Governor Theodore Orji
By Emmanuel Ugwu
A lingering chieftaincy dispute at Omaegwu Ehume community in Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State, last weekend claimed the life of a youth, Sopuluchi Nzeadighibe, while property worth millions of naira were destroyed.
THISDAY gathered that the communal conflict erupted on the eve of Nigeria’s 51st Independence Anniversary as youths attacked the home of Chief Chikara Ugorji, said to be a contender to the traditional stool occupied by Eze Chukwudozie Nelson Nwosu since 2003.
Nzeadighibe was said to have died of gun shot wounds allegedly fired by Ugorji when the mob surged into this compound and broke into his house to attack him. His house and a nearby shop owned by him were consequently set ablaze.
Equally destroyed in the inferno were two vehicles said to belong to Ugorj while his dog, inside its kennel, miraculously survived.
When THISDAY visited the community, scores of armed anti-riot policemen had already taken position at the market square keeping guard and searching every vehicle and any strange face entering the crisis area. But the traditional ruler, Nwosu, has alleged that the security men were being partial in their handling of the crisis.
He told newsmen at Umuahia yesterday that he was worried that both the army and the police sent to his domain were "terrorising" people from Omaegwu Ehume while anybody who claimed to come from “a non-existing Umuopara autonomous community” was allowed to move about freely.
Though Omaegwu Ehume has been torn between two contenders to the Ezeship it was gathered that the immediate cause of the bloody conflict was the incarceration of a youth leader, Ugochukwu Amaefule, since July 28 for allegedly destroying some economic trees.
Amaefule was said to have led the youths to cut down the trees where they believed that some prominent members of the community had nailed the destiny of the youths, making it very difficult for them to make progress in life. Nwosu said he authorised the cutting of the trees at the village square to make way for development
Last Friday the youths had returned from Umuahia, disappointed that their leader was not released on bail, since the court did not sit, and based on their belief that Ugorji was behind the arrest and detention of their leader the youths decided to attack him.
The youth went on rampage, dealing machete cuts on passers-by and destroying property of suspected opponents.
With the presence of armed mobile policemen, peace appeared to have returned to the community as most of the young men had fled.