By Fred Akpewe
Idumuje-Ugboko is a serene, sleepy town in Aniocha North Local Government Area. This rural-agrarian settlement has been peaceful for decades until a seemingly innocuous issue triggered crises which have now grown to monumental proportions. In the early months of 2015, an international lawyer, philanthropist, and environmentalist and a scion of the Nwoko royal family of Idumuje-Ugboko, Prince Ned Nwoko announced with glee that he had decided to build his pet dream of a sports university, and a golf course in the village.
The STARS University was to be one of its kind in south Saharan Africa and the gains to the village in terms of development promised to be salutary. Prince Ned Nwoko requested for an additional 90 hectares of land for the University and golf course, having earlier been granted a 33 hectares of land for a diary farm. His Royal Majesty, Obi Albert Nwoko III, JP (MON) and his Obi in Council had given their approval for the land promptly for the commencement of the Stars University and golf course but with a proviso that the community would own 40% equity in the proposed university. Prince Ned Nwoko joyfully procured a certificate of occupancy to cover the land which was issued to him through his company, LINAS INTERNATIONAL LTD.
GENESIS OF THE CRISES IN IDUMUJE-UGBOKO
From sources obtained by us and corroborated by the accounts of Prince Walters Eziashi, a former President-General of Idumuje-Ugboko in 2008 and Chris Ogu, the Iyase (Traditional Prime Minister) of Idumuje-Ugboko, trouble started when a fresh letter purporting to have been written by HRM, Obi Albert Nwoko was widely circulated with claims that the Obi had repudiated his earlier approval for the land to establish the Stars University and the golf course. This new twist which occurred on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 was doubted by many sons and daughters of the village prompting some persons to go to the Obi’s palace to seek clarification from Obi Albert Nwoko. Unfortunately, Prince Chukunonso in concert with Prince Ejimofor Nwoko, Richard Obiajulu Nwoko and Dennis Nwadiegwu Nwoko had erected a barricade in the Palace in an attempt to frustrate their seeing the king.
A shocked Prince Walter Eziashi, the then President-General of the community petitioned the Commissioner of Police on September 14, 2015 to investigate the letter allegedly written by Obi Albert Nwoko. Police investigation indicted Prince Nonso Nwoko, Richard Nwoko and Ejimofor Nwoko for forgery and the matter was charged to Magistrate Court I, Asaba in a Suite No. SMC/420C/2016. By this singular act the fragile peace in Idumuje-Ugboko had been aggravated. From that date, some strange occurrences started in rapid succession. The King, Obi Albert Nwoko died in questionable circumstances in February 6th, 2017 and was allegedly buried hurriedly while Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko promptly crowned himself King against all traditional protocol, rites and traditions. Although Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko was the first son of HRM Albert Nwoko, his mother was from Ubulu-Uku, prompting the late King’s other son, Prince Uche Nwoko whose mother is from Idumuje-Ugboko to lay claim to the throne. Idumuje-Ugboko tradition has it that for a King to be crowned, his mother must be from Idumuje-Ugboko. The mysterious death of Obi Albert Nwoko had elicited grave concerns causing his Queen to petition the Inspector-General of Police with claims that their husband was murdered.
Evidence abounds that Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko responded by clamping down on all persons perceived to be enemies of his quest to become the undisputed Obi of Idumuje-Ugboko. On May 18-25, 2017 hell was let loose in Idumuje-Ugboko in a Palace fracas which spread to all parts of the town. At the end, an okada man, Cyprain Kumiolu and Kennedy Iloh were murdered in cold blood while 29 other victims of the mayhem suffered varying degrees of injuries and fractures prompting the Police and the National Human Rights Commission to visit and make documentations. On another occasion, the Iyase of Idumuje-Ugboko, Chris Ogu was beaten up and flogged in the Palace while his house and cars were badly damaged. On yet another occasion, a teenage girl was raped right in the Palace and this act generated wide outrage against Prince Nonso Nwoko.
PEACE PROCESSES IN IDUMUJE-UGBOKO
The Idumuje-Ugboko crisis has generated several commentaries and schools of thought. A school of thought has linked the Idumuje-Ugboko altercations to the crises of confidence between Prince Ned Nwoko’s quest to build a star University and golf course and Prince Nonso Nwoko’s inability to get his staff of office. Closely related to this school of thought is that the crises has lingered because Prince Nonso Nwoko has refused to authenticate the additional 90 hectares of land approved for Prince Ned Nwoko by Obi Albert Nwoko for the Stars University/golf course.
Desirous of finding a lasting peace to the crises about 8 peace attempts have been made and all of them have been unsuccessful. They are:
Aniocha North Traditional Ruler Committee (March, April and May, 2017)
Peace meeting with the AIG zone 5, Adamu Mohammed in Benin-City (June 1, 2017).
Benjamin Elue led Aniocha Congress Peace meeting which held several times.
A proposed meeting with Obi of Idumuje-Unor but which was allegedly aborted by Prince Nonso Nwoko.
Chief Paul Uzor led fact finding committee which was unceremoniously aborted by Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie after a pre-emptory publication/advertorial on 21/4/2017.
The Obed Nwochie Peace Initiative.
Diokpa Uka/Idumuje-Ugboko Women I.U.D.U sponsored Peace Initiative.
Obi of Owa, HRM Professor Efeizomor Peace Committee Meeting.
In all the above meetings, it is instructive that Prince Ned Nwoko, ever ready to avail himself of any available amicable settlement has always made himself available.
THE ROLE OF DR. GABRIEL OGBECHIE AT PEACE SETTLEMENT
Although Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie, a prominent son of Idumuje-Ugboko had presented himself as a peace maker in the crises rocking the community, many indigenes of the town are uncomfortable with his motives. His real motives may have come to the fore in his two-page Vanguard advertorial of May 21, 2020. In the publication titled “The quest for Peace in Idumuje-Ugboko, Gabriel Ogbechie presented Ned Nwoko as the antagonist in the crises that was stalling the peace process. Ogbechie also labored to link the kingship tussle to the land for the building of the Stars University. Gabriel Ogbechie also labeled Prince Nonso Nwoko as a peace loving King who is being unjustifiably denied his staff of office. Gabriel Ogbechie’s pontifications has painted him as a man whose only interest is to make sure that Prince Nonso Nwoko gets his staff of office, even if it means Ned Nwoko getting an alternative piece of land for his Stars University and golf course.
THE STANCE OF NEW NWOKO IN THE IDUMUJE-UGBOKO CRISES
Prince Ned Nwoko has consistently maintained that he has no hand in the kingship tussle in Idumuje-Ugboko. Prince Ned Nwoko has also shown sufficient commitment to the peace process by attending and contributing to all the peace meetings. Perhaps, one area in which Prince Ned Nwoko has been clearly misunderstood is that he wants just more than peace. He also wants justice. Ned Nwoko believes that the several human rights violations in the community should not be swept under the carpet. The culprits fingered in the death of some folks, the villains who caused the maiming of innocent people and those who vandalized people’s property and forged vital documents should not go unpunished. Although Ned Nwoko himself had not instituted any court case against anybody in the village, he believes that true reconciliation and justice must go hand in hand. It is this position taken by Prince Ned Nwoko that makes some people including Prince Nonso Nwoko and Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie to believe that he (Prince Ned Nwoko) does not want the staff of office to be given to Prince Nonso Nwoko.
WHY THE STAFF OF OFFICE HAS NOT BEEN GIVEN TO PRINCE NONSO NWOKO
The Delta State Government does not confer staff of office on a person whose kingdom is under strife. In the case of Idumuje-Ugboko, there are about five (5) lingering cases in court against the Palace ranging from murder to forgery and willful damage to property not to talk of gross violation of human rights. Under this circumstance it would be a grave error for the Delta State Government to confer a staff of office on Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko. Besides, there is a kingship tussle in Idumuje-Ugboko between two brothers – Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko and Prince Uche Nwoko.
FINDING THE WAY FORWARD TOWARDS PEACE IN IDUMUJE-UGBOKO
With eight (8) peace committees unable to find a solution to the protracted Idumuje-Ugboko crises, it has become necessary to change the strategies. Before that is done, it is necessary for Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko to shift his position a little bit. Prince Nonso Nwoko needs to be reminded that the Stars University will open a floodgate of development in Idumuje-Ugboko, Anioma and Nigeria which would be the beneficiaries of this unique life changing institution. The Stars University is not for personal aggrandizement. The students from this University will rub shoulders with Nigeria and Africa’s most famous couple, Prince Ned and Princess Regina. In any case, it is an acknowledge fact that any attempt or support for the reversal of the University land will amount to reward for fraud and illegality. Prince Nonso’s fraudulent attempt at reversing the titles to the University land will not stand as he is facing criminal trials for forgery and deception. Government has approved the building plans for the various multi-billion naira projects.
At this juncture, there are windows open for Prince Nonso Nwoko to pursue genuine peace and reconciliation. It is necessary for Prince Nonso Nwoko to subject his process of ascension to the throne to community scrutiny with the intention of doing the right thing; the right thing being a proper process of crowning according to traditional rites. This would be involve assuaging people and families who have been vilified, intimidated, maimed or even killed in the community or Palace fracas. Thereafter, Prince Nonso Nwoko should keep his hands off the land properly acquired by Prince Ned Nwoko for several development projects. Prince Nonso should not be the clog in the wheel of progress in his own community. Nobody can do this for him, not even the unseen hands that are goading him on to commit more havoc against his people than he has already done before. He must take urgent decisions to restore himself to the path of honour. This is one sure way of restoring peace and dignity to the beleaguered community of Idumuje-Ugboko.
Dubai Police have confirmed that suspected Nigerian fraudsters, Ramon Igbalode Abbas a.k.a Hushpuppi and Olalekan Jacon Ponle a.k.a Mr Woodberry have been extradited to the United States.
In a post shared on the official page of the Dubai Police. FBI’s Director, Christopher Wray thanked the Dubai Police for their cooperation in extraditing the Nigerian suspects who were accused of committing multiple money-laundering and cyber crimes.
The Instagram post read:
The Director of the Federatal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Christopher Wray has praised the exceptional efforts exerted by the United Arab Emirate, represented bu the Dubai Police General HQ, in combating transnational organised cyber crime including the recent arrest of Raymod Igbalode Abbas, known as “Hushpuppi” and Olalekan Jacon Ponle aka “Woodberry” who were taken down in operation “Fox Hunt 2”.
Dubai police have revealed how popular Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Raymond Abbas, also known as Hushpuppi defrauded 1,926,400 people.
Hushpuppi was arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirate, UAE on June 10.
However, a short video titled ‘Operation fox hunt 2 released by the Dubai authorities on Thursday gave full details of Hushpuppi’s crime.
The Police said Hushpuppi and his cybercrime gang allegedly defrauded over 1.9 million victims of $435.6 million.
They were caught sending fake emails to people and diverting payments to their account.
The suspects are believed to be part of a crime ring that has executed a series of scams totalling up to $435.6 million
”In less than four months the Dubai Police in the new operation Fox Hunt arrested 12 other suspects.
”Six raids were carried out simultaneously while the gang were sleeping in their Dubai residences. After months of investigating and monitoring the gang’s social media accounts, a team of highly trained Dubai police were able to confirm the team’s whereabouts.
”Hushpuupi boasted about his wealth on social media claiming he was a successful businessman, little did he know Dubai police were tracking his account and taking note of all his social media activities.
“ Before their arrest, Abbas and his gang were responsible for scams worth 1Billion and 600 Million Dirhams. In the operation, Police officers were also able to seize item worth 150 Million Dirhams after they claimed 21 computers 47 smartphones and 15 storage devices and 4 harddisks containing 11950 files.”
An alcoholic six-year-old monkey in India identified as Kalua, has been jailed for life for killing a person and injuring 250 after becoming drunk.
It was gathered that he was able to tear through 250 people and kill one while on a rampage.
This week, zookeepers at Kanpur Zoological Park charged with re-assimilating the primate for the last three years have deemed him too dangerous to live among his kind , and have sentenced him to solitary confinement for the rest of his life.
According to IANS report, the alcoholic animal belonged to an “occultist” in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, whom local authorities believe supplied his pet with a regular diet of hard liquor and, possibly monkey meat.
When the owner was found dead, they believe the neglected monkey — likely in the throes of withdrawal — took his aggression to the streets and began roaming the neighbourhood and attacking people, particularly the faces of women and dozens of children left needing plastic surgery after he ripped open their faces with his fangs.
A 21-year-old female student of Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, Saki, Oyo State, Grace Oshiagwu, has been macheted to death by unknown assailants in Akinyele Local Government Area of the state.
SP Olugbenga Fadeyi, the Oyo State Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), confirmed the incident in a statement on Sunday in Ibadan.
Fadeyi said that the deceased was macheted on the head in a church building in Idi-ori area of Shasha, off Expressway, by unknown assailant about 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The PPRO said that investigation into the death of the 21-year-old Oshiagwu had begun and the police tactical teams were on the trail of the assailant(s).
“While efforts have been intensified, we want to solicit for credible information from members of the communities around the area and the general public, to enable us to unravel the mystery behind these dastardly killings,” Fadeyi said.
He said that the corpse of the deceased had been deposited at Adeoyo State Hospital, Ring Road, Ibadan, for autopsy.
However, a source disclosed that Oshiagwu was raped and macheted to death.
There have been frequent killings and rape cases in Akinyele local government area of Ibadan in recent months.
An 18-year-old Barakat Bello was reportedly raped and killed on May 31, by unknown hoodlums.
Similarly, 29-year-old woman, Azeezat Shomuyiwa, said to be seven months pregnant, was killed on June 5 in that axis.
A 34-year-old housewife, Hauwa’u Sulaiman, of No. 70 Alfadarai in Zaria, Kaduna State, also a mother of 13, gave birth to a set of quadruplets at the Gambo Sawaba General Hospital, Zaria, on Friday, June 5.
Sulaiman said on Tuesday in Zaria that she had now been blessed with 17 children, adding that the set of the new quadruplets she was recently delivered of was her eighth delivery.
The mother and the babies were transferred to the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) for better care after she had been delivered of her latest pregnancy.
Sulaiman, however, said that the only male among the quadruplets died before they arrived ABUTH.
She said that the remaining three infants had been placed under observation at the pediatrics care unit and she (the mother) had been receiving medical care at the maternity ward.
She said that she received two bags of blood during the delivery processes.
“I am very healthy and strong but the medical experts advised that I need to be monitored very well before they can discharge me,’’ she said.
Her husband, Malam Sulaiman Mohammed, also said that his wife had twice in the past given birth to a set of triplets; a set of twins two times, and given birth to three babies at different times before the quadruplets.
Mohammed, a driver, expressed gratitude to Allah for the wonderful gift of the babies.
He added that it was his elder brother that was assisting him with the children whenever such needs arose.
Similarly, his mother, Saudatu Haruna; said that the birth of the quadruplets was not a surprise to them attributing it to inheritance, adding that she gave birth to a set of twins at three occasions.
Haruna added that her mother was a triplet and her father a twin, stressing that the quadruplets were not coming to the family as a surprise to her.
Dr Isa Abdulkadir, the leading Consultant in the Pediatrics unit at ABUTH, said that the three babies were in good condition.
Shomuyiwa Azeezat, a female postgraduate student of the University of Ibadan (UI), was on Friday murdered in her rented apartment at Aba Ijefun, Akinyele area, by yet-to be identified persons.
Azeezat, said to be seven-months pregnant, was a postgraduate student of the Department of Social Work in the Faculty of Education.
The university’s Students’ Union President, Akeju Olusegun, in a statement said the deceased was hit with a heavy stone on the head, resulting in her death.
“During a visit to the deceased’s residence this afternoon by the Students’ Union leaders, it was confirmed by neighbours that she was hit with a heavy stone on the head.
“However, investigations are on-going by the Nigeria Police Force, Oyo State Command,” Olusegun said.
The union’s president said that some co-tenants of the deceased had been arrested.
The state’s Police Public Relations Officers (PPRO), Olugbenga Fadeyi, confirmed the incident, saying a stone was used to smash her head.
He said investigation into the incident had commenced.
“Men of the police have also been deployed around that axis to provide maximum protection of life and property in the area,” Fadeyi said.
Three brothers have been arrested in connection with the murder of a woman in Abuja, according to Mr Frank Mba, Public Relations of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
Mba, in a statement on Thursday in Abuja, said that the suspects, from Isiekenesi, Ideato Local Government in Imo State, are helping police investigation into the May 14 murder of Mrs Janet Ogbonnaya, a mother of five children.
He said that the suspects were arrested by the Police in their home town where they had allegedly taken refuge after committing the crime in Abuja, to evade arrest.
Mba said that investigation that led to their arrest followed complaints by one Chinedu Ogbonnaya, who alleged that his mother, Janet, 55, a native of Ozuitem in Bende Local Government Area of Abia, had been kidnapped.
Ogbonnaya told the police that N5 million ransom was being demanded by the kidnappers to secure the mother’s release.
“A comprehensive and painstaking investigation by police operatives resulted in the arrest of the three suspects, who, in the course of interrogation, revealed that the victim had long been murdered and buried.
“Further findings revealed that the victim, a widow, who had been a Facebook friend of the principal suspect, was lured from her home in Gwagwalada, Abuja to visit the suspect.
“The suspect took advantage of the visit, served her milk laced with drugs, and subsequently murdered her,” he said.
According to him, the victim was buried in a septic tank after which the suspects went ahead to reach out to the family, using her phone, to demand N5 million ransom to secure her release.
Mba said that the suspects, on Thursday, led a team of investigators alongside pathologists to a residence at Wumba District, Lokogoma area of Abuja, where the victim’s decomposing body was exhumed from a septic tank.
The spokesman said that the exhumed body had been taken to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital for forensic examination, while a Toyota Highlander Jeep belonging to the deceased had also been recovered at a mechanic workshop in Apo, where it had been repainted into a different colour.
Mba said that the vehicle documents had been fraudulently changed with ownership of the stolen vehicle criminally transferred to one of the masterminds of the crime.
According to him, investigation also revealed that the house where the deceased was killed and buried originally belonged to one of the suspects but was hurriedly sold to a third party to obliterate evidence.
“Already, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, has commended the team of Police operatives for a job well done. He has also pledged that perpetrators of crimes will not go undetected and unpunished.
“The police helmsman has also enjoined citizens to be more security conscious and report any suspicious activities within their neighbourhood to the nearest police station,” the statement said.
It happened on two occasion in 2015 and early 2016. The first was when he sat with some youthful friends, most of whom he often relates with to gauge the pulse of the majority. The venue was Agege, his base. In that meeting, Mudashiru Obasa, the speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, muttered the need for a collective security outfit with a will and goal to support the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), especially in the South Western part of the country.
Obasa understood what he meant. This was at a time there were hush discussions about threats from bandits, alleged herdsmen and kidnappers. Ikorodu was gradually emerging a notorious zone for criminals trying to test their whits. Was Obasa right? Was he wrong? The two questions rested in the hearts of those he was speaking with.
Few weeks later, Obasa again, with few lawmakers, some aides, and friends, during a non-formal discussion, herped on the need for a zonal security outfit. According to him, since the call for state and community policing had constantly hit the brickwall, it would make sense to have an organisation that is considered closest to the grassroots. There was the argument that the police, as much as they try, may not find it easy enough routing crime from every nook and crany of a state.
This is predicated on the fact that there is a central authority in Abuja, many kilometres away from states and this tends to challenge timely interventions in the case of emergencies. For example, a police unit would sometimes have to reach out to the commissioner, who, in turn, follows the chain of command in the case of any emergency till it gets to the Inspector-General. The response then follows same chain till it gets to the unit. The effect of this can only be left to imagination.
Again, his idea remained fallow, maybe to others. Later developments showed that the speaker never discarded the thought. The State Neighbourhood Safety Agency, which also controls the activities of the Vigilante Corps in the state, is the result of that thought.
Single-handedly sponsored by the speaker, the bill, which later became a law establishing the agency, sought for a more refined way of tackling crime, through effective surveillance and proactive actions. Has the Neighbourhood Watch helped the state, which wants to pride itself as a mega city in the near future? The answer is a ‘yes’.
One of its first test happened shortly after it was created. Badoo, the dreaded cult-like body that had a particularly strange way of killing their victims, evolved. It was mainly in Ikorodu. The criminals had suddenly mastered the act of nocturnal practices that left sorrows, anguish, tears and blood behind their trail. They hit at night while their unsuspecting victims slept. In some cases, they killed men, at other times, the women could not escape their attack. On a particular occasion, they reportedly killed a man, his wife and child. It was a pathetic situation that needed to be urgently curbed.
The police, under the supervision of Edgal Imohimi as commissioner, was having sleepless nights. Communities affected were in disarray, those not yet hit could not live in peace. Local vigilance groups were set up. Then, Neighbourhood Watch drafted its men to support the police. It only took a little more time, the cult group was run over, its leaders were arrested and peace returned to Ikorodu.
Since the Establishment of the Neighbourhood Watch, the organisation has assisted in quelling tensions, supported the state’s traffic management agency in resolving traffic issues, liaised with law enforcement agencies and carried out emergency activities. Above all, it has pulled out some residents from unemployment. It has also continued to enjoy accolades.
One cannot say, for sure, whether Obasa later sold the idea to any of the governors in the South West. However, one can confidently say the establishment of the Neighbourhood Watch was the ‘forunner’ for the creation of Amotekun almost four years after.
Amotekun is currently enjoying the support of a majority of the South West people and residents. Taking the shape of the Neighbourhood Watch, it will help to unite the region beyond political considerations. It would not only boost the zone’s economy, since businesses thrive in a peaceful environment, but ensure that the people of the area live happily and sleep with their eyes closed.
-Lucky Oserah, an analyst and social affairs commentator, writes from Lagos.