Umueri: Peace at risk as three feared dead in power tussle

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Umueri traditional ruler, Igwe Emeka

THE peace in Umueri, a town in Anambra East Local Government Area of the Anambra State looks threatened in the face of an ongoing power tussle between the traditional ruler, HRH Igwe Benneth Emeka and the President General, Umueri General Assembly (UGA), Pius Okonkwo. 

An outbreak of violence, Friday, which led to the death of three persons has been blamed on the power tussle.

There are concerns in the town and those who spoke on the basis of anonymity noted that, “Umueri has not had a traditional ruler for about 21 years before Igwe Emeka came into the saddle. Peace returned thereafter but the Igwe is trying to scuttle the peace and Umueri people will not allow that.”

Obiano arriving the Palace of Igwe Emeka during his Ogara celebration

An Umueri native said that there were gunshots in Mgbago Umueri and after the gunshots were heard, three bodies were found dead with varying degrees of bullet wounds following the gunshots.

The President General of Umueri community, Pius Okonkwo, confirmed the incident. He however accused the community’s traditional ruler of instigating the violence in his attempt to assume the duties and functions of the town union executives.

According to him, the monarch imposed a 30-man committee on the community to run the administrative duties of the town union. “Trouble started when some youths, loyal to Igwe Benneth Emeka, stormed UGA meeting at Umueri Civic center and disrupted the proceedings, claiming to have impeached the President General.

“As I speak to you, the traditional ruler has taken over the functions of the town union leadership and now plays the role of Emperor Nero of the then Roman Empire.

“We have up to September to the end of our tenure and we have to set up an electoral committee to conduct elections by December this year.”

The monarch accused the President General of sponsoring hoodlums to raze his palace.

He said: “The hoodlums were arrested and they confessed to the crime. They accused the President General of sponsoring the attack on my palace and if you go to the police, they will give you statements made by the suspects.”

The Igwe further claimed that the president general had been mobilising people to effect his dethronement, alleging that his intention was to remain in office perpetually.

When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Haruna Mohammed said that there was no official report and, “I have spoken to the DPO Otoucha Division and he confirmed to me that there was no such incident in Umueri and no official report was made to that effect.”

Recently, Igwe Emeka was suspended after he was accused of violating the code of conduct on kolanut breaking.

Igwe Benneth Izuchukwu Emeka of Umuleri and Igwe Alex Edozieuno of Aguleri Otu, who is the Chairman of Anambra East Traditional Rulers Council, had been locked in conflict over the breaking of the kolanut during a visit of the State Governor Willie Obiano. 

The crux was who was going to break the kolanut. The argument embarrassed Obiano, who, like Edozieuno is from Aguleri, put aside the breaking of kolanut at the event

Edozieuno, thereafter unilaterally announced the suspension of Emeka from the council for one year during which period he would not attend any meeting organized by the body. 

The Umuleri monarch dismissed the suspension, saying it was wrong for one person to suspend a monarch without approval from other members of the council. 

In a widely circulated letter Emeka pointed out that “One of the commonest traditional practices surrounding the breaking of kolanut is the fact that it is the man of the house that breaks kolanut in his domain. A man’s domain remains his domain even if it has been inhabited by strangers or visitors.”

He stayed: “May we warn that this outright insult to the occupant of the traditional stool of Umueri Oke-Ebo shall not be tolerated subsequently.”

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