Begs Gov. Mbah to reinstate monarch accused of demolishing blind man’s house


From Jude Chinedu, Enugu


• Embattled Okwor presenting gift to indigent people


All is not well in Ihekwuenu Autonomous Community, Igbo-Etiti Local Government, Enugu State, where its traditional ruler, Igwe Christopher Okwor, has been on suspension for almost three years. The government of Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi suspended the monarch over alleged demolition of a blind man’s house.

The protracted issue came to the fore again on April 1, 2024, as hundreds of villagers from Umuezike, one of the three villages that make up Ihekwuenu community, thronged the palace of the traditional ruler, calling on government to lift the suspension in the interest of peace and development of the community. They said that since September 2021, the community had been facing a lot of challenges from strangers and have been consistently denied their rights in terms of government interventions.

The ruler was suspended for allegedly demolishing a two-bedroom bungalow said to belong to a visually impaired man, Anibeze Nnadi. The house, still under construction when it was reportedly demolished was being erected by the Ezemagu family on a piece of land they were dragging with the traditional ruler. But the Igwe has continued to deny the allegation.

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A letter presented to the embattled royal father by the community during the visit and signed by Okechukwu Okpe, Chairman and Vincent Amadi, Secretary, Umuezike Community Peoples’ Association (UCPA), respectively, appealed to Governor Peter Mbah to look into the matter and lift the suspension: “Specifically, we came here to discuss the way out of the ban imposed on the throne of our traditional ruler by the state government on 21 September, 2021.

“There were pockets of land disputes and quarrels between individuals, clans, kindred in Umuezike and Ihekwuenu Autonomous Community. None of these disputes and quarrels involved Igwe Okwor except the ones between the Igwe and Ezemagu family where the blind man hails from.”

They alleged that strangers were intimidating and harassing them with law enforcement agents in Eke-Aku and Motor Park situated in their land, adding that politicians also transacted business at the place against the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between Umuezike and Igbo-Etiti LGs.

The community claimed that palliative materials following fuel subsidy removal and other packages from government meant for the vulnerable groups were cornered by greedy ones in the village: “All these happened because our Igwe is suspended. We are appealing to Governor Mbah to lift the ban for the progress and development of our community.

“The land dispute is in the court of competent jurisdiction and Umuezike is interested in the matter as we need to do something peaceful about it. We call on all individuals in Umuezike land both at home and diaspora to eschew bitterness, bury their hatchets, seek peace and to assist us in proffering solutions on how to lift the ban imposed on the throne of our traditional ruler.

“We equally solicit all individuals in Umuezike land both at home and in the Diaspora to come together and find lasting solutions on how to resolve the land dispute between Igwe Okwor and Ezemagu Family.”

Igwe Okwor thanked his people for visiting him in large numbers, stating that he would continue to do his best to serve the interest of his people. He said trouble started after the Ezemagu family encroached on his land: “It was where my great grandfather lived and before I knew it, they went to court.”

He said that while the matter was still in court, the Ezemagus came into the land and started erecting a building for a blind man from their extended family: “Before you knew it, the politicians who were not comfortable with the truth and the way I do things took over the matter. They went into the blind man’s house and demolished it and said I demolished it in the media.

“I was invited by the Enugu State Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs where I narrated everything that happened. But before I knew it, I was served a suspension letter. Since September 2021, the panel of inquiry they instituted is yet to make its report public.

A  son of the traditional ruler, Ugonna Okwor, used the opportunity to lift over 80 indigent women with cash and other materials.