…Cultists clash with town union executives
From Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
About three years ago, peace and unity literally fled Amoso Edda community in Afikpo South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
This, according to the residents, was as a result of the endless power tussle emanating from their local politics.
“There was a time the town union of our community had a problem and for about three years, we never had any effective town union association,” the newly elected Chairman of the town union, Mr Ukpai Paul, recalled.
Ever since, the sleepy community tucked away in the stony enclave has consistently suffered violence under various guises and colorations.
Since then, Amoso Edda has known no peace. Not even the newly elected executives put together after about three years of disarray could restore tranquillity, which the residents earnestly yearned for.
The forces of darkness and evil powers, according to the natives, reigned supreme until December 22, last year, when the matter came to a head.
This started with the arrival of a newly born baby son of the Assistant Secretary of Amoso Edda Town Union, Mr Okpani Oji Uka.
He was welcomed to the world and his father’s house with a dangerous fight, which was like his parcel of gift.
On that fateful day, at about 9p.m when mother and child were brought home from the hospital, the eagerly waiting relatives and neighbours went wild in joy.
The birth of the baby was coming at a time the atmosphere was already charged for Christmas celebration, thus the newborn was welcomed in atmosphere of happiness.
But the euphoria of the season soon vanished like a flash of light when some cultists, numbering about six stormed the once joyful home.
Armed with various dangerous weapons, the men of the underworld descended on his father and beat him black and blue.
For several hours, the hoodlums also shot sporadically into the air to scare away any intruder and perhaps, reassuringly register their reign of terror in the community.
According to the residents, the incident which was reported to the police division in Afikpo South council area was treated with levity, making them to believe that the police have been ‘settled’ by the alleged sponsors of the hoodlums.
Genesis of the problem
It was gathered from residents of the area that some influential persons who reap from the atmosphere of violence and rancour have consistently fuelled disaffection in the community using some cultists.
These cultists, they said, openly smoke Indian hemp, abuse hard drugs, harass residents, break local laws and order formulated to guide the residents, bully their perceived opponents and publicly brandish guns and other dangerous weapons.
But determined to restore normalcy, the community about six months ago, elected new executives to pilot their affairs.
However, these hoodlums reportedly vowed to disorganise them and possibly disband the town union.
“But some miscreants that are found here and there in the town do not allow us to carry out our function. Each time we were having our executive meeting, they would come to threaten us. They vowed that as long as they were concerned, that they would not allow us to run the affairs of our community, Amoso Edda. I don’t know if they had been bought over by any person or group of individuals.
“We have all the time been reporting the problems we are having in the village to the police. We have written series of letters to the police, especially the area command. And we all the time visited the DPO in Owutu to lodge complaints on the problems we are having in the village.
“But the way and manner they insult us whenever and wherever they see us indicates that some persons were behind them,” the chairman, Mr Ukpai Paul, said.
Obviously disappointed in the manner the police division in Afikpo South were handling the series of complaints tabled before them, the town union took their matter to the Police Division in Afikpo North.
As they expected, the SARS operatives swung into action and arrested some of the suspected cultists.
Apparently angry over the arrest of their gang members, the cultists at about 9p.m on same day attacked the members of the town union executives, destroying some of their property. At the last count, no fewer than four houses were attacked. They gave the names of the owners of the affected houses as Mr Dick Imo, the PRO; Mr Ndukwe Nkamaenya, Youth Leader; Mr Omaka Oji, Financial Secretary and the Assistant Secretary, Okpani Oji Uka.
Residents said things have fallen apart in the community and terror, rape, and other social vices were now reigning supreme.
“They do a lot of things in this community. They rape girls at will. If they catch any girl as from 9p.m, they would take her to a corner and rape her. We have had series of such reports. Anytime we report to the police, they look at it as if it is a matter we should handle by ourselves.
“So, this one happened on the 22nd night. Actually, the members of SARS came because we also reported to the area commander and he charged the SARS to come and help us out.
“That night, the SARS came and made some arrests. They arrested four persons. So, immediately SARS left the cultists whose colleagues were arrested, organized and pursued both the youth leader and members of my executives. They destroyed about four houses belonging to them.
“When that thing was happening, I alerted the Divisional Police Officer for Afikpo South and pleaded with him to send his men to arrest the situation so that nobody would be killed. But to my greatest surprise, he didn’t send any policeman till morning.
“They were attacking the members of the executive. The thing lasted from 11p.m to 2a.m the following day. The situation is still like that, up till now. There has not been any arrest till now and those boys are still threatening to unleash more mayhem,” the community chairman lamented.
The main victim of the incident, Mr Okpani Oji Uka, who is the Assistant Secretary said that he faced the hoodlums so that they would not invade his house and attack his young family.
“I considered that if I ran inside the house, they would break in and attack my family of three children, including the newly born baby, so, I engaged them outside. They attacked me with fury and inflicted on me injuries with dangerous weapons.
“They destroyed my two motorcycles, broke my windows and destroyed many of my property within their reach. They were shooting sporadically in the air while they were attacking me.
“When I finally escaped, I contacted the Divisional Police Officer on phone severally but he kept promising that they were coming. This thing happened on 22nd December and till today being 25th the DPO and his officers are yet to come here.
“The local vigilante members who came to the scene were overwhelmed, but they succeeded in harbouring me until morning before I was taken to the hospital. They had vowed that they would kill all of us that are members of the town union executive,” he narrated.
Although the victims are yet to estimate their losses, the chairman put the figure at about N5 million.
He, however, called on the state governor, Chief David Umahi, and other relevant authorities to come to their aid as the situation is getting out of hand by the day.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mrs Loveth Odah, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said she has not been briefed.
Further efforts to get information from her 48 hours later were futile as she neither picked nor returned her calls as at the time of filing this report.