By Lawrence Nwimo
Property valued at over N200 million have been destroyed in a family land tussle tearing apart the Chieme brothers of Umunono, Umuanum village, Nibo community in Awka South local government area of Anambra state.
Orient Weekend gathered that the property tussle between Stephen Ngenegbuo Chieme and his younger brother Nweke Michael Cheieme, which is still before a magistrate court, took a violent turn penultimate Thursday when Stephen stormed the family house alongside suspected thugs ostensibly to demolish the disputed family house and properties belonging to Mr. Michael Chieme.
“With thugs numbering over 30, five of whom wearing army uniform, Stephen stormed the family compound with his children, Ekene and Ebele, and embarked on the destruction of the family house that had been in contention”, a source told this paper.
According to the source who spoke under anonymity, during the siege and attack on the property, villagers were barred from intervening in the matter. “Those men in army uniform blocked roads leading to the premise while others supervised the destruction of the house which, until the incident, was occupied by the septuagenarian Michael and his family including his 60-year-old wife who had been bedridden for the past seven years”, the source said.
Investigations by our reporter show that the assailants vandalised the house, moving out some property belonging to Michael’s family from it and rendered it roofless. Not done yet, the men were said by eye witnesses to have beaten Michael’s sick sexagenarian wife, with the active involvement of Stephen’s son, Ekene, when she tried to protest their activities. The beating, Orient Daily gathered, worsened her health condition after the attack.
Stephen, this paper gathered, had warned Michael to vacate the disputed house, insisting that it naturally belonged to him, as the first son of their father. He was said to have insisted that the only way Michael and his family could live in the house was only on tenancy basis.
Narrating the incident, the daughter of the victim, Nwada Nneka Chieme, claimed that Stephen, her father’s elder brother, had stormed their compound early Friday morning accompanied by his son, Ekene, and daughter, Ebele, some military uniformed men, suspected to be hired fake soldiers and over 30 other persons.
“We woke up Friday morning around 9 am when a group of unknown persons trooped into our compound and laid siege but we discovered that they were being led by my father’s elder brother and his children. It was when they started beating my sick mother that I heard her cry and rushed out of our house. But before I could react, they seized my phone and held us up.
“All of a sudden, they climbed our roof and started destroying our building. They were numbering five fake soldiers and about 30 others he hired to carry out his mission. They divided themselves into groups and were doing different things at a time.
“Some were removing the roofs while some destroyed the bricks, others especially the ones in uniform barred neighbours from accessing our compound to know what was happening. They broke the leg of our last born, Chiemerie Chieme, beat my sick parents, my 70-year-old father named Nweke Michael Chieme and even my mother that is in her 60s.
“By the time few youths of the area and vigilante men came for help, they had already destroyed everything while the few of the workers that were still there were chased out by the youths.
Another eye witness, who was their maternal uncle, Christopher Nwegu, said Nweke Michael the victim called him between 9 and 10 am on Friday pleading that he came quickly to his family house. “their father called me around 9-10 am that I should come over to his house immediately. When I tried to enquire what the situation was that warranted such an urgent invitation, he switched off his mobile phone.
“Sensing it could be that the sick wife has passed on, I immediately called for okada that took me to his house. When I got there, I met the group carrying out the dastardly act while a few vigilante members were busy pleading with Stephen to first stop the destruction.
Accusing local vigilante of the community of incompetence, he said as the incident unfolded, about three vigilante members who came after calls were made to the president general were busy pleading with Stephen to end the destruction instead of making a swift arrest of the invaders. The invaders seized that opportunity to escape.
Nwegu said that what happened was a sacrilege in the community, adding it had no precedent in the entire Nibo community. He called on the president general of the community, well-meaning indigenes of the community and the Anambra state government, to come to the aid of the family who, according to him, had been sleeping on the bare ground of the compound including the sick old woman.
After an investigation into the cause of the matter, Orient Weekend gathered that the two brothers had, earlier been to court. Michael won the case at the magistrate court on the ground that he, although the younger of the two brothers, was not a tenant in his father’s house. This came after the elder brother, Stephen, reportedly demanded rents from Michael and his family to live in their late father’s house.
Orient Weekend also learned that Stephen who led the team to the destruction had reported the case to Zone 13, Ukpo on January 7 and that the command, through the Assistant Inspector General, AIG Danmallam Mohammed, scheduled to hear from the parties on Monday January 11, 2021, a schedule that was pre-empted by the Friday, January 8 action.
Lending credence to the Orient Weekend findings, Ejiofor Chieme, son of the victim, who went out of town earlier the day before the invasion said: “My father lives in the family building as a benefit from his late father. We still call it a family house because you cannot pursue a man from his father’s house if he could not build his own house. Around 2013, his elder brother, Stephen Chieme, sued him to court on the ground that my father should be paying rent for the building and subsequently issued him notice to vacate the building.
“After many trials in Awka Magistrate court, my father won the case on the ground that he is not a tenant in his own father’s house. The case was later transferred to Ukpo where we finished the case.
“On Thursday, January 7, my father called me to inform me that a group of persons from his elder brother served him papers of invitation to Zone 13 Ukpo. The papers had invited my father to Zone 13 on Monday January 11. I collected the letter from him in readiness to visit on the said date.
“The following day being Friday 8th, I was in Enugu for an emergency appointment when I got a call that five soldiers and over 30 thugs were vandalising our house. They destroyed our house from the roof to the base.
“It was the first son of my uncle, named Ekene Chieme, alongside his father and sister named Ebele that led the charge to our house. It was too painful that he destroyed my father’s building and threw away my father’s hard-earned properties.
“When I asked questions, I was told that they came with five soldiers that had no names. Three soldiers were inside the compound while two others blocked the road leading to our compound to stop people from intervening in the destruction. We have been going around doing legally what we have to do. When someone takes laws into his hands, he should be faced with the appropriate punishment he deserves.”
When Orient Weekend contacted Stephen to confirm his role in the alleged destruction, he said the building rightly belonged to him and that he only went there to renovate his house preparatory to his imminent relocation to it, having lived in the city for long and now in his 80s. He claimed he only went “with a few workers,” not men in military uniform or thugs, as alleged. He added that his younger brother, Michael, had no house of his own yet and so he, Stephen, allowed him to live in the house.
Also speaking, Ekene, Stephen’s son, denied ever slapping his uncle, Michael’s wife and that he only went to the scene to peacefully take his father away.