Youths from Ahiara Umuezu Village in Nneise-Nvosi Autonomous Community in Isiala Ngwa South LGA, Abia State have dragged their Traditional Ruler, Eze B. O. Dike to Court over what they described as gross abuse of their fundamental human rights by the Eze.
Following their attempt to get the attention of the Abia State Police Command through a petition which was frustrated by the Eze, the youths, under the aegis of Ahiara Umuezu Youth Association, have taken legal action to check the excesses of Eze B. O. Dike.
In a suit (HIN/FRS/2023) brought at the High Court of Justice, Isiala Ngwa Judicial Division, holden at Okpuala Ngwa on the 18th day of January, 2023, the Court granted an Order restraining Eze B. O. Dike and his agents from taking further actions in the case, pending the determination of the substantive application.
It would be recalled that on Friday 6th January, 2023, Eze Dike had reportedly summoned a meeting in Ahiara-Umuezu Village and informed the villagers that he had placed a ban and restriction on the harvest of Palm fruits belonging to the entire people of Ahiara-Umuezu Village, and further declared that all monies to be realized from the harvest shall be remitted to him personally, and that he would decisively deal with anyone that opposes his order.
Dissatisfied by the Eze’s pronouncement, the Villagers reportedly disagreed with his unilateral decision, especially as proceeds from previous harvests in so many years managed by the Eze were not accounted for. The Youth President, Mr. Godfrey Okwukwe Egbukuchi spoke on behalf of the youths, and stated that account of previous harvests ought to be rendered by the Eze, and that a Project for which a new harvest would be made ought to be specifically mentioned, before the Villagers can embark on collective harvest of Palm fruits.
Enraged by the perceived challenge of his authority by Mr. Egbukuchi, the Eze reportedly ordered his Vigilante Strike Force led by one Marcus Christian Chimaobi to physically attack anyone that does not support his unilateral decision. In the ensuing chaos, Mr. Egbukuchi was assaulted, alongside Mr. Lotanna Chinenye who was personally assaulted with a machete and chased to his house where his father was also assaulted, his mother’s kitchen turned upside down, her food items thrown away and some of their household items confiscated by the Eze.
Another active youth leader, Mr. Precious Onyekachi Omelihu was also reportedly assaulted with a machete, dragged to the Eze’s palace, his hands and legs tied with a strong rope, tortured and forced to pay a fine of N12,000 (twelve thousand naira) to the Eze before he was released.
Since then, Ahiara Umuezu village is said to have been in turmoil as the Eze allegedly continued to use vigilante operatives and men of the Omoba Division of the Nigeria Police to hunt the youths, eventually forcing them to take legal action against him after he ignored all interventions by the Ahiara Umuezu Progressives and the Ahiara Umuezu Pastors’ Forum.
When newsmen sought his comments following the development at the Court, Mr. Egbukuchi was reluctant to speak on the matter since it had become a subject of litigation. He however said: “We have just witnessed a practical proof that the Judiciary is still the last hope of the common man. Eze B. O. Dike wanted a showdown with the youths and he will have it. I will refrain from commenting on the issue which is now before a Court of competent jurisdiction. All I can say is that Ahiara Umuezu youths are peaceful and law abiding, and we shall pursue justice on this matter to the very end”.
In his own response, another prominent youth leader in the community, Mr. Innocent Chigozirim Nwokocha said: “This matter is now before the Court. So I’ll prefer not to speak on it. But let it be known that for over 20 years we have endured the dictatorship of this Eze. It is very disheartening that while Governor Ikpeazu is striving to sustain peace and security across Abia State, a traditional ruler who should be the Chief Security Officer of his domain has made himself the Chief Insecurity Officer with his relentless anti-people actions. We are sick and tired of this man’s provocations but we are confident that the Court will not just deliver judgment on the matter but equally serve justice. Enough is enough!”