Some youths of Ebenebe in Awka North LGA of Anambra state recently raised the flag for peace to reign in their troubled community which is at verge of losing developmental projects. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU reports on this and more.
In 2017 when Anambra state governor, Chief Willie Obiano kicked off a community infrastructure development programme entitled Community-Choose-Your-Project, it was a joyous moment to the populace. This could be because it was aimed at citing N20 million worth infrastructural projects at each community, thereby bringing the dividends of democracy closer to the grassroots.An official statement from the government when the project took off shows that to participate in the programme, intending community is expected to formally write to the state government through their traditional ruler and president general, stating the kind of project to be sited, its location, prospective indigenous contractor to handle it, cost price and others.
Available records disclosed that while the first and the second phases of the projects have been concluded at most communities, some remain uncompleted to date. Ebenebe, an agrarian community in Awka North local government area is among those on the list of inconclusive projects. Its first project, a civic centre, ended lately due to crisis, while the second phase, designated for police and customary court, is literally brewing war in the community.
The projects, a police post and Customary Court were cited close to a moribund cottage hospital built by women social group, Enyi Ezenwanyi Women Society of Ebenebe. The society, according to investigation, equally transferred both the hospital and its surrounding environment to Ebenebe Town Union (ETU), an umbrella body of the community purposely for what they termed developments projects.
It was however learnt that the pieces of land has been under contention between a kindred and some villages. One of them, Umudiaba kindred in Umuajana village, one of the eight villages in Ebenebe had been in court with some villages directly or indirectly over the disputed land.
Following the citing of the project on the land, Umudiaba who were insisting that the land belonged to them, joined ETU in an existing suit on the contentious land.
As the building nears completion, unknown persons invaded the property and damaged some parts of the facility. The development, it was learnt, led to the sudden end of the project uncompleted. The town’s president general, Hon Paul Nnatuanya and some of his executive members have equally faced a series of arrests and detention following allegations and counter allegations by some interested parties on the land.
The latest, which perhaps broke the camel’s back was his recent detention in Abuja by the police and allegedly impounded his vehicle. This prompted youths of the community under the auspices of Let’s Build Ebenebe (LBE) to wade in to broker peace.
The youngsters led by Comrade Calistus Nebeife, youth president of Ebenebe, in a failed protest, visited the traditional ruler of Ebenebe, Igwe Christopher Nnaegbuna at his palace, to urge him to reach truce with warring parties. Igwe Nnaegbuna is from Umudiaba, while Nnatuanya, the president general is from Obuno village, which is allegedly supporting one of the villages in court with Umudiaba.
According to Nnebuife, the visitation to Igwe’s palace was to ascertain the reason behind the president general’s arrest and detention in Abuja and why he appeared unperturbed.
“Upon the arrest and detention of our president general, no individual in the town is in the know of what really happened and we organised this protest to seek clarifications from the Igwe on what is really going on in our town. We chose to take the bold step because the youths remain a force to reckon with and when the lingering crisis gets into a full blown conflict, it would surely affect our tomorrow negatively,” he explained.
Nnebife, who disclosed that the crisis impacted negatively on the entire Ebenebe populace and development, also appealed to the monarch to use his office to urge his kinsmen to find peaceful ways of resolving the matter with contending villages as he represents the entire community.
Also speaking, a councillor, Ebenebe Ward I, Hon James Ilonwa, said their demands were necessary because according to him, the president general is peace- loving and had no hand in the land under contention, hence needless detaining him over it.
Also speaking, a concerned youth of the community, JohnBosco Anaracha, enumerated the demands of the youths to include immediate release of the president general’s vehicle, unconditional withdrawal of all the warring parties from the site of the 20 million naira government projects and intervention of the Igwe to stop his kindred from further escalation of the issue.
Reacting, the traditional ruler, who denied knowledge of when and why the president general was arrested, said the community had inaugurated some committees including clergies to broker peace.
“I have intervened in that matter because I called for a meeting, the president general didn’t tell me he was traveling out. He didn’t inform me he was arrested.
Even when I called him, he only said he was going to Abuja. I didn’t know he was under arrest and by the time I got to know, I tried getting across to him via his mobile line. I couldn’t but sent a text message to him when I heard about it. I also contacted someone who gave me the number of the commissioner of police, but I called the number, the person who picked said it was a wrong number,” the monarch added.
According to Nnaegbuna, the land where the 2nd phase of the community’s Choose-Your-Project was being constructed belonged to his kindred including his family.
He further alleged that the president general started construction on the land against his advice, as the land according to him, had been under litigation between his kindred and another village as at 2016 before the present town union executive came into office following their election on August 4, 2018.“The land was never donated to the community by the kindred. It was given to a humanitarian group by an individual in the kindred. The individual got into loggerheads with others in the kindred and was ostracised.”
He appealed to all parties to sheath their sword in the interest of peace as the matter had been handed over to a committee led by clergymen in the community.
The monarch maintained that investigation into the destruction of the louvres was still ongoing, wondering where the security officers placed at the site of the construction were when the unknown individuals came and destroyed the louvres.
The president general, Hon Nnatuanya subsequently regained his freedom and urged his people to shun communal crisis and embrace peace.“I want to thank you all for the extreme show of love and solidarity both towards me in person and the entire community in general, since the past few weeks. It is my personal belief that Ebenebe is not at war with itself or any of its component villages and kindreds but a case of misunderstanding. I therefore urge everyone both old and young to avoid creating any form of acrimony and rancor in Ebenebe as a result of my invitation to Abuja and subsequent arrest on Thursday 23rd July 2020.
“The matter has been taken care of by police. I want to disassociate myself and the team that visited Abuja from any form of violence initiated, instigated, caused and carried out by any group in respect of the dispute in question. I still have the passion and zeal to move Ebenebe forward. Let us embrace peace and love one another for peace is the panacea for development.”
Nnatuanya, who dismissed the allegation that the Igwe’s advice was not taken in citing the projects, backed them up with various documents they co-signed on the issue, even as he added that he informed the monarch that he was in police net courtesy of his kindred.
He also stated that his executive were unaware that where the projects were cited is in court and implored for peaceful resolution of the land dispute.
The transition committee chairman, Awka North LGA, Hon Ferdinand Onwuje, who incidentally is from the community, also called for peace so as to move Ebenebe to an enviable height.
“This executive has achieved a lot within two years. They should be supported to do more rather than illegal arrest, intimidation and destruction of government property. Everyone should return to the table for dialogue. It has not come to destruction of lives and properties. This is our president general not a village chairman.
His tenure gave Ebenebe a civic centre which the previous administration could not complete. They also brought solar-powered pipe borne water, primary health centre, fencing of secondary school, police and court under construction and others. Let us give them a chance to do more,” he maintained.