MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
The Udeze family of the extended Obi Royal Family, Ogbe-Obi Quarters of Onicha-Ugbo, Delta State has petitioned the Inspector General of Police (IGP), urging him to urgently intervene in a land matter that has already taken a violent dimension from the people of neighbouring Igbodo community.
In the petition written on behalf of the family by their counsel, Peter Mrakpor SAN & Partner dated 22nd June, 2022 (copy of which was made available to AtlanticNewsonline), the king of Igbodo, His Royal Highness (Barr) Ikechukwu Nkeobikwu Osedume I, and ten others including the Ogene (Chief) of Igbodo were accused of brutally beating and torturing a member of the Udeze family, hired motor saw operator and confiscating their working tools and other valuables.
According to the petitioners represented by Onochie Udeze, Kenneth Udeze and Chidubem Udeze, their late father owned a vast expanse of land known as Chief V. U. Aniemeke Farms located on old Lagos-Asaba Road, Opposite St. Pius Grammar School, Onicha-Ugbo where he planted economic trees like Ogbono, cocoa, mango, palm, orange including pineapple and others. The land also has a big game reserve with wild animals in it.
They posited that some years back while they (petitioners) were still tender, the people of Idumu-Oze Quarters, Igbodo forcibly entered the land owned by their father and destroyed the economic trees in their thousands. These included 30000 standing and producing cocoa trees, over 25000 palm trees, 22000 ogbono, 11000 mangoes and about 45000 other producing trees.
Consequent upon this willful destruction, father of the petitioners who was still alive at the time, instituted a legal action at the high court and judgement was given in favour of their father in suit No. AG/16/74 Godwin Iyeke & Anor V. Udeze Aniemeke on the 24th day of May, 1977 by Justice F.O.N. Atake as he was then called.
They alleged that recently the ten members of the Igbodo community mentioned in the petition forcibly trespassed on the land again pulling down the gate to the vast land and taking it to the King’s palace. The ten included Mayor Azikiwe, Andrew Azikiwe, Nathaniel aka Nate (former Ezedibie son), Chiemeke (The Ogene of Igbodo), Sunday Azikiwe, Donates Azikiwe, Aludy Azikiwe, Ifeanyi Okoh, Anyali Benjamin and Uche Offor.
Sequel to this alleged provoking act by the ten Igbodo indigenes, some members of the Udeze family visited the Diokpa (elder) of Idumu-Oze Quarters with a view to amicably settling the matter but regrettably they were violently chased out by the youths of Idumu-Oze Quarters, Igbodo. They had no choice but to run for their life.
A few days later, a member of the petitioners’ family Orikeze Udeze and a surveyor were sent to survey the land and ascertain the extent of destruction that had taken place. On getting to the place, they were reportedly attacked by the people of Idumu-Oze Quarters, Igbodo who in the circumstance inflicted body injuries on them.
The Idumu-Oze people allegedly seized the motor cycle by which Orikeze Udeze and the surveyor had come. The attackers also inflicted injuries on a hired machine operator, seized his motor saw, 20 litres of fuel, N50,000 cash, tool box, two cutlasses and mobile phones. The attackers went further to drag their victims to the King’s palace during which the surveyor miraculously escaped, leaving Orikeze Udeze in their hands.
On getting to the palace, Orikeze Udeze was compelled by the Obi (king) to sign a written document purported to be a statement denying his family’s ownership of the land in question. He reportedIy refused to sign the document as he insisted that the land belonged to his family. For his refusal to comply with Igbodo King’s instructions, the youths descended on him beating him mercilessly after which he was taken to Igbodo police station where he was arrested and detained until his brothers came to bail him.
The petitioners said in their letter to the Inspector General of Police that consequent upon this recent attack, the Udeze family members of Onicha-Ugbo now live in great fears of danger as they could not have access to their father’s land which is contrary to Section 3 (1) and (2) of Delta State Public and Private Persons Protection Law, 2018.
The Udeze family has therefore urged the IGP to use his good offices in bringing the Igbodo attackers to book and stop them from further harassing them over their father’s property.
Reacting to the afore-mentioned allegations by the Udeze family, the Odogwu of Igbodo, Chief Ifeoha Azikiwe told AtlanticNewsonline in a telephone discussion on Thursday that the allegations were not true, explaining that “it is not a new story that one Orikeze Udeze has been terrorising Igbodo people. This matter of land started when Orikeze was barely eight years old. The matter began with his father when he was alive. It had not been resolved before his death. I feel sorry that his father passed on before settlement could be reached. The problem was between the Udeze family and Igbodo community. It was not a case between Onicha-Ugbo and Igbodo.”
Continuing, the Odogwu said an issue between Igbodo and Onicha-Ugbo over land began in 1957 concerning the siting of St. Pius Grammar School, Onicha-Ugbo. “The two communities have been living cordially but Onicha-Ugbo gave part of its land to the Catholic Missionary to build St. Pius Grammar School Onicha-Ugbo which incidentally became my alma mater. I attended the school. Even when we were in school in the 70s, the land matter between the two communities was on.”
According to him, the matter over ownership of part of land St. Pius Grammar School is built upon was taken to the High Court and Igbodo got favourable judgement against Onicha-Ugbo in 1968. It was Onicha-Ugbo that took Igbodo to court but Igbodo defeated them. After the judgement, Onicha-Ugbo appealed the judgement. Igbodo subsequently defeated Onicha-Ugbo on appeal. The Supreme Court judgement in favour of Igbodo on appeal by Onicha-Ugbo was delivered in 1972. My father was at the centre of the problem because his mother hailed from Onicha-Ugbo. So he found himself on both sides of the argument.
“In the light of this, Onicha-Ugbo leadership had reason to write my father for intervention. He was a counselor then. Regrettably before any settlement could be achieved, the same Onicha-Ugbo took Igbodo to court again. Igbodo got favourable judgement again and even the compensation against Onicha-Ugbo was not paid but Igbodo overlooked it in the spirit of oneness. The matter ended at that level with promotion of peace between the two communities.”
Chief Azikiwe further explained that at some point when Igbodo and Onicha-Ugbo were having issues over land, father of Orikeze Udeze came and encroached on Igbodo’s land opposite St. Pius Grammar School. He converted the vast land to his use for agricultural purposes.
“Because he was rich, Udeze would use labour and bulldozer to uproot people’s farms destroying their cassava, yam and other products. Igbodo could not do anything because there was a case in court over the land. He took advantage of the matter in court and invaded Igbodo’s land. Remarkably, he was acting alone as Onicha-Ugbo as a community did not support his forceful acquisition because the substantive case of boundary dispute between Igbodo and Onicha-Ugbo is still with the Boundary Commission because larger percentage of land occupied by St. Pius Grammar School is Igbodo’s land.”
Recently, according to him, Orikeze had allegedly sold about 1000 hectares of the land to buyers to make some money. “So we were told that Orikeze had come with a surveyor to survey the land which belongs to Igbodo. That was about April, 2022. Unfortunately for him, Igbodo people got to know and accosted him with the surveyor, a native of Issele Uku.
“So we took them to the Obi’s (King) palace but the king said we should take them to the Igbodo Police Station where it was incidented. I wrote the statement on behalf of the Obi and Igbodo kingdom. As far as we are concerned, the matter is still with the police at Igbodo. We are the complainant on the matter.”
He denied the allegation of inflicting any body injuries to the saw machine operator or Orikeze himself.