Suspense in Akwuke communities over suspension of two monarchs by Enugu governmentt
Akwuke community in Enugu South council of Enugu State holds one of the greatly demanded materials for building and road constructions – sharp sand, which is scooped from the Akwuke River, as well as a Federal Government’s scientific research centre – Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI).
Sources said aside readily employing the indigenes, the community also makes huge revenues from the numerous trucks that scoop sand from the area, among others.
But despite the money-spinning ventures, Akwuke is almost in ruins and has been thrown into darkness, as some villages in the community have been without electricity supply for several years. Indeed, one of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company’s (EEDC) transformers in the area is said to have incurred over N4m debt, leading to the disconnection of electricity in the area.
The journey to the sleepy Akwuke community, which ordinarily should take less than five minutes by car from Gariki Market, now takes as much as 30 minutes, due to the bad roads in the area, causing motorists and commuters much pain.
On Thursday, November 7, Akwuke community was in the news. This was on account of the sledgehammer wielded by the state government on their monarchs. The government slammed suspension order on two traditional rulers in the two autonomous communities – His Highness Bernard Nsude Nwoye, the traditional ruler Akwuke Awkunanaw and His Highness Cyprian A. Ekwomchi, the monarch of Akwuke-Uwani via a public statement issued by the Secretary to the State government, Prof. Simeon Ortuanya.
In a public service announcement dated November 7, which went viral on social media and local electronic media houses in the state, Ortuanya announced that the suspension would be for an initial 30 days, apparently to wait for the report of a yet to be constituted committee on allegations against them.
Ortuanya said: “Following the breakdown of law and order in Akwuke and Akwuke Uwani autonomous communities of Enugu South council of Enugu State and the mass protest of the indigenes of the communities to Government House, coupled with a petition against the traditional rulers of the said autonomous communities, HRH Igwe Bernard Nwoye and HRH Igwe Cyprian Ekwomchi respectively, by Mr. Oliver O. Edeh, National President, Akwuke Town Union and Engr. Chibuzor Ngene, President General, Akwuke Uwani Town Union, for themselves and on behalf of the people of Akwuke and Akwuke Uwani autonomous communities; the governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in the interest of peace, order and good governance and in compliance with section 10 (b) of the traditional rulers law, cap 151, revised laws of Enugu State 2004, hereby suspends, for 30 days, in the first instance, HRH Igwe Bernard Nwoye, traditional ruler of Akwuke autonomous community and HRH Igwe Cyprian Ekwomchi, traditional ruler of Akwuke Uwani autonomous community.
“Furthermore, pursuant to section 16 (1) of the traditional rulers law cap 151, revised laws of Enugu State, 2004, the Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters has caused administrative inquiry to be held in respect of the allegations against the affected traditional rulers. Citizens of the two autonomous communities are enjoined to keep the peace.”
Investigations by The Guardian revealed that the affected monarchs were summoned to Government House to meet with Governor Ugwuanyi and other senior government officials that evening, where after listening to their defence, they were handed the suspension order.
Trouble started for the monarchs earlier in the day, when natives of the communities staged a demonstration at the Government House, Enugu, demanding their sack over allegations bordering on high-handedness, mismanagement of funds and usurping the President Generals’ functions.
The two monarchs were accused of collecting levies from sand and electricity dues, among others and refusing to render accounts, and that they had frustrated every attempt by the President generals of the two autonomous communities to straighten out things for the people.
“You can see how terrible the two access roads into the communities are. There are three transformers in the entire community, but we only have electricity supply in one community. The two other transformers are heavily indebted to EEDC. Now, new President Generals were elected and they also want to frustrate them to ensure we continue to suffer. That was why we
rose against them,” said Casmir Ene, a tricycle operator in the community.
The development is being discussed in the two communities. Some community members also gathered at the palaces of the affected monarchs to empathise and reassure them of their support, insisting, “nothing has happened to warrant the harsh treatment and clampdown from government.” They insisted that they would follow the matter to its end.
It was gathered that the tension created in the communities by the monarchs’ actions heightened to the extent that the member representing Enugu South rural constituency at the State House of Assembly, Mrs. Mary Onyinye Ugwu had to intervene and summon a meeting of the two communities at Eke Akwuke
Unfortunately, the monarchs did not turn up at the meeting. Allegedly infuriated by their absence, the community members were said to have passed a vote of no confidence on them, and resolved to petition the state government to ensure they were sanctioned.
It was this petition they took to Government House during the demonstration that Thursday and an alleged security report earlier sent to the Governor by the lawmaker on collapse of peace in the communities that broke the camel’s back. The security report was said to have called for immediate action to prevent impending crisis.
It was gathered that in 2017, the monarchs were dragged to the State House of Assembly by certain persons in the autonomous communities, where they were admonished to maintain peace in their domains.
The monarchs have, however, denied any form of rift in the two autonomous communities, even as they expressed surprise at the suspension order.
They insisted that all the allegations against them were deliberately aimed at giving them a bad name.
They said: “We are also eager to clear our names and will wait for the committee from the Commissioner of Chieftaincy Matters to invite us. We will like to see the petitions and evidence that there is crisis in the two communities. We have always worked well with the governor, who is a peace-loving man and we urge him to look into this matter fairly.”
Igwe Bernard Nwoye, who became the monarch of Akwuke autonomous community in 2016, stated that a few elements in the communities, who wanted to use their resources to undermine and install new monarchs in the communities, are behind the alleged crisis.
He said: “The elements are working with our lawmaker to install one of her strongest supporters, who goes about answering Igwe without staff of office and certificate of recognition as a monarch. This character in question is the son of our former traditional ruler. Before his father’s death, the two villages of Njikoka and Okabuike came together in 2002 and resolved that Igweship would henceforth rotate between the two villages.
“Now, his father died and it became my village’s turn to produce his successor. Four persons contended and I won. I have been performing this role since 2016 until last year, when one of the late monarch’s sons came up and started bearing Igwe. This is the person that the lawmaker is working with.”
He stated that the pseudo monarch had installed a President General for the village, “who is also working at cross purposes with me.”
He queried the motive behind the meeting summoned by the lawmaker at Eke Akwuke Square “without consulting any of the monarchs.
“It shows she already has a mindset,” he said. “She never informed me or the other Igwe about the meeting or sent word to us. I heard the town crier announcing a meeting with the lawmaker at Eke Square and I didn’t think I should go, since I didn’t have an idea of what they wanted to discuss. If she feels we
derailed in our responsibility, did she try to call us and ask us what happened? It is not fair.”
He revealed that the two autonomous communities, in an effort to resolve the debts incurred in electricity, opened an account in a bank, solely for residents to make their payments.
He said: “By community mandate, four persons, including the president generals of the two autonomous communities were empowered to operate the account. But sadly, the two president generals went and changed the mandate and made withdrawals from the account. This is the matter before the two monarchs, which we have tried to resolve by inviting them to a meeting. They were yet to respond to the summons, when we heard that certain elements, including non-members of this community demonstrated at Government House against us. They allegedly authored the petition against us.”
Igwe Cyprian Ekwomchi, who was installed monarch of Akwuke-Uwani 10 years ago, re-echoed Nwoye, stressing that nothing had happened to suggest crisis in the communities without the knowledge of neighbours or police.
He said: “The report that there is a crisis is false. We heard there is petition against us, but we have not seen a copy. I have worked for this community since 1976, and nobody can accuse me of mismanaging funds. I was a Councilor and later became a President General for many years. I never quarreled with my people.
“Akwuke Uwani has been peaceful. They crowned me their traditional ruler because of my services to the community. It is unfortunate that at over 70 years, I am being accused of creating crisis in my community. I urge the governor to look into this matter, and let us know who is derailing the peace that our people are enjoying.”
He explained that it was part of the effort to smear them that they were dragged to the House of Assembly two years ago by certain elements in the two autonomous communities. “But the members had nothing to hold onto and asked us to go home,” he said.
On her part, Ugwu denied any move to undermine the monarchs or remove them from office, stressing that her intervention was based on reports brought to her office.
She stated that she was not privy to the vote of no confidence passed on the monarchs, but was only concerned about ensuring “peace in Akwuke, being one of the communities I represent. That was my role. I don’t want to join issues with them.”
The Commissioner for Chieftaincy Matters, Chief Charles Egumgbe has said the ad hoc committee to investigate allegations against the monarchs would soon commence work.
He explained that the Governor’s desire was to ensure that communities live in peace to foster development.
It is hoped that the committee will conclude its investigation before expiration of the 30 days, after which the monarchs will know their fate.
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