Raymond Ozoji in Awka reports on the looming dangerous clash between two neighbouring communities in Anambra State over land ownership
Urum and Achala communities in Awka-North Local Government Area of Anambra State are currently enmeshed in conflict over the ownership of a borderland connecting both communities and their neigbhours.
While Urum says the land in dispute is an ancestral heritage handed over to them by their forebears; Achala community maintains that over its dead body would the land in question be relinquished to Urum on the ground that it would amount to selling their birthright to strangers . This situation has degenerated into bloodbath between the two communities such that the traditional ruler of Urum community His Royal Highness Igwe Dr. Benedict Nweke has eloped from his royal palace at Urum to seek refuge at an undisclosed destination .
Igwe Benedict Nweke narrated his own side of the story to journalists in Awka said Urum is one of the 177 communities in Anambra State.
His community has boundary with Achala, Mgbakwu, Isuaniocha, Amanuke, Ukwulu and a host of others in Awka-north local government area.
According to the monarch about 3 years ago, the traditional ruler of Achala community Igwe Nwokedi started contesting Ochikwa land with Urum community.
He disclosed that the dispute surrounding Ochikwa borderland has been discussed at the local government level and at the traditional rulers’ council where he said that “Igwe Nwokedi was mandated to relinquish Ochikwa land to Urum community but he blatantly flouted the order from the traditional rulers’ council” and allegedly invaded Urum destroying lives and property in the community. The traditional ruler of Urum community further disclosed that the traditional rulers’ council ordered Igwe Nwokedi to desist from addressing Urum community as ‘ ohu ‘ meaning slaves ; that Igwe Nwokedi stated categorically that Urum are slaves to Achala community .
Furthermore Igwe Nweke said Josaiah Nwokedi the late father of the incumbent monarch did not bicker over Ochikwa land neither did late Chief Iwegbune and other monarchs like the late Chief Mofunanya and Charles Nwokedi.
Why then should the incumbent traditional ruler of Achala strip them off their ancestral heritage? Igwe Nweke queried. Igwe Nweke further explained that the Anambra State Government intervened at some point and revoked the land in dispute in the public interest so as to forestall communal war between Urum and Achala communities .
After the acquisition of the land in controversy by the Anambra State Government , Igwe Nweke told journalists that some miscreants from Urum community alleged that he sold the land to the state government and demanded for the economic interest on the land which led to the uprising in his community where in some youths in Urum led by the President- General of Urum community stampeded the government house Awka bearing placards with various inscriptions in protest over his removal from office as the traditional ruler of Urum community.
Igwe Nweke said that prior to the pandemonium, Achala indigenes attacked his community due to their numerical strength and unleashed terror on them. Igwe Nweke stated that ‘ Achala people attacked my palace and stole two giant elephant tusks ; killed my goats ; destroyed my home ; broke the windscreen of the vehicle parked in my palace ; all these were done during the rampage by Achala people last month… ‘
Igwe Nweke said he alerted the police who came immediately from the Area Command and took photographs of the things destroyed in his palace, pointing out that rather than sympathise with him over the mayhem Achala people unleashed on Urum , his subjects demanded for money they alleged government is supposed to pay for economic trees on the land which he said does not exist .
According to him, some members of his community who came to government house to protest should have gone to the housing corporation to find out if government paid the sum of N175 million as they claimed.
He said that since the people of Achala chased him out of his palace at Urum recently, he has taken refuge in the city. Igwe Nweke however concluded that since he was installed in 1960 as traditional ruler of Urum he has discharged his duties and obligations as the custodian of culture and tradition and chief security officer diligently in the community.
In spite of this, some dissidents in his community had gone ahead to accuse him falsely of harbouring Fulani herdsmen framed for raping and maiming their wives and daughters in Urum. Invoking his membership of the Anambra State Cattle Menace Committee saddled with the responsibility to regulate the activities of Hausa-faluni cattle rearing in Anambra State, he debunked the allegations, stressing that rather than resort to jungle justice, it is more justifiable to report rape cases and other cases to the police for proper actions to be taken to restore peace and peaceful co-existence in the community.
Igwe Nweke therefore appealed to Igwe Nwokedi and his dissident subjects in Urum to allow peace a chance to prevail in his community. As it stands at the moment Igwe Nweke is on self-exile to save himself from being killed by irate youths from his community Urum and Achala community respectively
When contacted on the phone to render his own side of the story between Urum and Achala , traditional ruler of Achala , Igwe Nwokedi told The UNION that Urum and Achala are brothers and as such both communities will settle their differences by themselves, warning that journalists should desist from coming between the two communities . Igwe Nwokedi, who said during the telephone conversation that he was on his way to Lagos warned that hend should not be disturbed further on the land matter between Urum and Achala communities .