An alleged levy from an oil exploring company in Anambra State, Eastern Nigeria, has shattered the relative peace in the affected communities. The orgy of violence that follows has claimed the lives of four persons, and scores of houses burnt.
The people of Ogwuikpele community in Ogbaru Local Government Area, and those of Azia in Ihiala Local Government Area of the state were locked in inter-communal violent clashes.
The mayhem has led many residents to flee Ogwuikpele, an oil-bearing community, thus signalling the beginning of ‘’oil curse’’ in Anambra, a phenomenon all the other oil-producing states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers, all member states of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are living with.
However, the bloodletting in the area was brought to the knowledge of the state government via Matters of Urgent Public Importance on the floor of the state House of Assembly by Somtochukwu Udeze, representing Ogbaru 2 State Constituency.
The Legislative arm of the Anambra State Government has accordingly requested the Executive branch to send security agencies to resolve the communal disturbances.
Udeze says the level of wanton destruction of lives on this February 12, where four persons were killed in Ogwuikpele community required immediate security resolution.
“We are still in shock and asking questions on what happened on February 12, when the houses and belongings of these murdered people were set on fire along with other houses. This cruel and unwarranted loss of lives, have become unbearable in my constituency”, he said.
The state lawmaker is also drawing the attention of the House to a similar incident in the same community that happened last November, where two lives were lost.
“People have deserted the community as a result of the disturbances. The neighbouring towns within my constituency are currently harbouring a lot of people, especially from Ogwuikpele, Obeagbor and Obianocha communities.
“Some have been moved to Onitsha as a result of the killings in Ogwuikpele. It is true oil is discovered in my constituency, but the trend and attitude of some agencies regarding this issue is not anything to write home about.
“I urge that this House to call on Gov. Willie Obiano to as a matter of urgency to direct all relevant security agencies to intervene in the happenings at Ogwuikpele to restore law and order.”
Lawrence Ezeudu, representing Dunukofia State Constituency notes that the area will soon become an oil-producing area of Anambra. According to him, ‘’we know very well that there are some activities going on there. Already there are companies that we know that are drilling oil in that part of the state.
“That place has become the real oil spinner for Anambra, this is what is expected, we have to as a Matter of Urgency, nip this issue in the board, now that this incident is below the knee.”
He is urging security agencies including local vigilance groups in the area to secure Ogwuikpele community, stressing that if nothing is done, the incident might deteriorate and subsume a larger population, adding, “Ogbaru Local Government Area is largely known for agriculture and we cannot because of oil, allow that area to disintegrate.’’
Consequently, the House has called on Governor Willie Obiano to urgently direct the relevant security agencies to intervene in the two warring communities.
The House said it will help to restore order in the two local government areas, and also urged that a committee of enquiry be set up over the disturbances.
Speaker of the House, Uche Okafor, has described the incidences as pathetic and worrisome, given the manner in which Udeze stood to narrate the experiences of his constituents in the Ogwuikpele community crisis.
“I can feel the pulse of the members when the deputy Speaker relayed what also happened at Azia; it becomes worrisome. What seems to be a blessing to us which is oil should not turn around to be a curse on us. We pray to have oil as part of our resources because it is going to help to improve the economic drive of the state.
“Now that Anambra is working toward that, we will not think that it will be a curse that will make us kill ourselves”, the Speaker said.
Deputy Speaker, Paschal Agbodike, representing Ihiala 2 State Constituency expressed dismay over the cult-related killings in his area, saying that two persons were killed in Azia community. He enjoined all to cooperate to put an end to these gruesome murders.
Pete Ibida, representing Njikoka 2 State Constituency described the situation as pathetic, saying that people were heartless and if allowed could lead to the decimation of the community.
Spokesman for the police in the state, Haruna Mohammed, a Chief Superintendent of Police, says law enforcement agents have restored normalcy in the war-torn area, and are intensifying joint patrols to forestall reoccurrence.
‘’On February 12, 2021, at about 11:19pm, there was a report of intra-communal crisis in Ogwuikpele community by the Council Chairman òf Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State Hon. Arinzechukwu Awogu over a levy from an oil exploring company in the Community.
‘’The Command quickly dispatched joint Police teams comprising PMF/RRS and other conventional units in collaboration with the local community vigilante group led by the Area Commander of Oraifite, ACP Wilfred Afolabi, to the scene and met virtually half of the community deserted.
“Situation was brought under control and normalcy restored in the area. Joint patrols are ongoing to reassure fleeing residents to return to the Community and ensure lasting peace in the area”, the police said.
Adding, Mohammed says an investigation has commenced in earnest to ascertain the number of lives lost, injuries sustained, damages to property, circumstances surrounding the incident, identify and bring perpetrators to book.
He is appealing to the fleeing residents to return to the community since normalcy has been restored and also warning restive factions to maintain peace and assist in the investigation rather than resort to unnecessary violence.