Aggrieved indigenes of Awba-Ofemili have petitioned the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, John Abang, against their Traditional Ruler, Igwe Ezekwesili Maduagwuna, alleging harassment, extortion and intimidation of members of the community.
The petition filed through their Solicitors, G. C. Enekwechi and Co. (Grace Chambers) and signed by Mr Obinna Nnajiofor, accused Maduagwuna of threatening peace and stability in their community.
The petitioners, Chief Solomon Ozuah, Chief Reuben Iloka and Chief Matthew Nwaobu further alleged that the traditional ruler has been using the community vigilante group to harass, intimidate and assault indigenes in recent times.
The petition dated May 8, 2020 was also copied to the Inspector-General of Police and Public Complaints Committee of the National Assembly, cited instances, including that:
“Our clients complain grievously that the said Igwe Ezekwesili Maduagwuna has been using the vigilante group to terrorize, harass, intimidate, maim and assault members of the community who oppose him.
“A sad incident transpired on May 3, 2020 wherein, the said Igwe sent one of the vigilante men after one Tony Nwakaeze… with the intent to assail him; and when he could not find him at home, the said vigilante officer angrily shot sporadically at the car and home of Mr Tony Nwakaeze.
“It further reported that the said vigilante officer proceeded to Mr Tony Nwakaeze’s uncle, Mr Moses Nwakaeze of about 85 years, and also threatened to kill him.
“Igwe Maduagwuna has for a long time unlawfully laid claim to peoples’ lands and claiming same to be communal land, unlawfully appropriate to himself the powers to dispose of those lands at his whims and caprices, and operating an illegal dungeon where the citizens were unlawfully detained, tortured and treated inhumanly.
“Marginalisation of Aguenu quarters of the town and forceful extortion of N5,000 from the youths, who refused his orders to invade Ibito Olo community of Enugu State over a lingering land dispute. He ordered one Anthony Oforkansi and others to shoot at Aguenu youths who were on peaceful protest following unlawful detention of their members.
“Extortion of N5,000 paid to the vigilante before accessing their farmlands or harvesting of produce, looting and destruction of peoples’ homes,” they said, insisting that the Igwe’s impunity against the community has created much tension which must be checked by the authority.”
Chief Iloka and others appealed to the state commissioner of police to use his good office to intervene with a bid to settle the crisis rocking Awba-Ofemili community, instigated the traditional ruler.
However, the Traditional Prime Minister of Awba Ofemili, Chief Benard Nwanelo, who spoke on behalf of the Igwe Maduagwuna dismissed the allegations, saying “nobody is intimidating anyone in our community, nor extorted people for going to farm.
“Our monarch is peace loving and had never involved in any land dispute with his subjects. There had never been any mayhem of such in Awba Ofemili as quoted in the petition.
“The only problem is that some people who lost out in kingship contest with Igwe Maduagwuna have vowed to displace him, but we won’t allow that to happen.”
However, he described the petitioners as conspirators working with Ibite-Olo community in Eziagu Local Council Area of Enugu state, who have interest over the disputed land with Awba Ofemili.
Nwanelo appealed to Governor Willie Obiano to intervene in the lingering boundary crisis with Ibite-Olo community, before it ignites further bloodshed.