Umuleri begs Aguleri to give peace a chance (Unedited press statement)

AN ADDRESS PRESENTED BY UMUERI COMMUNITY ON THE SERIAL AND ILLEGAL ACQUISITION OF UMUERI LAND BY AGULERI ON JULY 4, 2017 IN AWKA, ANAMBRA STATE.

Gentlemen of the Press,

PREAMBLE

Umueri community is constrained to address you today on a familiar subject- the serial and illegal acquisition and invasion of Umueri land by our esteemed neighbor, Aguleri.

As you may be aware of, the Aguleri-Umueri land dispute dates back to the pre-Independence era. The matter was heard at the Privy Council, United Kingdom during the colonial period.

In 1984, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled that neither Aguleri nor Umueri could provide enough evidence to prove she had exclusive ownership of Otu-Ocha land which had been the main subject of litigation between our two communities.
The court went further to direct that, in the circumstances, each community should hold on to that part of Otu-Ocha and adjoining areas where she had traditionally and originally held sway.

Umueri community had thought that with that Supreme Court verdict, peace would prevail in our area between us and our neigbour. But this has not been the case.
Apart from some relatively minor skirmishes, in 1995, Aguleri, claiming that an Umueri man had trespassed on a portion of their land along the Umueri-Onitsha express way, near Umueri Technical School, not only attacked, killed and maimed some workers on the controversial site, but also went beyond that to invade the entire Umueri community, killing innocent citizens, burning houses, private and public and even churches.

As if the 1995 was a child play, in 1999 there was the mother of all wars between Aguleri and Umueri. Needless to re-state here the quantum of losses (in persons, buildings, etc) which Umueri suffered from that 1999 hostility. The decrepit houses some of which were deliberately destroyed by dynamite, are still dotting Umueri landscape till today. For instance, St Gabriel's Anglican Church, Umueri the destruction of which was bemoaned by a bewildered visiting President Olusegun Obasanjo (as he then was), had to be re-built from the scratch. Up until now, our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Umueri destroyed during this infamous brouhaha, is still to be re-roofed; only the Rev Father's residence has been rebuilt completely.
Enough of our ugly past!
THE PRESENT SITUATION: Less than a month ago, some Aguleri citizens invaded Ovelle's road (Ezi Ovelle) area in Umueri, an area which boundary demarcation was done between our forefathers and Aguleri people. They destroyed several houses and fences in their characteristic manner and wounded innocent Umueri people. Umueri swiftly reported that incidence to the Police at Otu-Ocha Police Station, and also contacted the leadership of Aguleri with a view to expressing our amazement and receiving the necessary apology from Aguleri.
Not only did that apology come; in addition some sincere, God- fearing Aguleri people under the aegis of Urnuiyi family led by Bishop Anenechukwu Ifediorah also told their fellow Aguleri people in unequivocal terms that the Ezi Ovelle axis is clearly Umueri Land.

That sincere declaration did not go down well with some Aguleri citizens who threatened their lives and when they escaped, they burnt their houses.
As I speak, you may go to Aguleri and see for yourselves over 18 houses which were completely raised down by Aguleri people who frowned at the sincere opinion expressed by Bishop Ifediorah and his Umuiyi family members against the illegal invasion of Ezi Ovelle area of Umueri. In the course of time, the Umutyi family may address you on their predicament for daring to speak the truth.

Let me also state here that the recent annexation of Umueri is not restricted to Ezi
Ovelle road axis alone. Other flashpoints are the land near the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Office, Otu-Ocha; the road leading to Umueze Anam (near INEC) which is clearly an Umueri area where one Goddy an Aguleri man is the ring-leader and the Dabawu area where an Umueri shrine has been kept over the centuries. Recently, the premises of Dabawu was cleared by Umueri (Ugume Umueri village specifically), preparatory to receiving a visitor there, only for Okpu villagers of Aguleri to rush and plant crops there.

APPEAL FOR PEACE:  We are addressing you, gentlemen of the Press today so that you can help us to disseminate our message to the world. That message is very simple and it runs thus;
•          Umueri people want peace. We do not want to fight wars with any of our neigbours. This is because we believe wars are anathema-ill winds which blow no one any good. Specifically Umueri wants enduring and genuine peace with Aguleri. This is because we have built relationships (personal as well as business and even religious) with Aguleri people over several decades, if not centuries. We cherish these relationships and want to protect them.
•           We appeal to the governor of Anambra State, Chief Dr. Willie Obiano who hails from Aguleri, to use this opportunity of being at the helm of affairs in our State to put in place the machinery for achieving genuine peace between Aguleri his community and Umueri.
•           This appeal to Gov. Willie Obiano, FCA, Akpokuodike Global is made even as we hear from some quarters that he is actually the person who is instigating his people of Aguleri to cash in upon this 'golden opportunity' provided by his stint to acquire as much Umueri land as possible. We do not want to believe this story, but we are also worried that his people are spoiling for war at a time when he is facing re-election challenges.
•           We   call   on   the   Anambra   State   Government   to   quickly   implement   the recommendations contained in the white paper issued by Government after the infamous 1999 hostility between our two communities. The said recommendations are quite sound and their implementation, will no doubt,  bring total peace to our beleaguered area.

CONCLUSION: At a time when there are conflicts all over the world and in our country; at a time when Arewa boys are spoiling for war against the Ndigbo; at a time when the Yorubas and Niger Deltans are shouting blue murder over certain ugly incidents in the country, it is our prayer that Aguleri and Umueri should be at peace so that our people responding to the Arewa Quite Notice and other sad developments in contemporary Nigeria, can run home to take refuge therein if they can no longer put up with the unbearable situation elsewhere.

Thank you gentlemen of the Press for honouring our invitation to this conference. Please feel free to ask some questions if you need clarification.


Edwin Obigwe    
On behalf of Chief Pius Okonkwo
President-General
Umueri General Assembly (UGA)
Umueri

Umuleri begs Aguleri to give peace a chance (Unedited press statement) Umuleri begs Aguleri to give peace a chance (Unedited press statement) Reviewed by Christian Rowland on Tuesday, July 04, 2017 Rating: 5

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