By CHUKS EKE
As crisis over revenue sharing formula rages on in the riverine community of Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra state, the traditional ruler of the community, HRH, Igwe Azuka Ngody (Eze Ogwuike II of Atani Kingdom) has denied ever tagging or branding a cross section of Atani youths IPoB members and unleashing both the Police and Navy personnel on them.
He also denied ceding any portion of the communal land to Fulani herdsmen or any other group.
IPOB had in its recent statement, given traditional rulers and Presidents-General who allegedly masterminded the arrest and detention of its members in Ogbaru, Anambra state, seven days ultimatum to release them, warning that they would no longer tolerate a situation where royal fathers or town union leaders would tag or brand some youths IPOB members and ESN operatives for standing up for their rights and resisting the sale of community land to Fulani herdsmen.
But in an apparent move to get the records straight, Igwe Ngody who spoke to newsmen at his Palace, through his Palace Secretary, Augustine Ezeolisa, said Naval men were invited by the Atani Town Union, ATU officials to control the rampaging youths in the area when they over-powered some policemen from Oraifite Police Area Command who were earlier invited to arrest some hoodlums in the area who were tormenting trouble in the area.
Flanked by the Deputy President-General of ATU, Anugo Damanza; Mr.Afam Imegwu and Anthony Udeze, stakeholders in Atani, Igwe Ngody explained that trouble started in the area when those entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the roads leading to and from River Niger Beach where sand miners excavate sands and sell to Tipper drivers, failed to maintain the roads with the N500 levy they were authorized to collect as maintenance fee from the Tipper drivers.
The monarch noted that rather than channeling the N500 levy towards the maintenance of the roads leading to the beach, they left the roads unattended to until the advent of this year’s rainy season when the roads became impassable.
He said when the steady rain fall further decimated the roads, the Igwe-in-council and the ATU summoned Mr. Obiajulu Mbanefo (a.k.a. Ikanda) who doubles as Chairman of Sand miners of Atani and Chairman of Atani Vigilante Group to find out from him why the beach roads were not being maintained with the N500 levy, he conspired with non indigenes of Atani to fight the Aborigines.
He said it was on the process of trying to find out why the levy was not being used to maintain the beach roads that a combination of the revenue collectors, sand miners and some residents attacked the town union officials, chased away the police team from Oraifite Area Command and send threats to Igwe Ngody himself before the town union leadership brought in the Navy.
He noted that on the process, the rampaging youths armed with dangerous weapons, attacked and injured no fewer than five persons, including the Deputy P-G of ATU, Anogo Damanza, Hon. Osita Nwobi, Chief Daniel Nwabueze, Anthony Udeze and are now threatening the Igwe, saying that he is not even the Igwe of Atani.
Identifying the leader of the attackers as Ifechukwu Aniegboka, former Secretary to the Ogbaru Local Government Council and now an Executive Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Liaison, the monarch noted that he had nothing to do with ceding of any land to Fulani herdsmen or using the Army or Navy to intimidate IPoB members, as they claimed.
But in their reaction at the residence of the 99-year old oldest man at Umudaike Village, Atani, Chief Bwabunwanne Nwadukwe (Odua Atani), Ifechukwu Aniegbika noted that on August 8, men of Oraifite Police Area Command invaded the community and arrested one Obi Chukwujindu at the instigation of Igwe Ngody, town union officials and Atani vigilante operatives.
Aniegboka noted that on the same process, one Nwike Ogene sustained injury and afterwards, the Navy invaded the community, shooting sporadically, arrested one Eluemuno Okoli, Chukwunyelu Osadebe and Obinna Okoli. and whisked them off to Navy Barracks at Odekpe.but were later released when the youths were on their way to the Navy Barracks.
On the levies being paid by Tipper drivers, Aniegboka noted that the town union introduced the N200 levy for over two years now as honorarium for the village where the sand is being excavated from, for the maintenance of the beach roads and yet after collecting the levies for over two years now, they have nothing to show for it, even to get a trip of laterite to sand fill the road was impossible for them to do.
“It was at this point that we the youths decided to take over collection of the N200 levy from the town union and since the outbreak of this fracas, dredging and selling of sands at the beach have stopped and tippers no longer come to buy sand for now until further notice”.
They accused the monarch of partnering with one of the sand miners simply known as Bravo to collect another N700 levy from the Tipper drivers which they alleged has been collected for four years now and shared in the proportion of N200 for the ATU, while N500 is shared between the Igwe and Bravo.
One of those arrested by the policemen from Oraifite Area Command, Obi Chukwujindu, said he was going for an eye checkup on the fateful day at about 7.30 a.m. when the policemen arrested him, adding that the fracas started as a result of the fact that their elders are not benefiting from the N200 levy.
They admitted that some ATU officials might have been attacked by angry youths because of inviting the police and the Navy to come into the community and carryout indiscriminate arrests of the youths.
The Chairman of Ogbaru Local Government Transition Committee, Hon. Arinzechukwu Awogu who is also an indigene of Atani, told newsmen that he had already waded into the matter with a view to resolving it amicably.
He however regretted that the day he fixed a meeting for both parties to come and voice their grievances, the ATU officials and Igwe’s representatives could not turn up.
Describing the fracas as an internal matter which does not require the invitation of police or Navy, Awogu disclosed that he has fixed another date for the two groups to meet for amicable resolution of the matter adding that the matter has not yet gone beyond settlement.
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