Ihuowo: Nigeria's Latest Theatre Of Communal War
Ihuowo: Nigeria's Latest Theatre Of Communal War
NOT much is known about the armed youths’ uprising in Nigeria'sRivers State, a major oil producer, outside the Mujahid Dokubo-Asari Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), and the Ateke Tom Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV). Besides these two prominent groups, there are pockets of deadly armed cult and terrorist cells in the state that are currently making life unbearable in the rural areas.
In Ahoada East Local Government Area of the state, Ihuowo, a serene riverside community, is battling to emerge as the state’s latest theatre of war. It all began on Sunday, October 31, 2004. On that day, a sharp disagreement between a newly elected youth leader and a councilor representing the community, allegedly resulted into a heavy gun fire.
The stage for the war was set on August 7, this year, following the conduct of election into the post of President of Upata Youths Congress. Monday Nwoka, from Ihuowo Community, and Moses Amini, of Edeoha Community contested for the big post. Nwoka was allegedly declared winner of the election that was conducted at Ihuowo Town Hall.
But the outcome of the election was allegedly not accepted to Victor Ekaro, the Councillor at the centre of the war. He was said to prefer Amini as president. Unable to have his way, the Councillor allegedly reached out to some Chiefs for support to upturn the table. What followed is now history.
In a dramatic turn of event, the councilor in a seeming desperate defence, claimed that it was Amini who was declared winner of the August 7 election, and accordingly sworn-in as Upata youths president at Edeoha Community.
“I am also aware that on September 5, 2004 at Okporowo Community, one Monday Nnwoka, attempted to host a factional meeting of Upata youths. But the exercise ended in fighting with injuries sustained, accusations and counter-accusations reported at the Ahoada Police (Station)”, the councilor said.
Continuing, he alleged that on October 27, the Peace and Security Committee of the local government outlawed any factional meeting in the entire council area, pointing out that blaming him for the Ihuowo mayhem, was engineered by some prominent individuals.
“I have not quarrel with Monday Nwoka. The so-called meeting of the Ihuowo community on October 31, 2004 was a kangaroo arrangement to carry out a premeditated ostracisement against me”, he added, claiming that the responsibility of calling a general meeting in Ihuowo lies with the Nye New Ele Ihuowo, in conjunction with the eldest man in the community.
Such a meeting, he went on, can only be summoned on an Ewhor day, claiming that the October 31 in question was not an Ewhor day. “I am not involved in any violence that occurred in Ihuowo. The reaction of the youths may be largely against the perceived illegality of the day”, he said.
Another conflicting account had it that the embattled councilor had warned of dire consequences if the controversial election was not cancelled. Some even claimed that he threatened that there will be gun-fire from morning till night any day the Upata youths hold meeting in Ihuowo.
Apparently rattled by the threat, the paramount ruler of the community, Chief Morgan Ishirima, with the consent of Anson Eke, said to be the Eze Umuzhi Ekpeye Logbo l, summoned the community’s meeting on October 31, 2004
The meeting was allegedly called to deliberate on the issues of security being raised in the community in the wake of the youth election. The meeting was also to resolve the differences between the councilor and the ‘unaccepted’ youth president. But the councilor shunned the meeting.
For the Chiefs and elders of the community, the cuncillor’s action was a “slight” and so, they imposed a fine of N1,000 and one live goat on him in absentia. The fine allegedly enraged the councillor’s supporters who were at the meeting. The irate youths let bedlam loose. For the militant youths, the show of violence was a mere warning signal to the mayhem that is to come..
Later at night that same day, dangerously armed youths allegedly invaded the community, shooting all through the night. Their targets were the “foes” of the cuncillor. The house of the ‘unaccepted’ youth president and that of his brother was razed down. The Paramount Ruler’s house was destroyed. About 19 houses in all and other valuables were destroyed during the armed violence in Ihuowo.
In the meantime, the councilor is insisting that Anso Eke, has no locus standi to speak or summon a meeting of Ihuowo community. He alleged Eke is only a family chief (Umuzhi family) which according to him is not recognized by the state’s chieftaincy law.
The action of the invading armed youths seems to have received some official blessings. Chukwuma Zebadee, who identified himself as a Special Assistant to the Council’s Vice Chairman, claimed that the armed youths were in Ihuowo to enforce the order of the local government stopping any meeting in Upata kingdom in connection with the youths’ presidential election. It is however, puzzling why the council resorted to armed youths instead of the Police.
For now, what is currently playing out as the war of Upata youths in Ihuowo community, seems to be in the main, a war of the elders and chiefs of the kingdom. Our correspondent gathered that some frontline chiefs in Ekpeyeland are deeply involved in the conflict. By the time of filing in this report, there were alleged fiendish scheme to drag Eze Igbu Upata, father of the former Deputy Speaker, of the House of representatives, Prince Chibudom Nwuche, into the fray. The area is still on the boil.