Essential Need to Sustain Relative Peace in Enugu

Essential Need to Sustain Relative Peace in Enugu

Okwudiri Ngwoke writes on the need for Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State to investigate the petitions written by some Non Governmental Organisations over clandestine activities of an individual threatening to disrupt peace in the Coal City state.

Enugu State made national headline news recently for developments traceable to two essential causes. In the first place it is obvious that the state Government’s promise of disruptive socio-economic development has started yielding fruits. Then, it has also become apparent that the insecurity currently threatening national peace and development could be traced to some disgraced former officers of Nigeria security agencies.

These two factors combined to hand over Enugu State prime mention in various news platforms. The most disturbing aspect of the twin development was the alleged involvement of the Nigeria Army in the perpetration of land-grabbing through intimidation and name-dropping.

With a report in the Arise News Now of January 15, 2024, Nigerians were alerted to the dangerous development in Enugu State, where a business man that boasts of influence in the military goes about with a retinue of soldiers creating panic and intimidating ordinary residents of the state.

According to the global television channel, “the Arewa Coalition for Human Rights and Security and the Human Rights Writers’ Association (HURIWA), have raised concerns over an alleged misuse of military escorts by a prominent Enugu State-based businessman, said to be a retired lance corporal in the Nigeria Army.

Quoting a statement by the coalition, AriseNews said the civil society organisation condemned the inappropriate deployment of the army personnel to private individuals.

“The former lance corporal has been accused of moving with a high number of military personnel creating tension in Enugu and its environs. The unlawful use of military escorts for private interest not only undermines the credibility of the military, but also raises questions of justice and fairness in a democratic society,” the report noted.

There were other reports in various national newspapers and online platforms.

But, worried by the growing insecurity in the country, a civil rights and good governance group based in Kaduna, Transparency Centre Network (TCN) petitioned President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Senator Bola Tinubu, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and the Minister of Defence, Alhaji Abubakar Badaru.

TCN complained of the grave implications of the nefarious act of allowing a business man to move about with a convoy of combat-ready soldiers to intimidate the civil populace.  The group disclosed that it is in possession of “copious videos showing the numerous land grabbing exploits of one ex-soldier and his illegal activities in company of army personnel.”

In the petition signed by its Executive Secretary, Comrade Musa Abdullahi, TCN declared: “It is our contention that the ex-soldier is not entitled to military or Army escort and, such personnel which may have been unlawfully and unjustly assigned to him must be withdrawn immediately to halt their further use in numerous illegal activities.”

While pointing out that the impostor leverages on his perceived closeness to a very highly-placed Army Officer, TCN noted: “It is worrisome and raises serious questions, to say the least, particularly with regard to the propriety of such deployment. Particularly, in the face of current hydra-headed security challenges facing the nation, worsened by dearth or inadequate personnel to tackle it, to find tangible reason for assigning such number of military personnel of not less than 10 soldiers whose only duty is to roam with a name-dropper.”

Also, a pro-democracy group in the state, the Save Enugu Group (SEG), in a Save Our Souls (SOS) message charged President Tinubu to intervene and stem the activities of “a strong man terrorising residents of the state, using men in military uniforms.”

According to the message signed by James Ezema on behalf of the group, “beyond brazen intimidation of residents, the former lance corporal, has been using men in military uniforms to dispossess hapless citizens of their properties.”

Giving a background to the character and person of the ex-soldier, SEG remarked: “The man in question, who fronts as a businessman in Enugu State lays claim to the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) land and property, including other adjoining plots within the neighbourhood.

“So far, there are allegations that the ex-soldier has turned into a flourishing land grabber in the state, dispossessing some communities of their ancestral properties through shoddy means.

“Our preliminary findings indicate that the culprit is a Nigerian army deserter and has reportedly claimed the military rank of Captain. His last known place of service was the 65 Brigade, Sokoto.

“He has been accused of equally claiming to be a military spy on a mission to identify members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the state and was fingered in several land grabbing cases involving properties belonging to high profile individuals, and organisations, and widows no matter the validity of the land documents.”

SEG pleaded with President Tinubu to order immediate investigation into the circumstances that led to the deployment of soldiers as escorts to a suspected army deserter.

The group equally called on Governor Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, as the Chief Security Officer of Enugu State “to take note and curb the excesses of the ex-soldier to avert an imminent breakdown of law and order in some communities as a result of his activities.”

The land grabbing schemes of the former lance corporal had earlier been highlighted in Udi Local Government Area. The community disclosed that while dropping the name of the then General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division of the Nigeria, the ex-soldier approached it with a demand to buy eight hectares of land as the cost of N2billion.

Some of the community’s representatives who spoke to this writer on phone said the understanding was that the ex-soldier would use his connections in the Army to stop the planned take over of the 100 hectares of community land by Enugu State Government.

While calling for a high powered investigation of the activities of the army deserter, the Ozalla Abor Community lamented that the ex-soldier was using the claim that the wife of a high-ranking military officer is a director in his company to deceive people that he was acting on behalf of Nigeria Army.

There is no doubt that based on Government’s pro-business policies, a lot of well-heeled business people are finding Enugu as a new haven for investment and social life. However, on a sad note, the new impetus which propelled increased demand for landed property in the state, has revved up the activities of land grabbers.

But, at no time did the activities of land grabbers gained higher incidence and nationwide concern than with the new lease of ease of doing business in the state such that criminal-minded individuals including, discredited security officials have joined in the perpetration of land racketeering in Enugu State.

The lid to this underground larceny was blown open recently when some vigilant citizens captured a middle-aged man from Nsukka area of the state as being at the centre of underhand land deals. The Middle-aged man, who was found to be the same army deserter, was fond of making varying claims of being a former Army Captain and a Pastor.

But, the bubble burst when the people of Nsukka under the aegis of Igbo Nsukka discovered that the ex-soldier had been dropping the names of highly placed military officers to appropriate choice properties in the state. What set the sparks flying was that former lance corporal’s decision to take advantage of the absence of Commissioners at the inception of Dr. Peter Mbah’s administration, using his lackeys in the State Ministry of Lands to change title documents in the registry.

As calls continue for President Tinubu to authorise a thorough investigation of the marauding ex-soldier and his use of soldiers to harass and intimidate citizens, the Enugu State Governor should also look into the recommendations of Igbo Nsukka.

While reminding the governor to call for the controversial files in the land registry as a first step towards recovering the disputed lands, Igbo Nsukka stated: “It is an established fact that this ex-soldier uses some contacts in the military to penetrate government institutions and extract vital information that he deploys as tools of blackmail.

 “Governor Mbah should act fast to avert similar confusion that threatened the stability of former Governor Ugwuanyi administration.”

-Ngwoke writes from Enugu

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