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6 escape death in farmland tussle at Ifite Aguleri

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By Our Reporter

Residents of Ifite-Aguleri in Anambra East local government area of Anambra state are reportedly living in fear following recent bloody confrontation over disputed communal land. Orient Daily gathered that the bloody clash over the land tussle said to be between Iruadika kindred of Amerulu village and Umuayatali kindred of Umunnoke in Ifite-Aguleri has left about six persons critically ill and battling various degrees of gun shot and machete wounds in hospitals.

This paper further learnt that the clash involving thugs allegedly hired by a prominent leader of Iruadika kindred, Eneanya Akwuobu and youths from Umuayatali over the farmland around MOPOL Base/Jim Nwobodo Road in Ifite Aguleri, has forced many residents to flee their homes or going to their farmlands.

According to a village source, the clash, which took place in the early hours of Thursday, spilled into Friday, subsided on Saturday, except for sporadic shootings through the night till Sunday morning heightening fears that the clash may not be far from over. The source traced the crisis to activities of Eneanya and his hired thugs in the village and his quest to take over the land through intimidation. According to him, the clash started in the early hours of March 4, when Eneanya led thugs to the disputed land and was stopped by youths from Umuayatali, Umunnoke.

“The man is laying claims to the ancestral land of Umuayatali, Umunnoke and that morning, as he was going to the place with his thugs, youths from Umunnoke tried to stop them and they started shooting guns at them. It was miracle that none of the Umunnoke youths were killed but only sustained injuries”, the source who pleaded anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the crisis told this paper.

“It is quite unfortunate that, in this 21st century, someone still believes in use of maximum force to collect land instead of going through the most civil way, the court.  Eneanya’s group brought thugs into Ifite-Aguleri and those thugs working for some politicians are now being deployed to fight for him on this land matter and the result was this clash that left many in hospital now.

According to the source, Eneanya’s kindred had lost the contest for the ownership of the land at various communal levels. “Ogene Ifite has ruled on this matter; Ifite-Aguleri has also ruled on this matter and Obuga, the highest supreme authority in Aguleri has ruled on this matter, all against Iruadika kindred. The most appropriate thing the Eneanya group  should have done was to approach the court or, otherwise, appeal to those above-named bodies instead of resorting to violence”, he said, vowing that “we shall stop at nothing in chasing them away, no matter their numbers, after which the appropriate sanction should be imposed on  the actors.”

When Orient Daily contacted him on phone for his reaction to the allegations against him, Mr Eneanya Akwuobu confirmed the bloody confrontation but claimed that his men were attacked by youths from Umuayatali, with four of them sustaining gunshot wounds. According to him, the kindred was contesting ancestral farmland belonging to Iruadika.

His claims: “Our elders and people have told them to stop encroaching on the land; that it belongs to Iruadika kindred, but they refused. Now, we, the Iruadika people, decided that we will go and clear the farmland so that, as soon as there is rainfall, we start farming on the land. We did not know that Umuayatalu people had gone there with their gun and other weapons to wait for us. When we got there, they started shooting at us, injuring about four of people in the process.”

Asked if his people retaliated when they came under attack that fateful day, he responded: “How could we have retaliated when we didn’t have gun and were taken unawares. Umuayatalu kindred shot the Iruadika people.”

According to him, elders of the village had tried their best in settling the matter. “The community resolved to bring oath so that Umuayatalu and Iruadika would swear and that if Umuayatalu people swear, we should leave the land for them. We agreed, but they refused to swear the oath. We waited for them for over three months but they refused to come and swear on the oath. Then, we sent the deity that was brought for the oath-taking back. That is why we decided to go and clear the land preparatory for cultivating it when rain comes.

“We the entire Iruadika believe in following traditional justice system and that was why we were ready to abide by the oath-taking. That is the authentic means of tackling land ownership in Aguleri”, he adds.

The president general of Ifite Aguleri, Barrister Hippo Onwuegbuke, who also spoke with Orient Daily on the issue said that normalcy had returned to the area while the victims were still receiving medical attention at an undisclosed hospital in the area. “Yes, it’s true that there was a clash in the community over disputed land and six persons got injured; but they are receiving treatment and calm has returned”, he said.

On efforts to tackle the crisis, Onwuegbuke further disclosed that both sides had taken the case to the elders’ council and that the side laying claims to the disputed land told to take an oath in accordance with customs and traditional justice system in the community.

“We believe that once the persons swear an oath, based on the claims, if the deity does not kill the person or persons, it means they are right. So, they agreed to do that (take an oath) but we are surprised that one side did not honor it and so the problem still lingers.

On the way forward, the PG stressed the need for the parties in the dispute to give peace a chance. “There is need for them to abstain from further clashes and bloodshed because that is not the solution. Governor Willie Obiano has been preaching peace all the while and his expectation was that the matter would be amicably resolved at the village level.   So, now that temper has calmed, I think it’s important that they sheathe their swords and allow peaceful resolution of the matter. That is the message we have been preaching to them, that they cannot settle this matter on a battle field but negotiating table.

Task force chairman of Aguleri youths who gave his name simply as Ikemba told this paper that activities of thugs operating in the village remained a big concern to residents of the area and members of his task force. Disclosing that he did not wish to be drawn into the land tussle matter, Ikemba said there was need for government to tackle the matter to avoid further bloodshed and destruction of property in the area. “Those people causing trouble are hired thugs. They attacked members of my team, broke our windscreen, about three glasses. Some people advised that I should go and call police but I refused.

“About three days ago, they engaged in the same crisis where they started shooting each other and they asked me to go but I refused. I also told my PG when he called me that I don’t want to involve myself in communal issues or family issues.

“I have told them to look into the activities of those thugs in the area. I have equally appealed to the army commander in the area and other prominent members to help and stop the crisis before it escalates. Government should do something urgently”, he stressed.

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