July 19, 2024

TNN Newspaper

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Help! Etche Royal Father Begs Rivers Govt, Security Agencies Over Land Grabbers Activities

5 min read

His Royal Highness, Eze Ishmael Okechukwu Nweke, ksc, Onyeishi-Ala Chokota, in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, is urging security agencies in the state, to as a matter of urgency, wade into the crisis rocking Chokota Town and bring the activities of land grabbers in Etche in general to a halt.

The Royal Highness also wants the state government to immediately intervene and bring the current situation in the community under control, stressing that they no longer go to farm, cannot sell their lands as a result of the activities of land grabbers.

Nweke made this distress call as he explains that his palace was invaded, building and cars destroyed, as well as property worth millions of naira carted away, as shown in pictorial evidence he made available to TNN.

Nweke explained that the attack on his residence was following his continual rebuke against land grabbing activities in Chokota, and Etche at large.

He spoke with EDITH CHUKU in this exclusive interview on Monday.

Excerpts:

You shared pictorial evidence that your palace was invaded, houses, cars destroyed and property worth millions of naira carted away. Can you please tell us what really happened?

Yes. Precisely on March 21, 2024, a group of cult boys operating like hoodlums invaded my community, Umuakonu, Chokota in Etche Local Government Area, Rivers State, chanting war songs and slogans, armed with guns, machetes, bottles, rods, etc. 

They went to the youth leader’s house, saw him and matched him, slapping him with their machete and took him to their leader’s house and made him to lie face down. Thereafter, they moved straight to my palace, forced themselves into the compound, and gave notice to everyone living there to quit or have themselves to blame. They broke bottles in the premises and left.

After a few minutes they came back, forced themselves inside the palace again and started breaking car glasses, Almaco glasses, doors, shot at car tyres and engines, looting materials, and properties belonging to me, my children and tenants. They were shooting sporadically while the looting was going on. So people were scared and started parking their properties and vacating the village. My gateman informed me of the goings on while I was in the office in Port Harcourt. I alerted the police authorities but before they could get there, so much harm had been done.

I later learnt that in the process of their jairation, they got into the next compound and met the owner in his house. They challenged him and in the process of their shoot out, one of their front liners whom they brought in from another community fell to the bullets. I sympathize with the family of that deceased boy.

What could have aroused such provocation that they had to unleash such mayhem on your property and even resulting to the death of someone?

Some boys from my community, most of whom played active roles when the communal land was partitioned and shared in 2009, 2014, 2019 and last year, invited other known land grabbers to clear and repartition the said community land which had no internal or external boundary dispute. We are trying our best to stop them to no avail. They are working in concert with the Police, including cult boys or groups, and native doctors, that is the thing. They left where they are operating in the bush and came to the community and entered my palace without provocation and I was not around. They broke everything and looted properties worth millions of naira, so, that’s what happened.

Why you?

They said why should I join in stopping them from grabbing the community land. That why should I join to petition them to the Inspector General of Police, Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Oyigbo Area Command and even to the DPO at Umuebulu police Division to come after them. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, the police could not arrest any of them. So that’s their grievance against me.

Has any of the perpetrators of this act been identified?

Yes, they’ve been identified. They were not masked. Most of them were people from my immediate community, and people they invited from neighbouring communities. They are known in the neighborhood. 

What about the culprit that shot someone to death, has he been identified, who is he?

I was not there, information I heard was that when they left my place, and went to the other man’s compound, they entered there, had altercation in that place and in the process because they came with guns, the information I heard was that among them the gun they were shooting touched him, so that’s the information I got because I was not there when the incident took place.

What’s the current situation?

We made a report to the Army GOC in Bori Camp, requesting security intervention. With this particular action, we were able to get a team of dedicated security men that are going after them. The current situation right now is that we have been able to apprehend one of them and the others are at large, but they are looking for them.

Is your life in danger?

Of course, they have severally threatened my life. They say I am their problem, and that they must eliminate me for standing on their way. 

My appeal is for the security agencies to intervene, even the Governor of Rivers State to declare a state of emergency in my area to safe guard lives and properties. My people are no longer free, the only source of livelihood of the people of my community is farming and people no longer go to farm, those who own land in Igboh Etche no longer get any one ready to buy. So there’s hardship in the place as we speak.

So, my appeal is for security agencies to wade in and bring this situation under control.

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