27 April 2014, Benin City – It was a bloody Sunday in a sleepy community called Azagba, in Uhumnwonde Local Government Council of Edo State, when suspected thugs stormed the community and unleashed mayhem on the people. Three people were shot dead while several others are receiving treatment in hospital. Residents have fled due to fear of fresh attack.
The traditional head of the community, known as the Ohen of Azagba, Chief Nosakhare Ogieriakhi, equally fled the community for fear of being killed. When Sunday Vanguard visited the community, last week, apart from a 78-year- old man, Pa Gabriel Eboigbe, who said he came from Orhiomwon to bury his son who died a month ago, no other person was seen in the community. Eboigbe lamented: “I have not eaten anything called food in the past five days because the people I am staying with fled as a result of the war in the community.
I am all alone in this community. I only came visiting a month ago to bury my son and, because the people I am staying with have all fled, there is no body to give me food and the only place where I usually buy bread, the people have also fled”. Asked about what he observed on the said day of the mayhem, Eboigbe narrated: “I was sitting down here when over 100 boys with guns passed here heading to the Ohen’s palace.
I learnt that it was a former community leader who brought the thugs to fight because they said he refused to give account of some money and the community said they didn’t want him to hold public office again. The man is very rich but they said he is using his money to intimidate the people and because they said he should render account he brought thugs to fight”. You could see the pains when Pa Eboigbe spoke, the old man was starving. Sunday Vanguard had to drive out to buy him bread and water in a nearby community.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that trouble started when the Ohen and elders of the community requested the former leader to render account of his stewardship after spending eight years in office. The youths too were said to have been dissatisfied with his performance in office and therefore backed the elders. It was learnt that after the mayhem in the community which led to the death of two persons, the youths launched a counter attack and burnt down the residence of the former community leader.
The Ohen, Ogieriakhi, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard from his hiding place, narrated the incident: “My father died Nov. 7, 2010, and I succeeded him on February 2, 2011. The former community leader, before he was removed, had spent almost nine years in office instead of four. When I came in, the community asked him to render account of his stewardship. Money came from NNPC for the payment of the pipeline they laid in our area and building of a town hall, about N35million.
At the end, no town hall was built, no borehole, nothing to show in our community as developmental projects. Recently, he sold about 165 plots of land for about N80million but the community did not see the money. He was asked to render account and, when he realised he could not render account, he started fighting the community. About five months ago, he shot three persons and those involved were charged to court but he ran away because youths of the community were looking for him.
About two of those arrested are still in Oko Prisons. He has been threatening one Monday because that one was close to him, but he now told him to stop cheating the community. Monday was the bush inspector before the community organ he headed was dissolved. I quickly picked my phone to call the police at Egba and they came.
When they arrived, they saw the thugs, about 200 of them, but they could not do anything. So, I called the Area Commander who sent the policemen. At this point, the former community leader and the thugs started shooting. They went to Monday’s house and shot him in the presence of his mother. They even tried to kill me but the policemen on ground took me away. After the incident, I called my lawyer who wrote a petition to the AIG, then the matter was referred to the state Police Command and they are investigating now”.
Told that that the house of the former community leader was burnt, the Ohen said: “I am not aware of that because I ran away for my life. But why I am shocked is that the police saw all these things and they are not making any move to arrest the former community leader. He believes he has money, so he can always manipulate the police.
Members of my community have all fled so that they won’t be killed and it is because they believe that the police cannot give us protection, but when the police show seriousness they will come out. I had to run for my dear life, it was God that saved me. Since I was installed, the former community leader has been looking down on me because he said I am a small boy; he said he can buy any body; that is why he has been oppressing us.
I am appealing to our Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole to call for investigation into the matter and also I appeal to then Edo Commissioner of Police to provide security so that my subjects go come back to their community. I am also appealing to the Oba of Benin to intervene in this matter.” When Sunday Vanguard contacted the former community leader on telephone for his reaction, he failed to respond to the allegations.
He referred us to his lawyer. However, in a petition addressed to the Edo State Police Commissioner, the former community leader accused the Ohen of the murder of two person and also called on the CP to arrest 50 boys in Azagba in connection with the murder. Edo State Police Commissioner, Foluso Adebanjo, told Sunday Vanguard that “the matter is seriously being investigated.” He added: “My men on ground tried to stop the mayhem. It was a community crisis; unfortunately, after the incident, the thugs ran into the bush. I stationed people there to hunt for them. The traditional head of the community and even the former community leader are being questioned.”