ANIOCHA NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA AND ANIOMA PEOPLE OF DELTA STATE HOLD THEIR BREATH AS THE MUCH AWAITED TRIAL OF PERSONS ACCUSED OF TERRORISM IS SET TO BEGIN.
BY JUBRIL MUSA – ABUJA
At long last, a date has been fixed for the trial to begin at the Federal High Court. It is the trial of persons accused of murder and terrorism during the bloody havoc that Idumuje-Ugboko kingdom witnessed between May 18th and 25th, 2017. The accused persons are facing charges for terrorism and violation of human rights. These accused persons include Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko, Dennis Uwadiegwu Nwoko, Ndudi Chijiume, Nwochie Agiliga Light, Raymond Omesiete, Adim Nwafor, Okey Ifejoku, Azuka Mukolu, Ejimofor Nwoko, Omoye Esonye, Aikhomo Omezi, Sir Godwin Akaba Aniemeke and Emeka Oyibundu. They were about 35 men accused of planning and executing the havoc that fractured Idumuje-Ugboko’s peace almost forever.
However, only 13 have been formally charged while 10 have appeared in court. The police is on the trail of the rest. The date for the commencement of this all important trial has been fixed for Monday, October 8th, 2020. Since that unforgettable one week of havoc in 2017, the architects of the mayhem and their financiers, some of whom are now to face trial, have sponsored lies on the media. They have labeled people all sorts of demeaning names, subjected hard earned reputations to dreadful infamy, but now the law will do its job and justice will prevail. And may be, peace shall finally reign at last in Idumuje-Ugboko. But the alleged sponsors of the devastating destruction of the once serene community even denied that any body was killed. In his publication, in Vanguard of May 21, 2019, an exposed business man of Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie’s standing claimed that they didn’t see any dead body. He feigned ignorance of a well-known fact that the hoodlums who murdered Cyprian Kumiolu, an innocent okada rider, carted away his body. He pretended he never heard or knew how the late boy’s father went everywhere in search of his son’s body and even appeared at a meeting of Aniocha North Royal Fathers where he appealed to them and everyone to beg Prince Nonso and the hoodlums alleged to be loyal to him, at least, to release the body of the son for proper burial. He did not even threaten to go to court. He wanted the lifeless body of his son. But these men without soul deprived him of his lively, hardworking son and also denied him of his dead body. It was the height of wickedness and cruelty. But Ogbechie claimed nobody was killed. He is not a member of the Nwoko Royal Family, yet he is more vocal than members of the royal family that are more directly involved in the sizzling issues.
But the law enforcement agents have proved that people were murdered and civil society organizations have attested to gross human rights violations. Now justice will prevail. This is one case that perpetrators of falsehood and atrocious lies have almost confused even the discerning public. First, they accused an established international Lawyer, eminent business man and an authentic philanthropist Prince Ned Nwoko, of forcibly acquiring their lands claiming he wanted to establish a university. They said it was a lie and nothing but a land grabbing adventure. They employed a hack writer with scanty following on Facebook to inundate his poor, untutored followers with these outrageous lies. But soon, massive constructions began at the proposed site of the university called STARS, an acronym for sports, technology, arts and research science. And before long, renowned Nigerian sports star and administrators were coming to the site to pay homage and salute the visionary of this unique university, first of its kind in Africa. Then the ultimate body for the approval and regulation of university education in Nigeria, the National Universities Commission, NUC, started paying visits to the site, to assess the work and everything. And they were impressed by the quality ofconstructions going on.
The harbingers of lies saw the reality. “This university matter is real oo”, they must have told themselves in their eerie gathering. And so, quick, they abandoned their absurd claim that there was no real plan for a university. They turned round next to call their most illustrious son, a global figure, a land grabber and oppressor who was acquiring their land and locking up the poor owners. They went on social media, television and everywhere trying to sell this bogus fallacy to the unsuspecting public. Their warped agenda was to attract sympathy for the alleged criminals and suspected murderers already arrested, instead of the victims of their atrocious acts. They sued their own Honourable Prince Ned Nwoko, their own blood, a man admired and adored by Nigerians and cooked up incredulous allegations. But they lost all the cases at the courts. Yet the Honourable, Dr. Prince Ned Nwoko, a respected Lawyer and formidable politician watched with stoic. Those who know him know too well that he has solid contacts in high places. He could fight back and could decimate the biggest of his opponents with the speed of sound. But that is not his disposition, he often says. In a family feud, you must show patience, he would say repeatedly. That is perhaps why he was always made himself available anywhere there is a semblance of move for amicable resolution of the disputes. When the Idumuje-Ugboko Development Union, IUDU, called for peace, he was quick to support it. But before they could sit down, before Prince Ned could appear, the same IUDU made a publication in Vanguard newspaper on the same day of the peace meeting with content that indicted the Prince without even a fair hearing. Idumuje-Ugboko indigenes and of Aniocha North Local Government Area were stunned, shocked by the jaundice and provocative publication. They were sure a furtive antagonist of Prince Ned, was a presiding officer in the Kangaroo court that tried him in his absence and indicted him. And it was clear that the IUDU that sat there was a booby trap, a charade to soil the good name and towering image of a generous Prince Ned. But blessed with an incredible calm, and unshaken faith in the triumph of truth, he returned to his Abuja home without a word.
Sincere people of their community were sure of the people that plotted and executed the publication which, like poetic justice, ended up diminishing the publishers and raising the profile, the manly aura and dignity of the man they set out to give a soured and cynical judgment. Despite this unjust treatment meted him, when the traditional rulers gathered to seek solution to the protracted Ugboko problem, clearly and deliberately created by people that seem averse to what is good for their community, Prince Ned jumps into his private jet and landed in Delta.
If you have hired a private jet for one trip in Nigeria, you would appreciate what Prince Ned spends every time he hops into his jet to head to Delta. But he doesn’t mind. What is uppermost in his mind is return of peace to his community, a village he visits practically every month but which the sponsors of disunity and havoc hardly visits once in a year and sometimes in two or three years. And even when they do, they sleep in Asaba, the state capital several kilometers from Ugboko.
They abandon their home because of their bruised conscience and ghoulish thought inspired by their sin against their people. Prince Ned answered the royal father’s call. And recommendation were made to resolve the dispute after hours of deliberations. But his opponent’s wouldn’t bend. An 88 years old Prince Daniel Odims Nwoko in a letter to one of Prince Ned Nwoko’s traducers, how he had written to him and made a special appeal for him to join hands with him in his quest to implement the recommendations of the royal fathers.
But the traducer ignored his letter, not even the courtesy of a reply, yet he, (the traducer) speaks repeatedly about his deluded quest for peace. He knows that Prince Ned acquired his land legitimately, he knows too well he utilized the land first given to him for agricultural purposes and that Prince Ned had been credibly magnanimous to have given his community 40% equity in the university in exchange for the land which he also expended so much money on the settler farmers.
As a writer, I have done research again and again to see where in the world such a partnership with unbelievable generous offer exists but none absolutely. Dr Ogbechie knows about all these undoubted facts. Yet, he chose to travel the famished road, to stand on the wrong side of history and on the footnotes of time. He refused in his publications to even acknowledge that Prince Ned that he consistently but hails as a friend and brother, legitimately acquired the land. Instead he was playing to the gallery, advising the Prince to abandon the land legitimately approved for him by the entire community for some strange parcel of land elsewhere as if he didn’t know that some good chunk money was paid to the foreign settler-farmers, as they are called, who were cultivating the lands in order to vacate the place for the new projects of the Prince. These were the lands mapped out for developmental projects. These non-native farmers are however given these lands to farm with a caveat that they would leave once any part of the land that is up for a development project. There was however a tacit notion of compensation attached to this unwritten agreement.
And this lawyer of rare distinction didn’t mind. He compensated, handsomely, the farmers and some villagers with land in the area except for one or two families still in dispute over who should receive the money. Till this moment, their money remains in the bank waiting for them to resolve their internal, private family problems.
One of the traducers allegedly has all these details. Yet, he was making a self-serving suggestion for his much touted friend and brother to move the site of his university to another land somewhere. I couldn’t help but chuckle as the traducer narrated in the same Vanguard publication how he called a lawyer, while with Prince Ned, to obtain bail for one of the accused persons.
I laughed at the traducer because I knew so well that even Prince Ned in his characteristic manner would be quietly amused at the vain glorious posture and narcissistic narrative of the traducer, for he seemed to be saying he had both the money and power or influence to tackle any issue as far as Ugboko was concerned. So, I ask, who really is this guy? What is he thinking? Does he think in his wildest imagination that he could match Prince Ned if his intention was to prove who was more influential. Of course, Prince Ned is damn potent enough and with the war chest to pay high profile Lawyers to apply all the legalese and obstacles to delay the bail of the murder suspect if he wanted. But to what end? He would never do that because he has a rare sense of justice and aversion for the manipulation of law. Besides, he has no stake in the case except that a number of the victims were attacked because they stood for truth and refused to support an urgent course in his desperate moves to frustrate establishment of his university. Outside that, he is not a complainant neither is he a witness. And what is more, he has Certificate of Occupancy for his lands and above all work at the site of STARS is progressing seamlessly. So he must have laughed at the man’s show of power to local people. Here was a Nigerian, a son of Africa that stood up in a foreign land to face one of the most impregnable institutions in the face of the earth, the Paris club. He challenged them to redress the financial injustice meted to his father land because his nation had been short changed. He won this tempestuous case fought in several countries’ courts for ten incredible years at the dire risk of his own life. He was unmoved by the threats. He defeated the almighty Paris club.
Till today, Nigeria is till reaping from his gallant heroics in court, earning hundreds of millions of dollars. And back home, when the same Federal Government that he fought for decided to complicate matters of payment of part of the Paris Club refund due to the local government areas, LGAs, this same Prince Ned, maligned repeatedly by a self-centered few from his home town, was the lawyer called by the 774 LGAs in Nigeria to come and rescue them. Like a messiah of justice he stood up for the oppressed LGAs against Federal Government. It didn’t matter to him that he had fought victoriously for the government and this government was still paying him his remunerations for the case he had won on their behalf. The Prince simply didn’t care that they could hold back his money. He wanted to assure justice and fairness because that is his life. And he won. Yes, he won again. And the Federal government promptly paid the 774 LGAs their dues. How can such a man now descend to the level of contesting power in his small village? His mission is certainly loftier than that and no measures would make him descend to such a pedestrian level. He is seen by many a Nigerian and by most people in Ugboko especially the ordinary people and neutral elites as a kind and deeply caring person.
These people see him, not just as philanthropist, but a change agent, a man writing new, indelible chapters in the annals of their community development efforts and empowerment of the youths and indigent people. But those infinitely opposed to Prince Ned’s granite will to raise the ordinary people from the grip of poverty and put Ugboko on the global map with a unique university took measures that only exposed their resentful and disenchanted minds. And men with conscience couldn’t support their retrogressive agendum. With their support diminishing daily, they decided to apply brute force. Prince Kachido Nwoko recently captured how the evil that befell Idumuje-Ugboko was planned by these ungodly men in an open letter to Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the governor of Delta State. In the letter titled “Open Letter Over Unfounded Allegations Against Me and Threats to Kill Me and My Family”, the Prince who grew up in the palace serving Prince Nonso’s father, gave a graphic account of how the mayhem of May 18 th to 25th , 2017 was hatched. In his words, “I am constrained to cry out and write this letter due to threats to kill me and my wife and children by Crown Prince, delving into their evil plan, he added,” the crisis started after the burial of the king in 2017. One day I heard discussions on phone about Prince Ned Nwoko.
The murderous terrorist and bandits that were imported into Idumuje-Ugboko went to rain a bloody horror on the community, to maim and kill, to destroy and vandalize homes. By the time they were done and the clouds cleared, two innocent souls, Cyprian Kumiolun and Kennedy Iloh had been sent to untimely graves, houses were torched and property destroyed. Those lucky not to be killed were beaten to stupor, humiliated and treated like animals with all their dignities and rights as human beings trampled.
The Iyase of Idumuje-Ugboko, Chief Chris Ogwu, the traditional Prime Minister, mouthpiece of the Kingdom and second highest ranking traditional leader, next only to the king, was attacked right in front of his house, where he sat reading some newspapers, by these hoodlums wielding matchets, guns and dangerous weapons. The respected ex-journalist was battered, soaked in his own blood, while his house and cars were vandalized. They desecrated a symbolic temple of their tradition and dragged the old man on the ground for long minutes until they got to Ugboko palace. And right there, one of the traducers stepped out of the palace gallantly and watched with morbid satisfaction as the hoodlums descended violently once again on the Iyase. He was taken for dead by the time they finished and abandoned him on the field by the palace.
The third in the hierarchy of traditional leaders, the Odogwu, the Trade Defence Minister, Chief Anthony Sunday Azuka Edemodu, was not spared. He was met with equal violence and dastardly brutality. Unlike Kennedy Iloh, the Secretary to the land Allocation Committee and Cyprian Kumiolun who met their fatal end in the hands of the murderers, the two high ranking chiefs miraculously survived. Many were however left with mortal wounds and their properties completely destroyed. The traducers watched and analyzed, with sadistic fascination, this painful tragedy of the common people. For ten good months they relished their immoral conquest. One of the traducers narrated sadistically in Vanguard of May 21st , 2019, how they sent the youths to attack “those causing trouble.” The Iyase and Odogwu, men in their 70s were his definition of trouble makers. So, by his writing, he naively and implicitly confessed that he was part of those that sent the hoodlums to brutalize, maim and where necessary, kill Prince Nonso’s perceived enemies and trouble makers. But he didn’t accuse the so called trouble makers of murder. Yet those youths, the ‘good boys’ he and his group sent, murdered two innocent people.
With no consolation coming to the victims, the ordinary people who were down but not out, cried out through an SOS petition to the Inspector General of Police, IG and the Attorney General of the Federation who mandated the Nigerian Human Rights Commission to step into the case. After thorough investigation by the police and human rights bodies, a clear case of terrorism and acute violation of human rights were established. Prince Nonso and some of the suspected hoodlums were charged before a Federal High Court, Abuja in Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/11/19. Prince Nonso has been on the run ever since he was invited by the police.
On the 8th of October, 2020, some of the eleven accused persons will take their turn in court as the police intensifies efforts to arrest the other fugitives. Indigenes of Aniocha North and the entire Anioma nation and even civil society organizations are now calling on government to accelerate this trial in order to send a clear warning to other hoodlums and their financiers. They are also calling for the arrest and prosecution of their sponsors as the law is not only made for the common man. People like Dr. Gabriel Ogbochie, they argue, must be invited by the police to explain their roles in the mayhem as he is an unabashed supporter of Prince Nonso. Dr. Ogbechie, indicted himself as an actor in the havoc in his May 21 st , 2019 Vanguard publication titled “The Quest for Peace in Idumuje-Ugboko: MynPerspectives.” Dr. Ogbechie in a shocking confession admitted that they sent the ‘youths’ to deal with trouble makers in the village. And these people they sent, ended up murdering innocent souls, a fact the police has now established. The law enforcement agents cannot look away from this. The CSOs cannot let it slip their analytical minds.
In all these scenario, one man ought to be having a quiet laugh because everything he warned and pleaded against is coming to pass. Being however, an irrepressible defender of the ordinary people, he ought to be happy that they are about to get justice. But for a wealthy man whose entire life is about passion founded on compassion for the less privileged, for a legal soldier with a tireless resolve for elevation of peace, for a totally accomplished man who exists on a different pedestal of humility and honour, wide apart from his egocentric mongers of falsehood and hate, Prince Ned still believes that return of peace through amicable resolution of the disputes is possible in Ugboko. All that he begs is for all parties to allow justice and fairness to prevail. I couldn’t help but ask, “What manner of man is this?”
Jubril Musa writes from Abuja