Five persons have been arrested in a failed attempt to resume hostilities in the 25-year Oruku/Umuode communal war in Nkanu East, Enugu State.
A serving Major in the Nigerian Army believed to be a major sponsor of the conflict has also been fingered to be behind the plans to resume the war.
What could have been a major setback to the peace initiative by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was averted last Wednesday following the arrest of some young men allegedly hired by the army officer to renew hostilities against Umuode.
The army officer alleged to be a major sponsor of the communal war, hails from Oruku side and is said to be serving in the finance department of Nigerian Army.
He was accused of working with some persons to scuttle the boundary delineation exercise ordered by the state government in the white paper on the resolution of the feud.
The Army officer who is related to a major stakeholder from Oruku had allegedly donated N6m to Oruku Town Union in March this year in support of the war.
This was contained in two different petitions sent to the Inspector General of Police, the state governor and the state Commissioner of Police by a former Chairman of Nkanu East Local Government Area, Mr. Ejike Ani and Chairman, Oruku Town Union Caretaker Committee, Mr. Emma Mba.
Following the petitions, five persons fingered to be fighters in the communal conflict, were arrested by the police and arraigned in court on Thursday.
They were accused of plotting to launch fresh attacks on Umuode and cause further mayhem in the area and were subsequently remanded in prison custody.
The petitioners said that following Governor Ugwuanyi’s peace initiative which helped both communities to settle the age-long war on June 14, 2019, some Oruku natives have continued to sponsor some youths to extend the hostility against Umuode.
They also claimed that the army officer personally threatened to eliminate them for raising the alarm over threat to their lives and the plot to launch fresh attack on the neighbouring Umuode community.
The petition by the former council chairman reads: “The Army Major attached to the Finance department of the Nigerian Army with phone number (withheld) has been financing and supporting the war with various amounts . He deposited N2,000,000 and N4,000,000 to the account of the Oruku Town Union with First Bank Plc on the 2nd and 19th March 2019 respectively for purchase of Arms and ammunition and was rewarded with over 3 hectares of land by the then Town Union headed by Mr. Anthony Nnamani.
“On the 1st of September 2019, the Major held series of meetings with some youths of the community and some soldiers in two hilux vans painted in Army colours that accompanied him. He told the youths to attack Umuode community in the early hours of 3rd September, 2019 to scuttle the (boundary) demarcation process that is supposed to have started on the 3rd September but unfortunately for him the information leaked which prompted the Caretaker Committee Chairman and Neighbourhood Watch to arrest and hand over to police (Anti Cult Unit) some of his boys.”
According to Ani, “around 9 am, the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Oruku Town Union called to inform me that the Major called to threaten him that the Chairman and myself have signed our death warrant for arresting some of his boys, hence this petition.”
On his part, Mba in his three-paged petition to the Inspector General of Police dated September 4, 2019, alleged that the clandestine activities of the Army Major, a native of Oruku and of the Umuokenwa family in Nkanu East Local Government Area, had constituted a serious threat to the peace now being enjoyed by Oruku and Umuode communities.
He said that consequent upon the foiled attack on Umuode on September 3, the army officer called me on his phone “threatening to kill me and one Hon. Ejike Gerald Ani that we have signed our respective death warrant and should consider ourselves dead within the next three days,” adding that he had been “inundated with calls from the Major insulting and telling me unprintable words most of which he will tell me to extend to Hon. Ejike Gerald Ani and that we should be ready to face his wrath and nobody can save us from him anywhere in Nigeria.”
“Sir, I no longer reside in Oruku community as I was told by my brothers and Committee members that some of his boys were carrying out ceaseless search for my whereabout telling my brothers to prepare my obituary in earnest. My life is currently at stake and I call for your urgent intervention before their plot is executed,” °Mba wrote.
Efforts to speak with the Army officer proved abortive as his mobile phone ranged out several times without any response.
Howevwr, the State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, said the arrest and arraignment of the five suspects from Oruku in response to the petition, was a proactive measure to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order in the area.
“When a petition is received on such matters the operatives will move in swiftly and after arrest and investigation if any prima facie case is established they are arraigned in court and that is what happened in this case. We have to ensure that peace is sustained in the two communities,” said the police spokesman.
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