew and set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Killing of the traditional ruler.
The Commission, inaugurated by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on January 8, 2021, headed by Justice Harold Eya, with Dr. Godwin Anigbo as Secretary, after examination and cross examination of some witnesses, decided to visit the scene of the crisis.
During the visit, Radio Nigeria observed that primary and secondary schools in the community had remained closed, just as business and farming activities were stalled.
Two indigenes of the area, Mr. Anozie Ani and Mr. Linus Nwatu, told the Commission that Igwe Chidiebere Mba was allegedly killed in an attack by policemen with the connivance of two members of the community.
“They started shooting the moment they parked their vehicles and everybody took off because they were shooting sporadically,” Mr. Ani narrated.
Also, Mr. Nwatu, who said he was taking the minutes of the meeting before the incident, narrated thus:
“Around after two (in the afternoon), about three vehicles stormed this place. They came down and started firing, everybody scattered. Igwe followed this place.
“Emma Nwobodo and Sunday Daniel Onunze and other ones following him (Igwe) with that policeman, Inspector Dennis Daniel.
“They dragged him back to where he parked his vehicle at the Town Halll and fired him.”
A house very close to the Town Hall was totally burnt alongside two cars as narrated by an occupant of the building, Mr. Donatus Ogbo.
“I ran into the bush when unknown men stormed our house 26th December night. In fact, I stayed in the nearby bush in fear till morning.
“My stepmother, an old woman, was also chased out of the building by the assailants, who looted the house.
“They burnt these two cars belonging to my stepmother’s grandchildren who came to celebrate Christmas with us, though they were not at home during the incident,” Mr. Ogbo stated.
It was a heart rendering sight as all the shops at the Eke Oruku Market were burnt down in attacks and counter attacks, allegedly by the warring factions. Ironically, a police post is just by the market.
“The market, it wasn’t burnt in a day, it was burnt on several occasions, starting from 4th of January 2021.
“The policemen at the Police Post in the market who were there on the day the crisis started ran away in their vehicle. They said the gun fire was heavy for them to contain,” two of the villagers told the commission.
Just as the Chairman of the Commission, Justice Eya, expressed displeasure at the absence of one of the stakeholders in the crisis, Mr. Raymond Okenwa and his wife, and was about to visit the eldest man in the community, sporadic gunshots emanated from nearby bushes but soldiers on duty repelled the assailants.
The eldest man in Oruku, Iyaba Nwogbu Nwuke, who was visibly troubled by the ugly development, complained bitterly that some stakeholders in the crisis refused to harken to his voice for peaceful resolution of the issues as earlier directed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
While appealing to the Commission to help bring peace to the land, the old man placed a curse on anyone fomenting trouble in the area.
“They have all refused to listen to me. I called them but they didn’t come, they don’t respect me, saying I’m not educated.
“It won’t be well with all those causing this crisis. They are busy burning people’s houses and burnt down our market.
“Many people have fled their homes but I have sworn not to run from my home. The level of mayhem we have seen between December last year and now far outweighs the destructions witnessed in our years of clash with Umuode Community.
“How can we be killing ourselves? I respected my elders but now it’s my turn, they have refused to listen and respect me. As the eldest man in this community and with the staff of authority of the community, it won’t be well with these trouble makers,” the old man said in anguish.
Similarly, some men and women heartbroken and traumatized by the alarming wave of destruction appealed for more government intervention in the crisis.
One of them, Mrs. Virginia Nnamani, cried out that some youths had taken advantage of the situation to rob and loot people’s property in broad daylight.
“Government please come and build industries at the border between Umuode and Oruku to employ these youths, they have stolen so much from us.
“We don’t have anything again. You will be there and they will cut your palm fruits; the same thing with our cassava and yam and you cannot do anything to them,” the woman lamented.
As at the time of the visit, Radio Nigeria gathered that about eighty buildings have been burnt and four persons said to have died as a result of the crisis.