There are fears of a looming crisis between the Ekureku and Adadama communities of Abi Local Government Area of Rivers State. This is not unconnected with the threat of arrest of some chiefs and youth leaders based on the perceived directive of a former official of the state house of assembly, in connection with an alleged banishment of certain persons from the Ekureku community.
About 16 persons from two wards of Ekureku have already been invited by the state police command for questioning. Although, the letter said they were invited in connection with their alleged involvement in cultism and conducts likely to cause a breach of the peace.
Among the invitees are key supporters and loyalists of the member representing Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Dr Alex Egbona. In fact, two of his collation agents were listed on the invitation letter.
According to the letter, they are expected to report at the state police headquarters on Tuesday morning. They are expected to be taken there by their clan heads.
TNN findings however revealed that their invitation may not be unconnected with the purported banishment of some persons from the community. An online medium had posted that some people were allegedly banished after they went to give evidence at the elections petitions tribunal, an allegation that has been pooh-poohed by one of the youth leaders from the community.
A community leader and chairman of the Ekureku Vigilante, Mr Fidelis Nkata told TNN over the telephone that contrary to the online publication, nobody was banished from the community.
Nkata said, the community decided to punish those who flouted the community's instruction for them to get involved in community work. According to him, a certain person whose name he gave as Egbe was listed for punishment for not taking part in the sanitation works in and around the community. Specifically, he said Egbe's father engaged his vigilante boys in a fight, leading to the injury of one of the vigilante boys.
He said the injured vigilante person was receiving medical attention in the hospital. According to Nkata, it was the tradition of the Ekureku people to either flog or collect fine from any defaulter once anybody failed to get involved in the community labour.
Nkata said it was not true that anybody was banished from the community for testifying at the tribunal. He said he was not even aware that people were going to the tribunal to testify. According to him, the matter had since been reported to the police in the area and that the police had visited the place in respect of the face-off.
He urged politicians in the state not to do anything that will provoke bad blood between the Ekureku and Adadama people. Egbona has been speaking of his commitment to the restoration of peace between Adadama and some warring Ebonyi communities on one hand, and the Ekureku and Ebonyi communities on the other hand.
He commended Egbona for his interest in resolving the crisis between Ekureku and the neighbouring Ebonyi State and urged Gaul to join hands with Egbona to bring peace into the area. Nkata said apart from Egbe, the community had a list of other defaulting youths who failed to participate in the community work and would be made to face the wrath of the community, saying none of them will go unpunished.
To him, the allegations of people being banished may have been peddled by the defaulters as a way of attracting the sympathy of the public. He insisted that the chiefs of Ekureku were committed to ensuring that the long standing law was obeyed by all.
The threats of arrest appear to have provoked tension in Ekureku. TNN learnt that the community has the feeling that they were being hunted for supporting an APC member, instead of queuing behind the PDP in the state.
They have called on the police authorities to intervene to avoid crisis in the area. This is coming just as one of Egbona's supporters, Mr Sylvester Ebortey Egbe has cried out to the police authorities to save him and other APC members from attacks.
Confirming to TNN that he was among those listed for arrest, he said the police invitation was based on trumped up charges by people who were unhappy that they had decided to support the APC candidate that floored the PDP candidate at the last election.
He said: “We have been told that our names have been submitted to the police and that our clan head should bring us to Diamond Hill on allegations of kidnapping, cultism and actions likely to cause breach of the peace.
“I am personally taken aback by this invitation. Or is it now an offence to support a political party other than the ruling party in my state? Is it now an offence to support a man that defeated a PDP candidate in an election? Must all of us belong to the PDP?
“I don't understand what is going on. All I know is that this one too shall come to pass. I personally do not have any apology for supporting Chief Alex Egbona. If that is the cult we have been accused of belonging, then it is a good cult to belong.
“I am challenging those who gave our names to the police for intimidation and harassment to also show evidence of the cult group we belong and the people we kidnapped. So, the worst they can do is to give our names to the police so that they can arrest us? Do you still call this one politics?”
Egbe said it was unfortunate that some people he called self seeking politicians were bent on causing crisis in the area by falsely accusing others all in an effort to gain political relevance. “But let me assure them that this very strategy has already failed.”
The alleged banishment saga
Since the news of the purported banishment of the some persons from Ekureku hit the social media space, there have been reactions from people who either condemned the act or cautioned those spreading the information not to play politics with serious issues of that nature, just as they insist that nobody was banished from the community.
One person even drew the attention of people to what happened on the eve of the election in March, when a local announcer was paid to announce to the community not to vote for the APC during the election otherwise they would be flogged and even barred from using their local stream.
Recall that a similar announcement was made in Itigidi and Ekureku at the instance of a top PDP official from the Abi Local Government. The locals were ordered not to vote for the APC candidate from Ekureku during the National Assembly elections or they would face dire consequences from the community.
However, the people chose to vote based on their convictions and at the end of the day, Egbona was declared winner of the election. He has since been inaugurated into the green chambers as a member.
His election is however being contested by his opponent at the tribunal.