How monarch’s killing sparked burning of houses, cars in Enugu community

January 24, 2021
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One of the houses razed down

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247ureports.com writes on how the killing of Igwe Emmaunel Mba of Oruku community in Nkanu West local government area of Enugu state, on December 26, 2020 had led to the burning of houses and property worth millions of naira.

One of the houses razed down

December 26, 2020, will remain indelible in the history of Oruku Community in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu state. It was a day her traditional ruler, HRH Igwe Emmanuel Mbah, was gruesomely murdered by gunmen suspected to assassins who turned out to be men of the newly formed special weapons and tactical squad from Police Force Headquarters, Abuja who invaded the community town hall where the monarch was addressing her subjects that returned from across the country and overseas.

Inyaba Nwani a.k.a Agbaraka (oldest man in Oruku)

The meeting christened ‘annual general return meeting of Oruku community’ is held annually to discuss the progress and problems of the community and way forward. This very particular meeting was to address how to resettle members of the community who were affected by the peace accord between the community and Umode autonomous community which had been in communal war for over 35 years before the Enugu State Government with the effort of the late monarch brokered peace deal between the two warring communities.

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Other houses and shops destroyed

More interestingly the policemen who killed the traditional ruler were reportedly led by one Moses Nnamani with two other natives of the community, who allegedly pointed at the traditional ruler for the policemen who were adorned in black uniform with face masked, stormed the hall and allegedly opened fire on the congregants.

One of the attendees to the meeting, Mr. Onaga Ani, told our correspondent that everybody in the hall including the traditional ruler ran for their lives as nobody knew the mission of the assailants.

Emmanuel Ndubuisi Ani

“Not knowing that some people who were in the meeting had been debriefed by those who brought the assailants, however, pursued the traditional ruler with one of the assailants who was later identified as Inspector Dennis.

“Those collaborators pursued the monarch until they grabbed him and brought him where the Insp. Dennis now shot him twice in the thigh and he fell down bleeding. The assailants also manhandled other members of the community while Insp. Dennis mock the community leader, calling him all sorts of names,” he said. 

How the crisis started:

The current crisis started as a result of the government 30/70 percent peace initiative, the Caretaker Committee Chairman Chief Martin Nwatu has said.

Chronicle the events that led to the killing of the traditional ruler, Chief Nwatu stated, “the government had arranged for seven – seven persons from both Oruku and Umode to agree on the peace deal. These 14-men agreed that Umode should have 30 percent of the land while Oruku should have 70 percent but after signing the agreement, three persons from Oruku declared that they are no longer in support of the agreement they signed. They alleged that they were forced under gunpoint to sign the agreement. As part of the peace initiative the government further divided Oruku into two autonomous communities – Aguikpa autonomous community and Oruku autonomous community and Umode autonomous community. Because the subsisting monarch was from Aguikpa, part of Oruku before the division. So the Igwe now moved to his part and became their traditional ruler and then leaving Oruku traditional stool vacant.

“The existing town union was also dissolved by the state government after creating the Aguikpa community. The government in order not to create a leadership vacuum in the Oruku community now created a caretaker committee and appointed the late Igwe, Emmanuel Mbah to head it. Meanwhile, the Late Igwe was not among the seven persons that represented Oruku at the peace committee with Umode that signed the 30/70 percent agreement. Some people who are in the community led by one Raymond Okenwa said that the caretaker committee members, the governor set-up to oversee the affairs of the community were not acceptable to them, that they were pro-peace deals. He now started attacking the committee and inciting the villagers against them, claiming that they collected money from leaders of the Umode community to cede their land to their community.

“It was then that one Major Raphael Okenwa of the Nigeria Army came back to the village and organized some boys in his family compound and told them to ignore the government peace accord made between Oruku and Umode that Umode must pack out from their land and government cannot do anything or stop them that he will sponsor them. He further boasted that he is number one stakeholder in the community and if he want the community to be on fire that he has the capacity. He also after the meeting with the boys called the late Igwe Mba that he will kill him and former mayor Nkanu East LGA, Ejike Ani for selling Oruku to Umode. After the threat the late Igwe and Ani petitioned both the state government and all the relevant security agencies but nothing was done about it. Why the government and security agencies refused to do something is what I do not know. It was at this point that one Engr. Christopher Nnamuchi reported a case of land dispute to the chairman of Oruku neighbourhood watch and Oruku Caretaker Committee against one Mr Moses Nnamani.

“At the meeting to resolve the dispute, the meeting resolved that everybody would go to the site of the dispute. So when we visited the sight it was discovered that the land Moses Nnamani was claiming was bigger than the land he paid the community for. He was however asked to provide the land documents to show that  all the land he claimed to have paid belonged to him because in the town’s bank statement showed that he paid for eight plots of land. Instead of providing the documents as requested he started threatening to deal with Late Igwe who was then the chairman of the Oruku Caretaker committee and his committee members as well as the chairman of neighbourhood watch and his members. More especially he directed the threat also to Mr Ejike Ani, former Council Chairman of Nkanu East. He queried why they asked him to produce land documents, where they were the one who sold the land to him? Meanwhile the former President General of the community who sold the land to him was among the leaders that requested that he should produce the documents.

IGP STS became willing tool to fight leaders of the community:

Other houses and shops destroyed

Nwatu continued, “he left threatening that we will hear from him soon and was not seen again until after two months and stormed Enugu with IGP Special Tactical Squad (STS) and arrested Mr Ejike Ani and now the chairman caretaker committee, Mr Ikenna Nwatu Martins at their residence in Enugu state capital and were taken to Abuja and detained on trumped up allegations ranging from armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorism. After interrogation by STS Commander DCP Kolo Yusuf asked them to go on bail and now gave them an invitation letter for the late Igwe Mbah, his cabinet members, Chairman of Neighbourhood watch and his members to come to Abuja and that was in June 2020. On June 30, 2020 all the community leaders including the monarch as law abiding citizens honoured the invitation of the STS Commander and went to Abuja. On getting to Abuja, they were all detained on the orders of DCP Yusuf for one whole month at their cell in Abattoir police detention center.

“It was after one whole month in detention that DSP Yusuf after several petitions charged them to court with assorted crimes including terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, human trafficking among others. Meanwhile during the one month detention of the monarch and community leaders at STS detention cell at Abattoir; one DSP Bako Osuma, Inspectors Pius and Ocha came to the community and asked that the guns Enugu state government gave Neighbourhood Watch be provided to them with licenses and their certificate of registration. After the weapons were handed over to them as requested, they went to the market square, gathered the entire community and told them that they were sent by the Inspector General of police Adamu Mohammed to tell them that their leaders arrested have been dethroned by the Nigeria Police force. They told them that the community should hold a fresh election to get their replacement. After inciting the people against their leaders they went back to Abuja and charged them with unlawful possession of prohibited firearms; even when they were with the valid licenses of those guns and certificate of registration of neighbourhood watch. So, after they were charged to court in Abuja, the trial judge in his wisdom granted them bail and adjourned for trial.

“All the leaders came back to Enugu and on the adjourned date they went back to court but police was not ready for the trial and the court further adjourned the case. Surprisingly, while they were coming out of the courtroom, a team of policemen from STS led by DSP Bako swooped on them and they succeeded in arresting one of the leaders while others ran back to the courtroom which forced the judge to come out to warn the operatives. The judge had told them that the leaders have been granted bail and they met all the bail conditions. Why are they hounding them again in the court premises? They went back with one of the leaders they arrested in court, Mr Okey Ogbodo and re-charged him with terrorism, unlawful possession of prohibited firearm, kidnapping, murder among others before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court. Again the court after examining all the accusations and trumped up charges granted the accused bail. The STS did not stop there, all the cases being handled by Enugu Command including that of one Friday Ngwu that was caught with full loaded pump action were taken to Abuja and was released and closed the case without investigation.

“When the Abuja court told the police that they have no evidence to sustain the charges against the community leaders and coupled with the fact that the court lacked jurisdiction to continue with the case the STS rushed to Enugu in December and filed those charges against the leaders before Enugu High Court. However, without a court warrant of arrest, the men of STS inclusion with the same Moses Nnamani stormed Oruku on December 26, 2020; with unmarked vehicles and moved to the venue of the annual general meeting of the community. Immediately they arrived in front of the Town Hall, the policemen who were seven in number with faces fully covered stormed out of the SUV tinted cars and started shooting sporadically. While they were shooting and because there was no identification showing they were police everybody started running for their own life. Late Igwe Emmanuel was not left out. So while people were running the Moses Nnamani came out of the vehicles with Onyema Ede and Emmanuel Nwobodo, who now were pointing at people to pursue and arrest. Onyema Ede and Emmanuel Nwobodo are two wanted armorers that were custodians of weapons the community used during the Oruku/Umode communal war. They were declared wanted by both the state government and all the security agencies in the state but STS was harboring them to ensure that the war did not end so that they would continue to feed fat from the war.”

Igwe was grabbed by some members of the community and police shot him two times.

A youth leader, Ugochukwu Nnaji, told our correspondent that Igwe Emmaunel Mbah was seized by some members of the community before a policeman shot him twice in his thigh.

He said “when the gunmen who were masked invaded the community hall and started shooting, late Igwe ran out like every other person. Unfortunately, some youths who were suspected to have been briefed by Moses Nnamani, who brought the invaders pursued him. Some of those boys who pursued him were Sunday Daniel Onunze, Chukwuke Nwatu, Onyeka Eze among others.

“They seized him and one of the policemen who has been identified as Inspector Dennis came and shot him two times at  a close range while they held him. After shooting him, the Inspector started making derision of him like ‘Igwe stand up; Igwe I hail you. Igwe stand and run” among other derogatory words. He also kicked him on the waist while watching him bleed profusely.”                  

He added “So they delayed and ensured that Igwe was no more talking before they threw him to the trunk of his Hilux van and zoomed off and that was about 45minutes after shooting him.”

Another source told our correspondent that they only went to the Parklane hospital to confirm that he has died but when the doctors told them that there was no bed chance they went straight to National Orthopedic Hospital Morgue and deposited him and took his Hilux Van, over three million in the car that he wanted to share among residents whose part of their lands were affected by Oruku/Umode peace initiative.

Burning of houses and property:

Immediately the news that the traditional ruler had died, angry residents ran amok, burnt all the houses of the community members who were alleged to have brought police to kill the monarch.

Our correspondent who visited the community reports that over 27 houses and 16 business shops, supper market and the only pharmaceutical shop in the community were completely razed down. Vehicles and other valuables worth millions of naira were also burnt.

Lamenting the destruction of his house and supermarket, Emmaunel Ndubuisi Ani, Chairman Neighbourhood Watch Oruku, said that he lost over N5 million to the crisis.

Ani who was yet to figure out his offence that warranted the burning of his supermarket that was the only such market around the community, said “my shop was burnt on 27th December, 2020 around 9pm by boys recruited by those who masterminded the killing of the monarch.

“Police have arrested one Raymond Nnamani Onyedika who has named one Ogechukwu Okenwa, Ugochukwu Ede, Onyedika Eze as his accomplices. They looted the super market before setting it ablaze. Some of the items looted before setting it ablaze include laptop, sound system, three generators, 57 android phones and 79 buttoning phones; phone accessories, deep freezer and hundreds of cosmetics among other items.

“I feel so bad that everything I had laboured for years was just looted and destroyed overnight. I am married with children. Since the incident I find it hard to take care of my wife and children. I don’t have any other means of survival because that business was my job employment, my workshop and everything. I am appealing for assistance from the government and well-meaning Nigerians.

“I don’t know the offence I have committed to warrant this kind of treatment from the people I called my own,” he lamented adding “although one Ugochukwu Okenwa has been threatening me even sending death threat messages to me and I have given it to the police.

“He warned not to support the peace accord between Oruku and Umode communities. As the head of the neighbourhood I have it as an obligation to maintain peace in the community. So I don’t see it as having committed any offence. Funning enough I was among the community leaders the police without investigation charged for murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism among others before an Abuja magistrate court by IGP STS because I was supporting the government peace initiative between Oruku and Umode,” he decried.

Another person whose pharmaceutical shop was burnt, Onyebuchi Okenwa, told our correspondent that drugs he bought running into millions on credit hoping that after the season he would pay back were completely burnt down.

He noted that N2.1milion that he wanted to use to purchase a vehicle by this January was burnt inside the shop.

“My shop was burnt on January 4, 2021 around 1 am by the same group of boys Moses Nnamani and Raymond Okenwa armed to terrorize the community. I am a patent medical dealer. My pharmaceutical shop was heavily stocked with drugs. It is the only drug shop in the entire community. I kept N2.1 million which I want to use to buy a car this January but all were burnt down. I am married with four children, a wife, two age parents and siblings to take care off. Now how would I cope with everything lost? This shop was my mainstay of our survival.”

Speaking on the murder of the traditional ruler, he said that it would be difficult to replace him “because he stood for peace. He wanted an end to the war between Oruku and Umode that was while he returned from Dubai after 12years he went and begged the state governor to help bring peace to his community.

“I don’t think it was a bad decision from someone that loves his people but the Inspector General of Police Special Tactical Squad led by DCP Kolo has destroyed everything because of money those who are profiting from the communal war are paying him and his boys. But God would pay him in his own coin and I hope it would be soon.

“We regret that the governor and government of Enugu state brought him out and when it mattered most, when he needed the support of the governor he was abandoned by the same government who brought him. He was slaughtered by those who didn’t want the communal war to end and the government continued to watch the crisis increase day by day.”  

Government inaction led to the killing of Igwe:

The oldest man in the community, Inyaba Nwani a.k.a Agbaraka, who spoke to our correspondent has blamed the killing of the traditional ruler on the government inaction, adding that government knew the plot of those who killed him earlier enough and should have taken a decisive step to stem the orgy of violence in the community.

According to him, “the late Igwe sent several petitions to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, drawing his attention to the development in the community. I as the eldest man living in the community had also written to the government on the position of things in the community but was unattended to.

“The governor just brought him out and left him to be killed by those who have sworn that his peace initiative would not stand and they have bragged that the highest his peace deal will be three or four years. They have said in our various meetings that after his administration they would go back to the war with Umode.”

Agbaraka stated “Peace cannot be achieved by only saying let there be peace. It needs concrete arrangement and enforcement to ensure that when you say let there be peace there would be peace.”

Another residents who simply gave his name as Ugochukwu Nnaji, said the murder of their traditional ruler could have been avoided if the governor had intervened when the policemen from IG’s office were contracted to destabilize the community if had genuine intention to bring a lasting peace to the warring communities.

He regretted that the only attempt the governor had made was when he called all the parties and pleaded with them to allow Igwe Emmanuel to be and they should stop all the cases at Abuja but his words were without enforcement. “The governor even gave one Raymond Okenwa and his wife one million naira, a cow and wine drinks to appease them to leave the monarch alone and make peace in the community.”

Nnaji disclosed, “during the meeting the governor had advised Mr Okenwa and his group to go home and settle their differences and equally mandated them to bring out and submit those weapons the community used in the communal war between Oruku/Umode communities that were in their possession.

“After the directive, the governor did nothing to enforce them to bring out the weapons. It was after the governor’s directive that they went and contracted the IGP’s Special Squad to continue to harass, intimidate and hound the community leaders that the governor set up to ensure that the peace accord he brokered between Oruku and Umode communities were sustained until they killed the traditional as they had threatened.”

He however explained that the monarch had on several occasion told the community the he would not continue to be the traditional ruler and on four occasions he was persuaded to remain “our traditional ruler because he was the only person who had the gut and the resources to look at the face of those who want the war to continue and say no it won’t.”

Meanwhile, at the wake of the burning of houses and property in the community, the state government deployed a joint security taskforce to stop the orgy of the destruction, but interestingly, when our correspondent visited the community on Monday January 11, 2021 no single security agent was seen around the community.

In short, houses and shops were seen on fire at the village square. Some residents who didn’t want their names mentioned for fear of being attacked told our correspondent that “few days after security agents were sent to our community to stop the burning of houses, they disappeared. Only a few soldiers that we believe were sent to only protect the house of Major Okenwa that we still see here.

“And absence of security has resulted in some boys having taken the weapons the community used in communal war to terrorize and burn down houses and property since January 4, 2021 till date. They are equally threatening to restart the war with the Umode community.”

They believed that the main reason for killing the traditional ruler and using the IGP- STS to disarm the neighbourhood was to return to old communal war after the governor’s tenure had elapsed.

Enugu government setup commission of inquiry

Meanwhile, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has set up a judicial commission of inquiry to look into the immediate and remote cause of the killing of the monarch.

The terms of reference of the panel constituted by Governor Ugwuanyi, is in pursuant to Section 4(1) of the Commission of Inquiry Law, Cap. 24, Revised Laws of Enugu State 2004, and it included to ascertain the number of persons killed or injured, identify persons, group or institutions who either by acts or omissions were directly or indirectly involved in, or sponsored the crisis, and investigate any other matter(s) that may come to the knowledge of the Panel in the course of the inquiry, not covered in these terms of reference.

“Others are to make recommendations regarding persons whom the panel finds culpable and/or blameworthy in connection with the crisis, and generally make recommendations, in the light of its findings, on how to prevent similar crisis in future and make other recommendations which the panel may consider appropriate in view of its findings.”

However the community has protested the continued burning of their houses in the community and police complicity in the crisis. The community members who marched to the government house, state house of assembly and some media houses in the state have appealed to Governor Ugwuanyi, to help them in fishing out the killers of their king for justice to reign.

The Chairman of Oruku Caretaker Committee, Chief Ikenna Martin Nwatu, who spoke to the media said, “We, the people of Oruku are begging governor Ugwuanyi to assist us in getting justice for Igwe Emmanuel Mbah who was brutally murdered. We do not trust the police investigation into the killing of our traditional ruler.

“We plead with you to use your good office to ensure that the Department of Security Service (DSS) is involved in the investigation so that justice will prevail.

“We are living in fear as the killing of traditional ruler shows that nobody is safe in our community any more. It is not war between Oruku and Umuode communities but war within the community. It is an internal war. Our houses and other valuable property are burnt and nobody is talking. It is sponsored by some of our public figures who feel they must rule us at all cost.”

When Mr Raymond Okenwa was contacted on telephone to speak on his alleged involvement in the killing of the monarch, he could not pick his calls but responded a test message sent his phone thus: “You have never called this number because your number never showed on my phone any day. People who are making your allegations know where to go with their proof. Or don’t you know?

“They alleged that I armed those burning houses in Oruku. Do you know that my houses were burnt? So l armed them to burn even my houses. And they are still burning more.

“You should go to Oruku to find out those doing the burning. You should know there is a Judicial Panel on the matter now. Advise your clients accordingly.”

Efforts to speak with Mr Moses Nnamani and Major Raphael Okenwa were unsuccessful as their phones were said switched off. For two weeks now their known telephone numbers were said not available.

Killing of other traditional ruler is no longer news in Enugu

In Enugu State, it is no longer a news that a traditional ruler was killed. Although, the killing of Igwe Emmanuel Mbah is said to be different because he was murdered by policemen who supposed to protect him.

Recall that in the last five years under this administration, three traditional rulers had been killed in the state. They are Igwe Peter Onuoha of Mgbanaocha Nkerefi, Nkanu East Local Government Area, was killed on July 11, 2015; Igwe Stephen Nwatu of Ogbozinne-Akpugo, Nkanu West Local Government Area was killed on June 11, 2018 and Igwe Emmanuel Mbah, Oruku killed on December 26, 2020.

Meanwhile under the previous administration, Igwe John Nwangwu, traditional ruler of Orba community in Udenu Local Government Area and Igwe Moses Ugwu of Umuode, Nkanu East Local Government Area were killed.

However, three of the murdered traditional rulers, Ugwu, Onuoha and Mbah were from the same local government, Nkanu East.

Apart from Ugwu and Mbah, the rest were allegedly killed by their subjects for committing sacrilege or being high handedness and autocratic.

Those who killed Igwe Onuoha did not spare his wife, and three members of the community said to be supporting him.

What is confusing was why despite reports of judicial commission of inquiries,  more traditional rulers are being killed in the state.

When former Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, in 2003 set out to create Autonomous Communities in Enugu State to stem the rising anger against the impunity in his government, little did he know that he is setting fire in communities that hitherto were peaceful?

Instead of the creation of autonomous community engender development, only crisis and infighting is now a hallmark.

The killings of traditional rulers have also exposed the rot in the traditional institutions in the state and processes that enthroned occupant of the stools. In over 450 autonomous communities in Enugu state, most of them were said to have problems with their subjects.  

Now that the another Judicial Commission of Inquiry has been set up to ascertain the immediate and remote cause of the killing of Mr Mbah, will the report of the commission stop further killing of traditional rulers? 

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