Nigeria: Ebonyi Killings - Death Toll Rises to 60
At least 50 people were killed in clashes between two neighbouring communities in Ebonyi state, a government spokesman said Sunday. But by yesterday evening, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) reported that the death toll had risen to over 60 people.
"Upwards of 50 people were killed when a group of people from Ezza community attacked residents of neighbouring Ezilo community over a land dispute," the Onyekachi Eni told AFP by telephone.
"The dispute between the two communities, which started in 2008, was believed to have been settled until the latest conflagration. A group of people from Ezza invaded Ezilo and attacked them, killing over 50 people there," he said.
Although the Ebonyi state police spokesman, John Elu, estimated the death toll at around 40, the NTA yesterday reported that the death toll had risen to over sixty while the search for other victims was still on.
He said the gunmen who are yet to be identified also destroyed houses and other property.
No arrests have been made yet, he added.
He also confirmed that a land dispute had existed between the two communities for several years.
Governor Martin Elechi in a broadcast to the state after the incident assured that the government would find the perpetrators of the massacre. "As Ezillo burns and the people mourn, I want to assure our people and all Nigerians that the state government will stop at nothing to fish out the perpetrators of this dastardly act", the Governor said.
Source: Daily Trust, 2nd January 2012.
52 Killed In Communal Clash
FROM LEO SOBECHI, ABAKALIKI
As Ezza/Ezillo Crisis Recurs
NO fewer than 52 persons have been killed in a resurgence of the Ezza/Ezillo inter-communal strife in Ebonyi State that reared its head in 2008 but was contained in 2010.
Most of those who allegedly lost their lives in the latest incidence were children under the ages of two and three years, old women and middle-aged persons, including a divisional crime officer attached to the Ezillo police station in Ishielu council area of the state.
Governor Martin Elechi, who visited the troubled scene yesterday, said only God could revenge the barbaric act.
The governor, accompanied by journalists and heavily-armed policemen, was close to tears, as he beheld the corpses mostly young persons being dropped into a Hilux jeep after they were picked up from the surrounding bushes.
Sources disclosed that Ezza people, claiming that their Ezillo brothers had started farming on their land that was deserted after the state government ordered them to relocate to another place, provoked the crisis in the early hours of Saturday. There is a subsisting court case on the festering issue.
According to eyewitness accounts, some unknown persons, armed with lethal weapons, allegedly sneaked into Ezillo at about 5:30am and using a trailer to block the highway, started shooting and setting houses and shops ablaze.
One Jacob Okoro narrated how the gunmen came into his compound with more than 30 occupants, leaving three victims in the wake of the onslaught.
Amidst tears, Thomson Okoro corroborated this account. He said his entire family was wiped out in the fresh attack, alleging that the hoodlums appeared to have been sponsored by the people of Ezza since, according to him, “only Ezillo people were targeted.”
“Look at me, I don’t know what to do. Just look at me, I have lost my entire family, including my certificates. Just look at me; where do I go from here?” he lamented.
The Guardian gathered that the Enugu-Abakaliki highway had been deserted, as motorists sought alternative routes.
Littering the usually busy inter-state road were cakes of congealed blood and AK 47 bullet shells.
However, shocked by what he saw, Governor Elechi merely managed to plead with the Ezillo youths, who were massing for reprisal attacks, to sheathe their swords.
The victims informed the governor that the hoodlums, numbering above 20, entered Ezillo through Oshegbe and escaped through Okpoto, where they said the criminals destroyed the only transformer near the Ezillo police station.
In bouts of emotion, the governor said: “It is only God that will avenge this kind of barbaric act.”
Meanwhile, the state police command has sent for reinforcement from the Zone 6 command, to restore normalcy in the area.
Source: The Guardian, 1st January 2012.
Ebonyi communal clash claims 55
From Goddy Osuji, Abakaliki
At least 55 persons, including children, yesterday lost their lives in a renewed communal war in Ezillo in Ishielu local government area of Ebonyi State. Among the dead was a police Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) in charge of the police station in Ezillo.
The war, which started in the early hours of Saturday, forced the governor of the state, Chief Martin Elechi to cancel all his New Year programmes. Those killed included children between the ages of 3 to 5, old men and women as well as over 30 donkeys.
Some of the wounded were rushed to the Federal Medical Centre, Abakaliki, for treatment. The Divisional Crime Officer whose name is yet to be ascertained was said to be on his way to the office when he was ambushed and shot dead.
An eyewitness, one Ikechukwu Eze said that the gunmen invaded the community around 5a.m with an unidentified vehicle, divided themselves into groups and first attacked the Ezillo police station along Enugu-Abakaliki expressway while some of them took over the Afor Ezillo market.
He said that they were still asleep when the gunmen attacked them explaining that it was when they heard the gunshots that most of them ran out from their homes to take refuge inside bushes only to meet their death in the hands of their killers.
Another eyewitness, Jacob Okoro, disclosed that when they heard sporadic gunshots, they all ran out but the gunmen shot at them killing all the members of his family.“It was the grace of God that I am alive because I can not really say how I escaped.As am talking with you, I have lost everything. Our compound that has about 32 persons, only three persons out of the number escaped the bullets of the gunmen. When we ran out of the house, we saw some young men and we were thinking that they are also running for safety not knowing that they are the gunmen. As you run towards them, they will just kill you immediately,” he said.
Sunday Sun observed during a visit to the community that the gunmen also killed donkeys, burnt down the Afor Ezillo market, filling stations and houses. Most of the youths, old men and women including children who lost some members of their families could not hold back tears as they cried uncontrollably.
Confirming the incident, the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adeola Adeniyi who led the state governor, Martin Elechi to the place described the incident as regrettable and unfortunate adding that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim has approved the deployment of mobile policemen from Cross River, Rivers and Akwa Ibiom States to assist those in Ebonyi..
Source: Sun, 1st January 2012.
Gunmen Kill 52 In Ebonyi
By Mike Ubani
No fewer than 52 persons including a police Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) in charge of the police station in Ezillo, Ishielu local government area of Ebonyi were yesterday killed by unknown gunmen.
Those killed include; children between the ages of 3 to 5,aged men and women and youths, as well as over 30 donkeys.
The Divisional Crime Officer whose name is yet to be ascertained was said to be on his way to his way to the office.
An eyewitness Mr. Ikechukwu Eze said that the gunmen invaded the community around 5a.m with an unidentified vehicle, divided themselves into groups, first opened fire on the Ezillo police station adding that those who stationed themselves at the Afor Ezillo market opened fire on the people.
Mr. Eze said that they were still asleep when the gunmen attacked them. He said that on hearing the gunshots, most of them ran out from their homes to take refuge inside the buses but to their surprise, those who stationed themselves inside the buses killed them.
Another eyewitness who lost all the members of the family Mr. Jacob Okoro said that when they heard the sporadic gunshots, they all ran out but as they were running out of their compound, the gunmen shot at them killing all the members of the family.
According to him; “we were still sleeping when we heard gunshot and people running and yelling, I and my family members all ran out from the house to run into the bush but to the astonishment and surprise of many, as we are running out from the house, you will be hit by a bullet”.
“It was the grace of God that I am alive because I cannot really say how I escaped death, as am talking with you, I have lost everything, our compound that has about 32 persons, only 3 persons out of the number escaped the bullets of the gunmen. When we ran out of the house, we saw some young men and we were thinking that they are also running for safety not knowing that they are the gunmen, as you run towards them, they will just kill you immediately”.
Our Correspondent also observed that the gunmen also killed donkeys, burnt down the Afor Ezillo Market, filling stations and houses. Most of the youths, old men and women including children who lost some members of their families could not hold back tears as they cried uncontrollably.
Confirming the incident, the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adeola Adeniyi who led the state Governor, Chief Martin Elechi to the place described the incident as regrettable and unfortunate adding that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim has approved the deployment of mobile policemen from Cross River, Rivers and Akwa Ibiom states to assist those in Ebonyi.
Source: Leadership, 1st January 2012.
Ebonyi Speaker impeached
Kenneth Ofoma, Abakaliki
This appears to be a season of the impeachment of Speakers, as Ebonyi State House of Assembly Speaker, Mr. Ikechukwu Nwankwo, representing Ebonyi North west constituency, was yesterday impeached over alleged fraudulent activities, incompetence and abuse of office.
In a surprise sitting yesterday, presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Valentine Okike-Uzor, 20 out of the 24 members of the House voted in support of the impeachment, which saw the election of Mr. Chukwuma Nwazunku, representing Ebonyi North East constituency as the new speaker.
This is the first time a speaker is being impeached in Ebonyi since inception of democracy in the state in 1999. The State was created on October 1 1996 by late General Sani Abacha.
The motion for the speaker’s impeachment was moved by Mr. Obasi Odefa, representing Onicha East constituency and seconded by Mr. Kingsley Ikoro, the Chief whip and member representing Afikpo North East constituency.
Nwankwo thus becomes the first impeached speaker in the state’s history and the one with shortest tenure in office, as he was sworn in on June 7, 2011.
Odefa said Nwankwo’s leadership style was detrimental to the progress of the House and the members were no longer comfortable with it.
"Members of the House have the responsibility of defending its integrity, in ensuring that it stands on a strong pedestal to discharge its constitutional function to the people," he said.
"We carried out the exercise in line with Section 92 sub Section 2c of the 1999 constitution as amended which gives us the power to remove any speaker at the point we feel is necessary, provided we have two-third of the members in support," he said.
He warned the former speaker not to threaten the peace of the House, stressing that any attempt to disrupt the peace of the House will make him be prosecuted by anti grant agencies.
He said the members’ meeting with the governor the previous day was not connected with impeachment exercise.
"The governor did not at any point know about the exercise, as the members did not even contemplate the action at the time of the meeting.
"We reviewed the outcome of the meeting and discovered that there was more to it than we already know so we decided to exercise our constitutional right," he said.
Meanwhile, the House has also dissolved all standing committees, suspended its chief accountant and directed him to stop all transactions on behalf of the House.
The new Speaker, Nwazunku, thanked his colleagues for electing him, and promised to restore the integrity of the House through purposeful leadership.
Efforts made to speak with the deposed speaker Nwankwo, and Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Ugorji Ama-Oti in the state proved abortive as they were not available for comments.
Source: Daily Champion, 22nd December 2011.
Clergy Denies Blackmailing Ebonyi Govt
Abakaliki — FOLLOWING the controversy that trailed the recent peaceful protest staged by the Anglican Church Abakaliki Diocese, Bishop of the church, Rt.Rev.Benson Onyibor, said the protest was not targeted against state as was wrongly misunderstood by the governor, rather against all satanic vices that have enveloped the country.
Speaking to newsmen in Abakaliki, he said that the rally was purely evangelical and not political and was not the first time that such rally was organised in the state.
The bishop opined that the message of the rally was that people of Ebonyi State should embrace Christ and shun wickedness and witchcraft, 'it was a spiritual exercise and should not be misinterpreted by anybody or organisation.' he emphasised.
According to him 'Anglican Church in Ebonyi has been supportive and will remain law abiding and by no means can we become agent of controversy and lawlessness in the society'.
He accused the press of either being against the government, the Anglican Church in Ebonyi state or against both the institutions which he claimed was the demon the church was sweeping away.
He reminded newsmen that the Anglican Church is led Episcopally and therefore advised them to seek audience with him when they do not understand clearly issues of controversy.
Source: The Moment, 11th November 2011.
States At Dagger Drawn Over Abia's Sack of Non-Indigenous Workers
Umuahia — MORE than 1,800 workers of Anambra State origin, who were disengaged from the Abia State public, took their plight to Governor Peter Obi at Government House, Awka, Thursday, October 27, to see if their current state of despair could be salvaged.
They wanted Obi to either absorb or prevail on his Abia State government counterpart to drop the sack policy.
However, they did not get any immediate answer but an assurance by the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Paul Odenigbo, who received them on behalf of the state chief executive, that Governor Obi who is the chairman of South East Governors Forum, would continue to plead with his colleague, Chief Theodore Orji of Abia, to rescind the decision to sack non-indigenes.
If Chief Odenigbo handled his visitors with tact and diplomacy, the State House of Assembly was blunt in its livid reaction.
After beholding the helpless and hapless workers who stormed the House of Assembly complex in buses with the inscription 'back-loaded,' the House unanimously resolved to send a strongly worded letter to the Abia State governor to rescind what they regarded as an unpopular policy which they described as a breach of the constitutional rights of the affected workers.
The House, which adopted a motion on the issue sponsored by Hon. Chigbo Enwezor and two others further, said it would encourage the back-loaded workers to challenge Abia State government in court.
The Princess Chinwe Nwaebili-led House alerted Obi of the danger in allowing Abia State government to succeed with the policy, as it would threaten national integration.
While debating the motion, Gabriel Onyenwife (Anyamelum constituency) said: 'Abia State government has started a policy that is indefensible, unconstitutional and condemnable.'
The decision to transfer the services of non-Abia workers in the public service of the state was formalised during the State Executive Council (EXCO) meeting held on Monday, September 5, 2011.
Abia State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Don Ubani, told newsmen the following day that the issue was comprehensibly discussed at EXCO and the cabinet gave its nod for the implementation of the policy.
The back loading of the non-indigenes to their home governments commenced October 1.
The Moment on Sunday gathered that a circular to that effect had been issued about a week before the EXCO decision to proceed with the policy.
The policy affects non-indigenes of all cadres, including those on command employment and Abia daughters married to non-Abians.
Giving reasons why Abia government adopted the drastic policy, Ubani said it was to make room for the absorption of Abians displaced from parts of the Boko Haram-troubled North and for the state to be able to shoulder the financial implications of the N18,000 new minimum wage.
The policy, he added, would help to create employment opportunities for the teeming youths of Abia.
'Abia State government has to take a decision that non-Abians in its public service should be transferred to their states. Ochendo (Governor Theodore Orji) wrote to their state governors asking them to appreciate the precarious situation of Abia State,' Ubani said.
Since those affected were served their letters, the Abia State government has known no peace.
The policy has attracted varied reactions; some mild criticisms, some wild and outright vituperations and others offering wise counsel.
Expectedly, many Abians and government agents have applauded the action, describing it as a step in the right direction. Conversely, those affected and their home governments see the policy as obnoxious, a breach of their fundamental human rights and a threat to Igbo unity.
The first public reaction against the policy came from the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, Rt. Rev. Lucius Ugorji.
He described it as injustice, adding that it was bound to create social disequilibrium and economic hardship given that Abia has become a second home to the workers who were being asked to go. He appealed to the government to rescind the policy.
Imo, Enugu and Anambra states have also reacted angrily to the policy. Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr. Obinna Duruji, speaking on behalf of his state government, described the policy as 'anachronistic, patently obsolete and completely reprehensible.' He threatened reprisals from Imo.
For Ebonyi State government, it is wait and see. Chief Press Secretary to Ebonyi Governor, Dr. Onyekachi Eni, said the state government initially regarded the disengagement of non-indigenes from Abia public service as rumour because there was no official communication between the two governments.
He, however, said that when it became evident that it was no longer a rumour the state executive council discussed the matter. He did not disclose the position of the state government on the issue.
However, Eni's response put a question mark on the claim by Abia government that Governor Orji engaged his colleagues on the issue prior to the disengagement of the affected workers. Curiously, the South East Governors Forum, which met in Enugu on September 9, did not discuss the issue.
One of the founding fathers of Abia State and an elder statesman, Prince Benjamin Apugo, is one of those against the policy.
He roundly condemned it as 'unpopular and ill-advised,' saying it would breed bad blood between Abia and other South East states, and called on Governor Orji to immediately halt the exercise.
'As a Nigerian I don't support what Abia State government is trying to do by disengaging non-indigenes. Many of them were born here and they were employed in the civil service by the state. It will look very bad for any government to throw them out because they have contributed to whatever development, if any as at now,' Apugo said.
He suggested that Abia government should negotiate with its workers on the new minimum wage instead of disengaging them. He expressed fears that the policy might backfire.
Still in Abia, the Nigerian Bar Association, Aba Branch, also condemned the action.
In a communiqué issued at the end of its monthly meeting held on October 14, the group offered free legal service to those who may wish to seek judicial interpretation of the policy.
'The NBA encourages all persons affected by the discriminatory policy and decision of the Abia State government to challenge such actions in the courts up to the highest level, and in this regard, members of the NBA, Aba Branch, have volunteered and shall render free legal services to the affected workers and their families,' the communiqué endorsed by its chairman, Mr. C. U. C. Eduzor, and secretary, Mr. Kelechi Ukaumunna, read in part.
On its part, the Abia State government has risen in stout defence of its action. Ubani said there was no going back.
'The decision of Abia State government on this is legitimate, irrevocable and remains the best the state could take in the light of her compelling circumstances,' Ubani insisted.
The Abia information boss lampooned Imo State government, describing its condemnation of the policy as a clear manifestation of hypocrisy.
'To begin with, should nine years be too long for Imo State government to have forgotten that she successfully implemented a policy decision that led to the summarily, un-notified, unceremonious and the most cruel dismissal of all Abia indigenes who were in her public service in 2002?' he said.
Continuing, Ubani said: 'On what premise should either the Imo State government or the religious leaders stand tall to claim to have forgotten that even recently (2010), the Imo State government primitively and with extreme heartlessness bundled the files of her pensioners of Abia extraction, who had served her with all youthfulness, paying their taxes to Imo State government and contributing to the overall development of the state, back to Abia State for the latter to shoulder the pecuniary burden of pensioners who worked for Imo State?
'Yet Imo State government has the shamelessness of talking of Igbo unity. Imo State government should tell Ndi Igbo where she placed Igbo unity when she ferociously and un-administratively dismissed all Abians working in her public service nine years ago.
'If Imo State government was oblivious of what she now calls "Igbo unity" nine years ago, what was her take on Igbo unity just a year ago when she, in the most sadistic display of inhumanity, bundled the files of her pensioners of Abia State extraction back to Abia?'
The commissioner ended his reaction with a poser: 'More so, to newspaper and organisations that feel that Abia State policy on transfer of service of non-indigenes is a negation of the principles of federalism, it is obviously doubtful that their feelings are a true comprehension of what federalism stands for. What are their answers to questions on, one: should a federal legislature make laws on salaries for states and local government workers?
'And, two: should the Federal Government control the revenue generating resources of a state?'
Prominent Abians have also risen in defence of the state government and they are united it should not be crucified for threading the path other states had taken in the past.
One of them, Mrs. Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, wife of Nigeria's first military Head of State, advised those affected by the transfer to take it in good faith as government will not go back on the policy.
She said that it was a pity that people from different parts of the country, especially the South East, were misunderstanding the action of the Abia government, which she said was for the benefit of Abians.
Prof. Joshua Ogbonnaya, one of the few surviving founding fathers of Abia State, said: 'It is he who wears the shoe that knows where it pinches, so the back-loading of non-indigenes to their states of origin by Governor Orji was handled in a matured way unlike what other governors did in the past.'
The foremost surgeon called for the convocation of a meeting all the governors of the South East where the problem should be discussed. 'I know that such a meeting of the South East governors exist; they should meet there and sort out the problem, if there is any,' he said.
Source: The Moment, 29th October 2011.
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