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Idumuje-Ugboko: A town awaiting return of peace

Idumuje-Ugboko: A town awaiting return of peace
September 16
20:09 2020

BY JOSEPH SOLOTAN

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Idumuje-Ugboko, an agrarian ancient kingdom in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, may not command immediate name recognition outside the oil-rich state, but the community will definitely earn an envious place when a list of towns with successful and educated citizens in Nigeria is drawn.

In the lead, in the production of quality manpower, is the Royal Family itself- the Nwoko family. It is a vast royal family with a long list of academics, world class lawyers, industrialists, corporate titans etc.

It was Idumuje-Ugboko kingdom that gifted Nigeria Prince Ned Munir Nwoko, the quiet but brilliant international legal mind, who ensured Nigeria was not shortchanged when the country negotiated her way out of the huge debts it owed the Paris Club. His legal battles with that international financial power house made Nigeria richer by some hundreds of millions of dollars.

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A peaceful and serene community ideal as a get away location for anyone desirous of a tranquil ambience for either some serious intellectual work or a quiet lonely time to re-energize and refuel, Idumuje-Ugboko’s peaceful setting must have kept it out of the media search light for decades.

That was until May 18 – 25, 2017 when a terror gang of violent hoodlums stormed the ancient kingdom on a murderous mission of mayhem and bloodletting.

By the time the evil force was done with its ignoble mission, the once peaceful community had been physically and spiritually violated.

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In the orgy of violence that was subsequently visited on Idumuje-Ugboko, the sponsored enforcers vandalized movable and immovable assets, beat up eminent community leaders and chiefs such as the Iyase (Traditional Prime Minister) Chief Christopher Ogwu and the Odogwu of the kingdom, Chief Sunday Edemodu, in a bid, as alleged by many, to seize the sovereignty of the kingdom through a non-conventional method.

Some of the perpetrators have been arrested and are cooling their feet in Agbor prison and in Abuja where they are currently facing terrorism charges.

Till today, the ripple effects of that violent visit have continued to resonate in the ancient kingdom with grave consequences for a once peaceful settlement.

To do justice to the current and prevailing situation in Idumuje-Ugboko, a reporter’s diary of this kind must necessarily trace the developments that led to the mayhem of 2017 in order to properly situate issues in their proper perspectives.

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The year was 2015 when Prince Ned Munir Nwoko, in an apparent move to put his ancient community on the contemporary global map, intimated the Royal House of which he is an eminent member, of his decision to bring a citadel of learning and a golf course of global standard to the serene community.

He would require some 100 hectares of land to make the dream a reality. An elated king, and his Obi-In-Council immediately summoned a meeting of the five federating villages, known as Izu-Ani.

The meeting, which had in attendance the traditional principal chiefs, the leadership of the kingdom’s development union, led by its President General, late Mr. Bennet Odor, also had the eminent presence of the Ize-Ani Secretary, Professor Somuyina Gabriel Nwoko, OON.

That meeting, obviously mindful of the colossal socio-economic advantages of such massive project, approved that the land required for the project be made available to Linus International Limited, the company promoted by Prince Ned Nwoko for the execution of the project.

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An Enlarged Land Allocation Committee under the leadership of Iyese was constituted. The mandate of this Committee was to find a most suitable location for the project and then raise a memorandum of understanding between Linus International and Idumuje – Ugboko kingdom.

The Enlarged Land Allocation Committee lived up to its mandate when it allocated 99 hectares of land out of the land earmarked for development projects in the community- an area that covers the kingdom’s boundary from Onicha-Ugbo through to Igbodo and Umunede towns.

Following the formal approval of the Obi and the Obi-In-Council, and based on the allocation, Prince Ned Nwoko and Linus International Ltd compensated genuine tenant-farmers working on the land and also paid the mandatory Allocation Administrative fees.

Done with the traditional requirements, Linus took the next step that should naturally follow: it applied for Customary Right of Occupancy to Aniocha North Local Government Council.

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Everything appeared to have fallen in place until a letter dated August 12 2015 surfaced, allegedly been circulated by Prince Chukwunonso Justin Nwoko, the first son of the Obi and some of his supporters.

The letter which disproved the allocation of the land for the golf course/and the University clearly threw the kingdom into panic and caused a serious disquiet. It signaled the beginning of a serious crises that still trail the Idumuje-Ugboko kingdom to this day.

In a bid to determine the authenticity or otherwise of the letter, prominent indigenes of the kingdom sought audience with the Obi, who by now had become old and feeble.

Sources in Idumuje-Ugboko confirmed to the reporter last week that, the efforts of the eminent citizens were thwarted as they were blocked from meeting him. These sources pointed accusing fingers at Chukwunonso Nwoko and his supporters of ensuring that no one was able to access the Obi.

Following petition to the police and subsequent investigation, the police confirmed the fears of many when it came out with a verdict that the letters in circulation were actually forged.

Those indicted include: Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko, Ejimofor Nwoko, Richard Obiajulu Nwoko and others. They were subsequently charged before a chief Magistrate Court in Asaba.

A floodgate of legal battles has since commenced in respect of the land allocation. Indeed, Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko and others had approached the Issele-Uku High Court to challenge the land allocation. They also sued Aniocha North Local Government Council, Linus International Limited and Prince Ned Nwoko claiming that the process of the land allocation was false. The suit No HCI/2/2016 at Agbor High Court was decided in favour of the defendants- Prince Ned Nwoko and Linus International Limited on the 18th June 2019. The Court went ahead to award cost against the claimants.

Further investigations revealed that the Executive Chairman of Aniocha North Local Government, satisfied that Linus International Limited and Prince Ned Nwoko had met all the traditional requirements for the allocation of the land and based on the support of all the stakeholders, approved and issued a Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy on the 20th July 2016.

The approval and the Issuance of the certificate enabled Linus International to commence the process of meeting the preliminary basic requirement of the National University Commission, NUC for the University project.

But matters soon got more complicated following the death of His Royal Majesty Obi Albert Nwoko, who had been kept incommunicado for some years before his eventual demise.

In a development that defied cultural norms and values, Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko allegedly installed himself the Obi without the participation of the five principal chiefs the same day the Obi joined his ancestors.

Since this enthronement, which is said to be alien to the Idumuje-Ugboko culture, indigenes say that the community has not known peace and the crisis has got more hydra headed and complex.

In fact, a commercial bike rider told this reporter that a reign of terror has been let loose on the land since the demise of the last Obi.

This is how a lawyer from the community who requested for anonymity presented the prevailing situation: “It is obvious that it is Chukwunonso Nwoko and his supporters that are responsible for the restiveness in our once peaceful community. Nonso and his supporters are fighting many battles and are putting us all on edge. It has never happened that an Obi will ascend the throne without the active involvement and participation of the five principal chiefs. This has polarized our community and created serious crisis.

“Not less worrisome is his hatred for a worthy son of the community, Prince Ned Nwoko and his fight to frustrate the take off of the University project. But we thank God that Nonso and his powerful supporters are failing because the University project is on course and work is going on uninterrupted at the site.”

Indeed, a visit to the site revealed a huge project that promises to transform Idumuje-Ugboko from a rustic, agrarian community to a bubbling, economically active university town for ever.

With the amount of work done, it is obvious that the Star University and the Golf Course are projects that have come to stay.

Men and women of goodwill definitely need to prevail on those fomenting trouble in this peaceful and serene community to have a rethink and allow a restoration of normalcy and the transformation of the ancient kingdom by its eminent sons like Prince Ned Munir Nwoko.

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