A 73-year-old man and his family have been banished in Izzi, the northern part of Ebonyi state for allegedly declining to relinquish a swampy portion of a land he inherited from his father to the community.
Mr Nwogbodo Nwoda, a native of Ohagolede village, Ndieze community of Izzi was on Thursday, May 7, 2020, reportedly ostracized from his home by a group of people led by one Monday Udeogu.
The victim told our reporter that on the fateful day, Udeogu, the youth leader and his loyalists allegedly stormed his compound, beat him and his son; Chinedu, and dispossessed them of some valuables including a Samsung handset and cash of N6,700.
He further claimed that after the torture, his tormentors later invited their village head, Mr Nwibo Adonwe who allegedly aggravated the situation by engaging the service of the town crier through which the entire villagers were assembled. Nwoda said that they mobilized with some dangerous weapons and invaded his premises while chanting war songs and damaged over five hundred tubers of yam, nine goats, three dogs and some economic trees.
He said: “Monday Udeogu and his cohorts really dealt with me, can you believe that they killed and took away my nine goats, three dogs and stole cash of two million naira that my children are using for their ongoing building project, carted away a large number of fowls from my farm and fish in my ponds even when I have not done any evil against him and his family”.
It was gathered that the victim inherited a compound which comprised a portion of farmland from his late father which he had been occupying with his family until in 2018, when the village’s youth leader, Udeogu and others approached him with the request that the swampy area of the said property be relinquished to the village.
Controversy over elders’ verdict
But the man, having fulfilled the Izzi traditional criteria for owning a property known as “Ala aturu atu”, which conferred right of ownership of the property on him, turned down the request. And following alleged pressure and forceful taking over of that portion of land from him; Nwoda reported the matter to the highest adjudicatory body of the Izzi clan, at Amegu, the ancestral home of Izzi.
According to him, the body decided the matter in his favour after careful deliberation while Udeogu and some of his loyalists were penalized through payment of fines.
“This problem became intensified after the ruling made by Amegu traditional institution where my assailants were mildly disciplined and since that period, they have viewed my family as their enemy and treat us with contempt until on 7th May 2020 when they openly attacked us with all sorts of weapon and chased us away”, he said.
Nwoda insisted that Udeogu and his group had sworn to wipe out his family from the surface of the earth. Hence his call on the Ebonyi State government under Chief David Umahi and other meaningful individuals to intervene in the matter to enable him and his household return to their home.
Community leaders, police react
Some stakeholders of the area confirmed that there was actually an issue between the Nwodas and the village. Chief Chris Lebara told our reporter that in the time past, when the matter was taken to their ancestral home at Amegu, the verdict of the elders was that all the people whose swampy portions of land were mapped out for collective use should take the action in good faith and those with pending cases either in the courts or police would withdraw such matters.
He said that following the judgment, no fewer than ten other villagers who had already performed the traditional rites of owning landed property in the place relinquished theirs and accepted the decision in good faith. But surprisingly, Nwoda and his family members began to make issues over the decision.
“The swampy portions are usually shared and given to all villagers on lease for between three and four hundred naira as a means of generating income for the people in general and also making those who ordinarily would not have had access to the area to feel the impact of other persons.
“For the sake of unity, some stakeholders had approached the man and his children to exercise patience because, if he insists in retrieving his, others may follow suit”, he explained.
However, Chief Lebara said that the allegation of destruction of livestock and economic trees by the youths had not been confirmed owing to the fact that one of the victim’s sons is in the habit of threatening to indict the villagers. Perhaps, those things were done by the family as a smoke screen mainly to incriminate the people, he added.
Also, another stakeholder, Chief John Bekei described as blatant lie the allegation stating that some youths were fined two years ago by the Amegu elders, regarded as the traditional Supreme Court of Izzi clan for trespassing on Nwoda’s land. He claimed that the said fine was paid by the village for a separate mistake made by some persons.
According to Chief Bekei, “The traditional institution at Amegu is regarded as the Supreme Court of Izzi clan and whatever decision taken by the elders is binding on all but they never fined people because of the issue with Nwoda”.
Public Relations Officer of the Police in the state, DSP Loveth Odah said that the command had not received any official report on the issue, noting that it could have been nipped in the bud if the police were duly informed.