Residents of Eziowelle town in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra state, are currently gripped by fear of a possible breakdown of law and order following the alleged malicious destruction of properties belonging to the people of Umunnama village, and threats to lives leveled against the town’s traditional ruler reports our Correspondent.
These may not be the best of times for both the people of Eziowelle Community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra state, and their traditional ruler His Royal Highness Igwe Michael Ugorji.
Eziowelle, which in English Language means ‘a good place’, is fast becoming an appalling, dreadful town for both indigenes and non-indigenes.
An agrarian community, lying about twenty three kilometres east of Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the South-East, and the home town of the Vatican Cardinal Francis Arinze, Eziowelle seems to have lost the enviable qualities of peace, humaneness associated with the revered Cardinal Arinze.
Today, the town is in turmoil, and residents seem to be gripped with palpable fear allegedly due to what one indigene described as the ‘unwholesome’ and ‘despicable’ activities of Igwe Michael Ugorji, who has been on the traditional throne for 30 years, as well as the leadership of Eziowelle Improvement Union (EIU).
Eziowelle is made up of five villages which are Umuikwele, Umunnama, Ezinimo, Okpaliko and Ubulu.
In 2018, Igwe Ugorji, working in concert with the President of Eziowelle Improvement Union, Barrister Nnabuike Titus Akpudo, allegedly imposed a burial levy on bereaved families in the community wishing to bury their lovedones.
Addressing journalists in Awka, the Anambra state capital, some residents of the community led by Chief Felix Okafor, and Emeka Akukwe, maintained that the leadership of the community imposed a burial levy of one million naira on every bereaved family before they could bury their departed relations.
They lamented that the high burial levy imposed by the leadership of the town had made them to leave the dead bodies of their loved ones in the mortuaries because they could not afford to bury them.
The representatives of the community also alleged that the leadership of the community demanded that anybody who wanted to build a house in the town must first pay a levy of one million naira before digging the foundation of the house.
Though Igwe Ugorji and the town union president at separate interviews with journalists denied both allegations, most residents of the community said they were ‘economic with the truth.”
And less than two years after, Igwe Ugorji and Akpudo, are embroiled in another scandal- this time around – destruction of properties belonging to some indigenes of the community, as well as threats to lives.
The AUTHORITY gathered that in August 2020, Igwe Ugorji and the town union president secured the services of an Awka-based real estate firm, Adidibor & Company Ltd, to demolish all structures at Ugwu Mkpuenyi land, said to belong to the people of Enugo Umunnama village in Eziowelle community.
The duo of Igwe Ugorji and the town union president were alleged to have threatened to snuff life out of members of Ununnama village who came out in their large number to stop the earth moving equipment belonging to Adidibor and Company Ltd from causing havoc on their “ancestral” land.
It was further learnt that after destroying all the properties in the said land, including perimeter fencing and gates, the Igwe and the town union president allocated the vast expanse of land to themselves and their cohorts.
However, Igwe Ugorji told The AUTHORITY in a telephone interview that the land belonged to Eziowelle community as a whole, explaining that the land is not exclusively owned by the people of Umunnama village.
He denied threatening the life of anybody, saying that as a traditional ruler, he is responsible for the welfare, security of lives and property of his subjects.
Meanwhile, The AUTHORITY learnt that the police at the Zone 13 headquarters in Ukpo Dunukofia Council Area of Anambra state have waded into the affray.
A source at the station confirmed that the police have commenced investigation into alleged unlawful, malicious destruction of properties belonging to the people of Umunnama village, and alleged threats to lives leveled against Igwe Michael Ugorji, and the town union president.
According to the source, “the police is investigating the circumstances surrounding the alleged conspiracy by Igwe Michael Ugorji, and co to acquire a vast expanse of Ugwu Mkpuenyi land, and appropriated it to themselves, and in the process demolished the perimeter fencing and gates of plots of land belong to members of Enugo Umunnama village, the owners of the Ugwu Mkpuenyi land.”
It was also gathered that a week ago, Igwe Michael Ugorji and Barr Akpudo, visited the Zone 13 headquarters at the behest of the police, and were drilled for several hours on the roles they allegedly played in the willful destruction of properties belonging to the people of Umunnama village, and threats on the lives of some members of village.
A senior staff of Adidibor Company Ltd, has also been interrogated by the police over the circumstances leading to the malicious destruction of properties belonging to the people of Umunnama village.
The staff whose name was not mentioned by our source admitted that the earth moving equipment belonging to the company destroyed the properties on the said land, but did not say who authorized the pulling down of those structures.
Some residents of the town said the Igwe and the town union president should be held vicariously responsible for the damage done to those properties, adding that without inviting the bulldozers in the first place, those structures would not have been destroyed.
The Monarch, who is allegedly in the habit of using his position to intimidate and forcibly acquire land from members of his community, is said to be involved in a land case with the people of Odida Umuekwelle, another village in the same community.
There is a groundswell of opinion that a breakdown of law and order is imminent in Eziowelle, except stakeholders of the community meet urgently to dissuade the traditional ruler and the leadership of the town union from engaging in unlawful and unauthorized acquisition of land.
Therewas palpable tension when The AUTHORITY visited the area last week.
“We cannot allow this unwholesome acquisition of land by our traditional ruler to continue. Something must give way,’ said one resident.