Who wants Idumuje-Ugboko killings swept under carpet?

Who wants Idumuje-Ugboko killings swept under carpet?

For ages, harmony, unity, love and peaceful ambience were the defining characteristics in Idumuje-Ugboko, a historic town in Aniocha North Local Government Area on the northeast fringe of Delta State. However, the year 2017 marked a dramatic negative turnaround for the community. Two episodic events that year were to colour the trajectory of the community since then.

First was the transition of the last officially recognized king of the town, Obi Albert Nwoko III. Second was the sabre-rattling  arrival on the scene of the first son of the late king, Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko who got proclaimed as the Obi in a manner that seem to disregard laid down procedures. While late Obi Alert Nwoko III was a foresighted and refined monarch imbued with solomonic wisdom, Prince Chukwunonso so far appears like his polar opposite – uncouth, shortsighted and jealous.

When Obi Albert Nwoko III became senile and relapsed into a protracted illness few months to his demise, Prince Chukwunonso relocated from his base in Lagos to Asaba from where he eventually moved into the palace.  Upon the death of his father, the Crown Prince ensured that he was interred immediately to pave way for his instant proclamation as the new Obi.

Prince Chukwunonso left no one in doubt that he was on a premeditated mission to undo some legacies of his father. To achieve his motives, he proceeded to exclude many ranking cabinet chiefs from decision making in the community.  The crown prince did not stop there. He allegedly imported thugs into the community to deal with his perceived enemies and their suspected supporters. Two of the victims of the alleged reign of terror were a young motorcycle rider called Cyprian and another man called Kennedy.

As a young man working round the clock to earn a living in Onicha-Ugbo and Idumuje-Ugboko contiguous communities of Delta State, Cyprian, an indigene of Benue State, had his future plans cut out. His wish was to work extra hard and save money to begin a successful small scale business in his state of residence. His major source of income was okada [commercial motor cycle] riding which he did every day carrying and dropping passengers within the two sister communities.

Despite being a non-indigene, he was a well known law-abiding okada rider in Idumuje-Ugboko and Onicha-Ugbo. He was said to be friendly and as peaceful as a dove. Ironically, life was brutally snuffed out of Cyprian in the thick of the needless crisis of 2017 when daredevil thugs purportedly imported into the community by agents of Prince Chukwunonso brutalized the people and destroyed their properties worth hundreds of millions of naira. Apart from loss of lives, no fewer than 22 houses in the community were allegedly destroyed during the crisis.

As the fracas raged, one of the thugs was said to have fired a shot from the palace which killed Cyprian who had rode his okada to the road in front of the palace totally unaware of the charged atmosphere there. The thugs were said to have mistaken him for a spy. The account of what transpired in the palace of Idumuje-Ugboko that day was given by Prince Kachido Nwoko, a young member of the royal family who was living in the palace during the period:

“…While the crisis persisted that day, a young man who was oblivious of the fighting innocently rode his motorcycle to the front of the palace which is usually a popular place for picking passengers. The thugs hired by Prince Uwadiegwu Nwoko for his senior brother, Prince Chukwunonso Nwoko suspected the bike rider to be a spy. They immediately shot at him before he could ride out of the place. He died on the spot while they burnt his motorcycle. The victim was later identified as one Mr. Cyprian an indigene of Benue State who was resident in neighbouring Onicha-Ugbo.

After shooting Mr. Cyprian to death, Prince Uwadiegwu Nwoko invited some boys namely Omonye Sonye, Adim Nwafor and others accompanied by thugs to take the body to Idumuje-Ugboko roundabout (abu-ano). In the middle of the night, Prince Uwadiegwu Nwoko ordered some boys, namely Chuks Ndudi, Aikhomu Omezi, Light Onwoche, Cheta Okoye [aka Asaba] and others to bury the body in a secret grave. They took the corpse in Prince Uwadiegwu’s Mercedes ML vehicle to a secret place where it was buried…”

What the palace and Idumuje-Ugboko as a whole have become in a space of three years since Prince Chukwunonso  took control is totally antithetical of what they used to be.

It is regrettable that the prosecution of the prime suspects in the Idumuje-Ugboko crisis has been suffering lots of frustration and sabotage allegedly from the top echelons of the State Judiciary. A topmost judicial officer whose wife hails from the same town with the mother of the crown prince, has been fingered as the Capone frustrating the case. One of his alleged latest antics was to contrive ‘a no case verdict’ for the suspects to the chagrin of relatives of those killed and witnesses of the mayhem.

The topmost officer’s meddlesomeness with the judicial process was described as nauseating. Such acts are capable of inciting the victims especially relatives of those killed. Recently, suspects who were arrested or re-arrested in connection with the crimes approached the Magistrate Court in Issele-Uku seeking to halt their prosecution. The Magistrate court declined jurisdiction on the ground that the matter verges on murder.

The judge, at about 10 am on August 6th 2020 ruled that they be remanded in Police custody. Curiously, by 4pm the same day, the said topmost judicial officer summoned the Magistrate and the court clerk and directed them to make another order releasing the suspects.

The officer did not stop there. He allegedly asked the Police officer handling the case to release the suspects with the caveat that the state would not offer any evidence against them. That was very unethical.
The normal thing was for the court to be allowed to decide the matter without any interference. It was not surprising that when the suspects were re-arraigned on the next adjourned date, no evidence were preferred against them and they were subsequently acquitted with the claim that the charges against them were trumped up.
As a matter of fact, it was allegedly claimed that the witnesses in the case were dead whereas they are still alive.

That verdict was predicated on falsehood, deceit and misrepresentation of facts. It is a miscarriage of justice which cannot stand in a sane society. Luckily, the victims and the relatives of those killed have where to cry to – the appellate courts and higher authorities. At that stage, the witnesses they claimed to have died will surely ‘resurrect’ and unfold the truth about the matter. Reality is that they are ready and alive, not dead as falsely claimed. The day will come when the world will know who is guilty or not guilty in the Idumuje-Ugboko killings and destructions of 2017.

Meanwhile, those murdered are crying in their graves for justice. Nobody should be treated as a sacred cow that is above the law. Let the unvarnished truth be told and justice served on equal keel for all parties. Anybody thinking that he can sweep the case under the carpet must be day-dreaming.


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