From Angela Nwaeze, Abakaliki
Nine persons have been reported missing in a communal crisis between the people of Elugwu Ittam in Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi State.
The village chairman of Elugwu Ittam, Mr. Eze Ejike Innocent, made the disclosure on Friday in Abakaliki after a meeting with the commissioner for Border Peace and Security, Hon. Stanley Emegha and other stakeholders from the community.
Innocent accused one Mr. Celestine Okah, who is married to Mrs. Chinwe Okah, a commissioner in Governor Umahi’s cabinet of being behind the disappearance of the community members.
He claimed that two out of those who went missing were abducted in front of Okah’s compound, adding that their belongings which they were coming back from the market with were found at his gate.
The village chairman, who doubts that the missing persons were still alive, narrated that the matter was reported to the police, but nothing has been done about it.
“The community had to resort to using traditional way of settling disputes to see if justice could be done on the matter. We invited Mr. Okah to come and take an oath that he doesn’t know anything about the disappearance of those men from the community, but the day he was supposed to appear before us, he came with policemen and neighborhood watch security men and they were arresting people at the village square.
“The missing that took place in 2013 happened in front of Celestine’s younger brother, Simon’s compound, and it happened at night. And since then our men have been disappearing without any trace. We are looking for nine people as we speak and the most recent one that happened was in front of Celestine’s compound.
“We got to know about it when the food items he bought from the market were seen at Celestine’s gate. And anytime we are talking about finding the whereabouts of the missing persons he will be indifferent about it. He has other people he is working with,” Innocent narrated.
He said they were ready to make peace in the village provided Celestine’s group are ready for peace.
In an interview, wife of the recent victim, Mrs. Christina Elegu, who was weeping profusely said that her husband, 63 year old Alegu Nnechi, was allegedly kidnapped at the front of Celestine’s compound and that he allegedly took his husband to an unknown place where he was killed.
She lamented, ” Celestine killed my husband who went to buy foodstuffs at Nwafor market on June 4, 2019. He killed my husband and put him inside his vehicle, covered him with white cloth and drove off. When people asked who he was carrying in his vehicle, he said it was his brother who was sick and that he was taking him to the hospital. It was later we discovered that it was my husband that was in the vehicle.
“My husband left me with four children and since then we have been grieving the death of my husband. I’m not happy with the way things went.”
Addressing stakeholders from the community at the meeting, commissioner for Border Peace and Security, Mr. Emegha said he was mandated by Governor David Umahi, to take over the matter and restore peace in the area.
Emegha pleaded with both parties that were present at the meeting to sheath their sword and embrace peace, while begging those who were wronged to forgive. He also stated steps his office will fellow to make peace which include visiting the community.
“I have been directed by the state government to take over the matter and restore peace in the area. I beg those who were wronged to forgive. Learn to control your anger, I want you people to make peace. Whatever thing that has happened should please me a thing of the past, I’m on my knees.
“God has elevated you community leaders as crisis managers and you are expected to be peacemakers. My office is not a law court where criminals are prosecuted and sentenced. We are here to make peace and that is why I’m begging you people to accept peace. Let go of pride,” he added.
In his vote of thanks, the accused, Mr. Celestine Okah, thanked the government for its intervention, adding that he was innocent of the allegations levelled against him.
Recall that the crisis between the people of Elugwu Ittam and Okah’s family was as a result of suspected ritual killings of nine persons from the village. The crisis began on May, 30, 2020.