By Ovasa Ogaga,
…Properties worth over N300m set ablaze in renewed violence
… Delta Governor Denied taking sides, say efforts on to resolve the crisis
No fewer than twelve buildings including shops estimated to worth over N300m have been recently set ablaze in a renewed clash in Evwreni community in Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State, by suspected gunmen allegedly acting on the monarch of the kingdom’s orders, just as the State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa and the Police Authority in the state continue to act indifferent.
Evwerni kingdom has been enmeshed in crisis since March 22, 2020 following the disbandment of the local security outfit, whose members were accused of terrorising the community by the leadership of Evwerni Clan Improvement Union (ECIU) after the National Executive Council meeting held on the March 21, 2020.
At the said meeting, far-reaching decisions to move the kingdom forward were said to have been reached. One of such decisions reached was the immediate inauguration and swearing-in of the various Committees and their members respectively, like Town Planning/Building committees, Health, Education, Works, Agriculture, Civil Defense/Security, Social and Marriage.
While the other committees has already started functioning, the Monarch of the kingdom, Eruvwedede III, has refused to allow the newly inaugurated Civil Defense/Security committee to function, opting for the old dissolved body that he uses to hunt perceived enemies in the land.
Investigations revealed that, the crisis rocking the kingdom has led to the loss of lives and wanton destruction of properties.
Recall that prior to the assassination attempt on Engr. Samuel Adjogbe, that happened on March 22, 2020, a day after the NEC meeting of the ECIU was held at Evwreni, the kingdom recorded the first attack from the king’s disbanded vigilante men.
In that attack, several indigenes were wounded, while one Mr Akakor Omoghene’s where about is not known till this day, an issue that was reported to the Delta State Police Command, Asaba, A Division Ughelli and Ughelli Area Command yet no arrest has been effected till this day.
Over 6 other persons have been killed including Sylvester Adjogbe, Prince Muvi Unagha and four others who were allegedly murdered in cold blood by members of the Monarch preferred vigilante group.
Advocate.ng learnt that in all of these, the Delta State Police Command has not made any arrest, a source told us that even when cases were reported to them, and suspects known, they have refused to act, and like the police, the Delta State Governor has also refuse to take action too.
The victims of the carnage and Evwreni Elite Forum (EEF) having lost confidence on the Delta police command led by the then Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, following what they described as “police open bias and tactical support to the monarch and his killing squad, were said to have petitioned the Police Service Commission in Abuja.
It was further learnt that the failure of the Police Authority in the State to act, may not be unconnected to the influence of a PDP Chieftain in the kingdom who is a close ally of the Governor.
The ally, a PDP chieftain was said to have openly boasted that the Governor would not act, since he; (the Governor) believes whatever he tells him.
Frustrated by men of the Delta State police command who have consistently failed to act, members of the community opposed to the king’s draconic rule have relocated from the community for fear of their lives.
Another source who craved anonymity told Advocate.ng that the two persons arrested so far was as a result of the intervention of the office of the Inspector General of Police, who ordered the arrest of suspects allegedly involved in the murder of late Sylvester Adjogbe, leading to the arraignment of the king and two others at the Federal High Court in Warri recently, adding that, the police in Delta, has more or the less proved cover for the assailants.
The latest onslaught has left 13 families displaced
The latest crisis which occurred on March 28 was said to have started following the arrest of one of the suspects in connection with the gruesome murder of a 52 years old Prince Muvi Unagha on March 6, 2021 in Evwreni.
According to one of the community leaders, Prince Ken Okpebitere, trouble started following the arrest of Mr Amevurhe Okome, one of the kingpins of the terror gang who have been terrorizing Evwreni kingdom in the past 2 years.
He (Ukpebitere) alleged that the suspect, one of the king’s thugs was arrested by a team of police from Abuja over his alleged involvement in the killing of One Prince Muvi Unagha and “following his arrest, the king and a former Delta State lawmaker ordered their boys (disbanded vigilantes) to start burning of houses as a way to protest the arrest of Mr Mavurhe Okome.”
Corroborating the report, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Mumakai Unagha and a presidential aspirant in the 2019 elections told our correspondent that: “This has been their mode of operation; once their boys are arrested; they go into town and start burning of properties and houses of perceived enemies.
“When the former vigilante chairman was arrested, parts of my house and that of others were burnt and on Monday, March 29, 2021, following the arrest of another suspect, they went back to my place and destroyed the remaining part of my house.
“Sadly those destroying other people’s houses, their fathers never built a house before they died, while those whose fathers are still alive, if you go to where they are living, it’s like a pigpen” adding that all the destructions going on in Evwerni, is mainly in the king perceived enemies streets.
Also Speaking from his hideout, High Chief Godgrace Amrophe, the Odion Esiri (Prime Minister) of Evwreni kingdom, said trouble started on March 22, 2020 after the clan’s union election was conducted on October 26, 2019 where Mr Bright Adjogbe emerged as the winner.
He added that the constitution empowers the new executive to change the leadership of various standing committees in the kingdom, while other committees were changed, the king refused that of the security (Vigilante) committee, this, he said led to the crisis.
He further stated that following his opposition to the monarch over his actions, the king allegedly instructed members of the disbanded security committee to eliminate him, “they have launched different attacks with the aim to kill me, but God has continued to protect me.
“The day they killed Sylvester Adjogbe they were coming for me when they met and killed him at the front of my compound and when I heard the gunshot, I ran into the bush and since then, I have not been to the community for fear of being killed.
“In the recent attack since they had earlier burnt my house in October last year, they went to destroy my father’s tomb and I also heard that they have marked all members of my family, Uba and Adjogbe family, for death, that is why we have all fled.
Over N300m worth of Properties Destroyed
Properties destroyed in the recent attacks were said to have been numerous and these include over 13 houses with the current President General of Evwerni kingdom among them.
Advocate.ng also gathered that houses in Urevwe Community in the Kingdom were not touched.
One of the victims, Chief Meg Ayovwe who lost her house, store and her husband’s shops, told Advocate.ng that though her family is not a party to the crisis but because her husband who is the kingdom’s Spokesman, has refused to take a side, was not spared by the “king’s boys” for their refusal or failure to support the king openly.
Chief Ayovwe, who spoke to us from her hideout, said the trouble started when her husband and son refused to join the monarch in his reign of terror, even though her husband supported the emergence of the king following the death of his father in 2000.
Narrating her ordeal, she said; “My house, two stores and my husband’s two-building material stores were all burnt, they didn’t stop there, they went further to destroy my husband father’s compound, even though he is the kingdom’s Spokesman and he is non-partisan to the ongoing crisis.
She added that before the attack they have gone to the police to report, but police failed to act, “before they came to burn our properties we reported to police following the threat by one Mr Omote Ogedjor.
“we told them that they threatened to burn our houses, but the police assured us that they will not be able to carry out the threat, sadly they did, and the police couldn’t stop them, even the day they burnt the properties, I ran back to the Area Commander, to inform him again that the threat was real, but they refused to act.”
On how he got to know that their houses were going to be burnt, Chief Ayovwe said; “after the arrest of one of the suspected killers of Prince Muvi Unagha, the suspect’s brother, Omote Ogedjor, led some boys to my shop alleging that my son who is a lawyer had a hand in the arrest of the suspect and threatening that if he is not released, my house will be burnt.
“They equally alleged that it was the king who asked them to deal with my husband and I and because we refused or failed to take side with him in the crisis, there is a standing order by the king that anywhere they see my son, he should be shot dead, that is why he does not come to the village anymore. Right now, I am speaking from our hideout, and we have been chased out of the community by the king’s boys. All that we laboured for over the years burnt in one night of madness.
“During this last attack, they were taking directive from the king because if they get to a house, they will put a call through to him and he gives clearance on whose house should be burnt or spared.
“The king is my brother and we are second cousins. This thing that is happening in the kingdom, we don’t belong to any side. There was a day some times last year, they called my son to that palace to carry a gun with them to attack Adjogbe, but he refused and told them that he is a lawyer, therefore, will not engage in crime.
Speaking also, a prominent chief from the community who spoke to us anonymously for fear of being attacked said: “what is even surprising is that this king is committing these atrocities unchallenged by the government of Delta State, even with all the cries of the people.
Recall that during the communal crisis that rocked Emede and Ikpide in Isoko, the State Governor waded in and even suspended the monarchs of their kingdoms and their President General in order to restore peace to the warring communities.
“But here is a king that have been severally linked to the killing of his subjects, the State Governor because of politics have not deemed it fit to rebuke and caution him in order to assuage the feelings of the families who have lost love ones.
“I can bet you that if the governor has acted more like a statesman that he should be, when this crisis began by sanctioning the king and other dramatist personals in the Evwreni crisis, this needless lost of lives and properties we are experiencing every other day would have been averted.
“So, we are calling the Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa to act as governor of all Deltans and should put lives above politics by taking decisive actions as the Chief Security Officer of the state to stop the killings in Evwreni by calling the king and his boys to order.”
He noted that the way things stand, security agencies, the Delta State government and some top PDP politicians in the state seem to be giving the king cover and encouraging him to continue to unleash terror on armless citizens because they are perceived to be members of the opposition party.
“Why will a governor of a state sit aloof and watch lives and properties of his people being destroyed in part of his state and act as if it does not concern him, or is Governor Okowa waiting for the entire Evwreni kingdom to be wiped out before he will speak or act?
“The Council of Urhobo Traditional Rulers is also supporting this madness, this is so, because we no longer have people of integrity manning the thrones; today we have kings who cannot speak truth to power because of the unholy alliance with the state governor, so they can’t call the young king to order.
“The DPO of A’ Division Ughelli seems to be giving the gang tactical and logistic supports to continue their reign of terror because even when someone is killed and the suspect is known, they will not make move to arrest him and bring him to book.
“This is unbelievable and totally unacceptable in a sane society. Clearly, the Nigerian state is gradually eroded in values and attitudes.
“So, it is a hopeless situation, if you are not a PDP member and you are not supporting the action of the king, you will be chased out of Evwreni. They are doing this to continue to impress the governor that they are in control of the community ahead of 2023 elections and the governor seems to have bought this narrative, hence he kept mute while the kingdom burns,” he added.
Police denied knowledge of an impending attack
Meanwhile, the Area Commander, Ughelli Police Area Command, ACP Lawan Shinkafi and the Divisional Police Officer, DPO of A-Division Ughelli, CSP Benjamin Igometi, denied the claim by Chief Meg Ayovwe that she came to report a threat by one Omote Ogedjor to burn her properties at the command.
According to ACP Shinkafi in a telephone chat said, “I am aware of all that is happening at Evwreni from last year till date, but I can’t remember of any woman coming with a petition on that or talking to me about that. And that is why I am referring you to the Divisional Police Headquarters because all the incidents are normally reported at the divisional police level.
“Even the last year’s arson was reported there, the last killing was also reported at the A-Division, so primarily, I am not the first point of contact, they normally pass through police divisions and if the matter needs my taking over, I will do that,” he added.
On his part, the DPO A-Division, CSP Igometi when contacted said none of the victims apart from the President General have come to make a report at the station, adding that the community is calm and that any of the victims who wish to go back to the community will be provided security to go.
According to the DPO, A-Division, he said: “Nobody came to the station to report the case of arson, maybe they went to another station.
And it’s not only her house that was touched that day, the incident happened, but they also said that some policemen came from somewhere, up till now, I don’t know where they came from and made an arrest which caused a spontaneous reaction by the community youths.
Some shops were broken and some houses were touched which I saw, and none of the victims apart from the President-General who came four days after the incident to say he heard that his house was burnt and that he has not been to the community. I didn’t see any other person; nobody has come to the station.
When told that the victims fear for their lives following the attack and that is why they have not gone back home as they are currently in hideouts as a result of the threat to their lives, the DPO has this to say: “they don’t want to go home, I go to that community almost every day, I took over 10 patrol vehicles to the community this morning.
If the PG wants to go and see what happened, with 10 Hilux, Eaglenet, Area Command 2 vehicles, Dragon team and Safe Delta, with these people you can’t go there, I don’t think he has anything to complain about; if he really wants to go to his community and say that DPO I want somebody to escort me to my community, he will go there.
He added that the community is now peaceful and people are going about their normal business, “as of today people are going about their normal business, I can tell you emphatically that calm has returned to the community.
However, our independent investigation shows that indeed, Chief Meg Ayovwe reported the threat on her property to a senior police officer at the Ughelli Police Area Command, the officer who spoke to us in confidence confirmed that there was a report to that effect before the attack.
According to him, “We are in the Area Commander’s office, she reported the case, but I want you to come to the office, let look at the records,” when asked when we could come to the office, the officer said; “somebody lost his wife, I am in his house now to console him, I am not in the office,” he added.
Delta Governor Denied taking sides, say efforts on to resolve the crisis
Also reacting, Mr Olisa Ifejika, the Chief Press Secretary, CPS to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, also denied the claim by one of the victims that the governor kept mute over the crisis because of his party chieftain involvement in the dispute.
According to him, “you know who the Governor is, the Governor is a peacemaker, and however, I am not aware that the petition got to him or not, I am not also sure if they actually wrote several petitions as they claimed.
One thing that I am sure of is that there is no way the Governor who preaches peace will take side with any party in a dispute; all he will do is to ensure that the dispute is settled amicably so that peace will reign.
“So, is not true that the governor is taking side with any of the party to the crisis just because one of them is a PDP member, the Governor is a governor of the state, not a governor of the PDP, and he is a governor of all Deltans irrespective of party affiliations.”
On why the governor has not sent delegates to intervene in the crisis, the CPS said, “that is not true; the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Marshal Mukoro is from Evwreni, we have other government appointees from the community and the area.
The Governor also have a team for conflict resolution in the state and other government appointees from that area who have intervened, he must not go there personally before you know that something is being done to resolve the dispute,” he stated.
However, when contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution, Chief Edwin Uzor, said that the committee is handling the matter, according to him; “Yes we are aware of the crisis and I can assure you that we are handling the matter.”