. . . Houses Destroyed, 16 Arrested, Indigenes Flee Community
By Ikeugonna Eleke
Crisis is currently rocking the Igbariam Community in Anambra East Local Government over a disputed land, leading to the the destruction of several houses and general unrest in the area.
Indigenes of the community have fled their homes over attacks by an alleged militia group terrorizing indigenes and mass arrest of people by the police. This is even as the Anambra State Police Command has claimed ignorance of the crisis.
An indigene of the community, Nnalue Iloegbune, said, 'My house is among those destroyed but I cannot go to the village or report to the police. Rather, I am here in hiding because the entire community has been taken over by hoodlums.'
The hoodlums comprising youths of the community, have destroyed over 10 houses belonging to indigenes opposed to the ceding of their land to the monarch of the community, Igwe Kelly Nneli, and the president general of the community, Ikechukwu Orizu.
During a visit by Fides to the community, it was observed that men and youths had all fled the community, leaving only old women and children.
An 82-year old woman, Agnes Atomba, who was attacked by the militia on Wednesday night said that within one week her house had been invaded three times.
'The recent one happened while I was asleep at around 2am. They rushed into the house and destroyed everything, took away N200, 000 which my children sent to me for medication.
They insisted that I should tell them where my son, Lambert, was, but the truth is that my son is in Lagos,' she said.
No fewer than 16 youths, including an 84-year old retired headmaster, have been arrested and taken to Abuja by police officers said to be working in connivance with the monarch.
Iloegbune told Fides that trouble started in the community when a leading member of the community revoked ownership of a communal land meant for a developmental project and ceded it to himself.
'Each of the seven villages in Igbariam shared some 750 plots of land handed back to us by government. In 2007, we shared it into eight and each village took one, and one was left for the developmental project.
'But this person has taken it, and even added part of Ubaru land to it, but we said no. He connived with other leaders to take the land, but we refused, so they threatened to ostracize us all. We went to court.
'This year, they started threatening us and dragging us to Abuja and Umuahia, and later started arresting our people. As I speak to you, they are destroying our houses and the worst is that they are backed by police, and have been arresting people indiscriminately,' he alleged.
Iloegbune begged the Anambra State Government and the Federal Government to come to their aid and save them from what he called brazen intimidation.
When Fides visited the palace of the traditional ruler of the community, his security men affirmed that the monarch was at home, but did not wish to see anyone, except through the phone.
When contacted on the crisis in the community, the spokesman of the Anambra State Police Command, SP Haruna Mohammed, said he was not aware of it.
He also said he was unaware of the arrest of members of the community, saying that the command did not carry out such arrest. He equally expressed surprise that officers could come from Abuja to pick up people in Anambra without recourse to the command.