Numerous women from the Ogbe-Odogwu, Azuugwu, and Ogwashi Uku community in Delta State’s Aniocha South Local Council stormed the government building in Asaba Wednesday in protest over the alleged grisly murder of one Afamefuna Ubaka and the unlawful arrest of 14 old people.
The demonstrators claimed that Afamefuna Ubaka, an Okada rider, was killed by the Obi of Ogwashi Uku, Obi Ifechukwude Okonji, his guards, and others.
They wept and tumbled on the ground while asking to Governor Sheriff Oborevwori to take the appropriate action. They were dressed in black.
The protesters also carried placards with various inscriptions, such as: ‘Delta government call Obi of Ogwashi Uku to order’, ‘Over 14 elders of more than 70 years are on remand over false allegations’, ‘Release our fathers and youths’, ‘Police do your job,’ ‘Investigate the murder of Afamefuna Ubaka,’ ‘Governor Sheriff Oborevwori, please help us, we are tired of living in fear in our father land,’ among others.
The only man accompanying the women in the protest, Chike Malije, said: “We have come to ask for justice and for peace to be restored in our community.” Malije said their men no longer stay at home, for fear of arrest, as they come home as late as 1:00 a.m.
“You can see that men are not part of this protest because they would be arrested. I am here because I am directly affected by the murder of the young man.
“About eight people are in detention for six to eight months now without being charged to court.
“This problem started in 2020 when Obi wrote to our family to nominate somebody for the Odogwu position. That is the due process. We, on our part will consult the oracle and by the time we concluded the process, the man that the oracle chose was taken to the palace, but Obi turned him down, saying that he has made his own choice. This started the spate of arrest of our people,” he alleged.
One of the aggrieved women, Mrs favour Ikeweji, said many had fled the community following daily harassment and intimidation of the men by the Obi and his foot soldiers. She said: “As I speak to you now, my husband has been arrested and remanded by the power that be in the community.
“They came with machetes and axes to invade my house. They shoved me aside looking for my husband. My baby was crying. They came by 1:00a.m. I no longer have peace of mind in my own house and no longer sleep at home. I go outside to sleep, but they want to kill everybody because of land. Enough is enough.
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“My husband is down with a stroke, but they invaded the house. They broke the windows that very day. We just came back from the hospital. They broke through the window and took away my husband. “They seized our phones and used a machete on my hand. Since January till date, my husband has been in remand. My children are no longer going to school because my husband is the one who has access to the account.”
A teacher and sister to the deceased, Ubaka Cynthia, explained that on May 29, her grandfather was arrested on allegations of murder, arson and rape.
She said the vigilante group from the Obi made the arrest, and on the following day, “they transferred my dad from Ogwashi to the State Criminal and Investigation Department (SCID), Asaba.
“They also went for my brother at the fuel station where he went to buy fuel. They started beating him, used his belt to tie his hands and took him to the palace where he met the Obi and one Gabriel Ohai.
“Both of them told the vigilante men to beat him and they beat him until he became unconscious, they then dumped him somewhere. It was an unknown person that brought him home.
“Since then, we have been suffering. We went to Ogwashi police station to report, but they pursued us on the grounds that they didn’t want the case.”
“We left and went to the hospital where an x-ray revealed that the beating, he received broke his lungs, ribs and heart. Before we went to the hospital, he was vomiting blood. Now, he is in the mortuary, they have killed him, he died on August 12.
“We have done everything to get justice, yet things are not working out. We have written petitions to even Zone 5, Benin. Please we need justice, my grand dad is 72 years old. He cannot be held in detention on framed up allegations for four months now. He is not the only one, about 10 others are in detention. This is because they did not support Ohai to be the Odogwu because he wants to forcefully take over our ancestral land and sell it.
“Since then, they have been harrassing us. The Police do invade our homes at the dead of the night to arrest our husbands.”
They broke into our homes with axes, cutlasses, and daggers,” she added.
Responding on behalf of the government, Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution, Edwin Uzor, said Governor Sheriff Oborevwori was already aware of their complaints and will decisively look into it to ensure that the right thing is done.
“I can assure you that in a few weeks’ time, the matter will be over,” Uzor said. But, in a quick reaction, Obi Okonji claimed that the deceased and his father now in detention were on police wanted list for alleged rape, murder, and arson in 2021.
Also, the Odogwu of Ogwashi-Uku Kingdom, High Chief Gabriel Ohai, in a statement made available to newsmen said: “It is untrue that Stephen Ubaka was tortured at the palace by vigilante people. Nobody tortured him. It is a cooked-up story to try to leverage and bargain a release of those involved and currently in prison custody.”
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