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Group Rejects Ebonyi Govt’s White Paper, Peace Pact on Ezza- Effium Community Crisis

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From: Rita Okafor-Igwe

A group of natives from crisis ravaged Effuim Community in Ohaukwu local government area of Ebonyi State identified as Ezza-Effium Consultative Assembly has rejected contents of the recently signed State government’s white paper and peace pact.

A Press Statement signed by
High Chief Aligwe Mathias Chukwuma Chairman, Ezza-Effium Consultative Assembly and the
Secretary Dr. Bernard Orichi made available to journalists described Retired Bishop Okoro’s Peace Panel’s reports and recommendations as” total departure and contradiction of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which gave every Nigerian full rights of citizenship in any part of the country where he or she has lived for years and has contributed to the economic, infrastructural and social development of the area”.

According to the group,the recommendations of the said Peace Panel and its implementation could better be described as apartheid in the words of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).

The group alleged that contents of the State government’s white paper/peace pact are
“calculated, organized decimation and diminution of Ezza-Effium personality in particular, and Ezza people in general.”

The group also held that the people who signed the peace pact on behalf of Ezza people did that out of compulsion and so did not represent tkhe interest of Ezza-Effium people.

The statement reads:
“You are highly welcome to this important press briefing to drive home Ezza-Effium stand on the purported Peace Pact which, according to the Government White Paper Implementation Committee on Effium/Ezza-Effium Crisis, is in consonance with the Report of the Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel, in which some of our stakeholders were COMPELLED to sign against their free will.

“It is no longer news that there has been a communal war in Effium Community which started in January 2021, as a result of power tussle between two members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers who were also political aids to the former Chairman of Ohaukwu LGA of Ebonyi State, Barr. Clement Odah, which has claimed many lives, destroyed properties worth billions of naira, while millions of people have been rendered homeless.
The war lingered without any practical possible solution in sight, due to the inability of the past State Government, led by Engr. Dave Umahi, to provide genuine road map to peace.

“A Judicial Panel of Inquiry, chaired by a Customary Court of Appeal Judge in the State, Hon. Justice Omaka Elekwa, was constituted, with clergymen, royal fathers and other members. Another Peace Panel, made up of members of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), led by the Anglican Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese, Rt. Rev. Monday Nkwegu, was also constituted.

“The reports and recommendations of these two panels never saw the light of the day and the State Government never gave reasons for not implementing them. The question is, what happened to the reports of these Panels?

“On assumption of office, the incumbent Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Bldr Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru, vowed to bring the war to an end and was already on course to actualize this dream as promised in order to avert further blood bath and save many more innocent men, women and children from going to their early graves. His Excellency immediately swung into action by constituting another Peace Panel with the Emeritus Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, Most Rev. Dr. Michael Okoro as Chairman, Rev. Father Charles Otu as Secretary, Rev. Father Donatus Oluwa Chukwu, who is the Vicar General of Abakaliki Catholic Diocese, and other stakeholders as members.

“When the Retired Bishop Okoro’s Peace Panel submitted her report, an implementation committee, chaired by the Attorney General and Commissioner For Justice, Ebonyi State, Dr Ben Uruchi Odoh, was set up by Governor Francis Nwifuru to implement the purported Government White Paper emanating therefrom. Other members of the committee include Rev. Father Godwin Uguru, Rev. Scamb Nwokolo (Chairman, CAN; Ebonyi State), Barr. Roy Umahi, Barr. Albert Aloh (Solicitor General, Ebonyi State), Chief Mathias Adum (Principal Secretary to the Governor), and Justice Ogbunefi of the Ebonyi State High Court.

“The composition of these Committees which were made up of clergymen, their reports and recommendations seem to be a total departure and contradiction of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which gave every Nigerian full rights of citizenship in any part of the country where he or she has lived for years and has contributed to the economic, infrastructural and social development of the area.
The implementation committee of Dr Ben Uruchi Odoh said it would implement, to the letter, every recommendation in the White Paper emanating from Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel report.

“For the purpose of clarity, the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), by virtue of Sections 25-32, defines who a citizen of Nigeria is, inclusive of mode of acquisition of citizenship. More so, the preceding section, which is Section 24, defines the duties of a Nigerian Citizen. Additionally, Chapter IV of the Constitution (as amended) provides for the Fundamental Human Rights of a Nigerian Citizen and human beings living in Nigeria.

“Particular reference is made to Sections 34, 35, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44 of the Constitution (Supra) which provided for the right to dignity, right to freedom of liberty, right to peaceful assembly and association, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination and compulsory acquisition of property, right to acquire and own moveable and immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. All these rights, by virtue of the purported report of the Peace Panel, have been trampled upon against the interest of the Ezza-Effium people, who have lived in Effium community since time immemorial.

“The recommendations of Retired Bishop Okoro’s Peace Panel and its implementation could better be described as apartheid in the words of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), in an event in Abuja on Thursday, August 26, 2023. According to him:
…. the country’s Constitution gives all Nigerians the right to live and work in any part of Nigeria without molestation and infringement on his or her fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria in which Ebonyi is not exception and will never be. In many quarters, there are feelings of alienation and exclusion. To this point, we must recognize the ways in which we perpetuate institutional discrimination and cause people to see their identities as weapons for procuring opportunity often at the expense of others. We see this whenever Nigerians are denied opportunity on the basis of their state of origin or because they are ‘non-indigenes’.

“We see it when a Nigerian that has been resident in a state all his life is suddenly excluded from admission into an educational institution or an employment because he is not considered ‘indigene’. All Nigerians have a constitutional right to live, work and enjoy their lives in peace and safety under the law. The classification of Nigerians as ‘indigenes’ and ‘non-indigenes’ is a form of apartheid and contradicts our declared aspirations towards equality and unity…

“The report which erroneously posited Ezza-Effium people, who have lived in their God given community since time immemorial, as tenants, is a malicious and misleading report orchestrated by supposed Men of God. What an unprofessional and disreputable contradiction? Perhaps, the purported Peace Panel did not advert her mind to the provisions of our laws and Constitution. This is dangerous and should be discouraged by all well-meaning individuals and Ebonyians in particular.

“From the purported Peace Pact which was described to be in consonance with the Okoro Panel report, it is evidently clear that the Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel, never wanted to end the crisis in Effium community but to set a dangerous precedent for other parts of Ebonyi State, and even beyond where Ebonyi people of different cultural backgrounds and dialects have been living together as their place of origin. This path, if toed, might lead to more communal crises in Ebonyi State. It is Ezza-Effium today, it could be any other people tomorrow.

“Gentlemen, it is pertinent to note that there are Izzis, Ezzas, Uffioms, and,even Ezzamgbos, in Ado and Oju LGAs as well as other parts of Benue State where they enjoy every right of citizenship.Then in Ebonyi State here, Amuda people, who are the same non-Igbo speaking Orrin people as Uffiom, were given autonomous community, with a traditional ruler of their own, in Ezza-North LGA; and no Ezza man ever questioned it. Why must everything about Ezza be different in Ebonyi State, where Ezza made superior and supreme sacrifices to be created?

“It is rather ridiculous that we are now regarded as tenants by the purported Peace Pact document, whereas the Uffioms, who are non-Igbo speaking, let alone of Ebonyi State origin, are now described as “landlord” by the same Peace Pact document. This is wrong, in fact and law, and a calculated, organized decimation and diminution of Ezza-Effium personality in particular, and Ezza people in general. We are simply accommodative and in keeping with the provisions of 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) which gave all of us equal rights to citizenship.

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“The pertinent question is: Does Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel want to redefine Nigeria Constitution at this point in time? Is the Panel suggesting that it was an error to have given Amuda people autonomy with rights to traditional stool and royalties from any mineral deposit in Ezza North LGA?

“We Ezza-Effium people, therefore, REJECT, in its totality, any Peace Pact or White Paper that tends to deprive us of any of our constitutional rights and privileges in Effium Community, inclusive of the rights over our entitlements, freedoms, lives and properties.

“For emphasis, ‘the right to the traditional stool of Effium Community was first enjoyed by Ezza-Effium people even in the colonial era. The British Colonial Government appointed an Ezza-Effium man, Chief Ekuma Omaka (now late), as the first traditional ruler of Effium Community with his Certificate of Recognition, dated 1st September, 1960, and signed by Okon Udo Affia, Minister of State (Chieftaincies and Esterblishments). The said Chief Ekuma Omaka was later succeeded by Chief Leonard Agena (now late), an Uffiom man, as the second traditional ruler, on ground of our common understanding of rotational basis between the two tribes of Ezza-Effium and Uffiom. Or does the Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel claim ignorance of this fact?

“It may also interest you, Gentlemen, to know that it was an Ezza-Effium man, Chief Hon.Peter Igwe Eze, who then represented Ishielu East State Constituency in the old Anambra State House of Assembly during the Second Republic, while Rt. Hon. Anselem Nwaigwe (now the Emeritus Chief Judge of Ebonyi State), another Ezza man, succeeded him. Yet, the Peace Pact document still construes Ezza-Effium as tenant, even when we command over 80% of the entire population of Effium Community. Ezza-Effium have 66 polling units, squeezed into One and a half political wards, while Uffiom with only 29 polling units have three political wards. It is further gross violation of our fundamental human rights, as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (Supra), for the Peace Pact document, or any other document whatsoever, to contemplate giving Ezza-Effium a “New Settlement” with “semi autonomous” status with “village head only”; and denying us right to traditional stool or royalty from mineral resources and other rights in the Community. It is on record that Edict No.9 of 1976 of the old Anambra State gave Ezza-Effium three autonomous communities, namely Umuezeokoha, Umuezeoka and Izzo-Kpakpaji.

“In the light of the above, we hereby make it categorically clear that the so called Ezza-Effium stakeholders who signed the purported Peace Pact document on 14th March, 2024, purportedly on behalf of Ezza-Effium did not represent the interest of the good people of Ezza-Effium, because they neither consulted other stakeholders and elders, nor had our consent to sign. THEY ARE ON THEIR OWN. As we sincerely appreciate the efforts of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Bldr. Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru to restore peace to Effium community. We wish to restate that we, the Ezza Effium people, want permanent peace, not graveyard peace. We are eager to have enduring peace in Effium community and shall always support any genuine peace initiatives.

“We recommend that the State Government should order ceasefire and direct all residents of Effium Community to return to their homes while issues relating to revenue in the motor park, market places and other things incidental thereto, should be rightly addressed using extant laws. Again, we humbly appeal to His Excellency, the peace-loving Governor, Francis Nwifuru, to revisit the report of Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel and the Peace Pact document, and any other document relevant thereto, for a more informed and constitutional measures to guarantee restoration of enduring peace to Effium Community.

“We also, most humbly, request His Excellency, the Executive Governor, to use his good offices and kindly activate the long created three autonomous communities for Ezza-Effium to deepen security and development in Effium Community, pursuant to his ‘People’s Charter of Needs’ mantra.

“Finally, we must not forget to express our displeasure with the conduct of all the clergymen involved in this conspiracy to annihilate Ezza-Effium. As we end this briefing, Gentlemen, we also want to most humbly redirect the attention of His Excellency to the former Vice President’s speech cited above, which he earlier adumbrated during his visit to Effium Community on 4th April, 2021, that “classifying Nigerians as indigenes, and non-indigenes is apartheid.”Group rejects Ebonyi govt’s white paper, peace pact on Ezza- Effuim/Effuim community crisis

By Rita Okafor-Igwe

A group of natives from crisis ravaged Effuim Community in Ohaukwu local government area of Ebonyi State identified as Ezza-Effium Consultative Assembly has rejected contents of the recently signed State government’s white paper and peace pact.

A Press Statement signed by
High Chief Aligwe Mathias Chukwuma Chairman, Ezza-Effium Consultative Assembly and the
Secretary Dr. Bernard Orichi made available to journalists described Retired Bishop Okoro’s Peace Panel’s reports and recommendations as” total departure and contradiction of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which gave every Nigerian full rights of citizenship in any part of the country where he or she has lived for years and has contributed to the economic, infrastructural and social development of the area”.

According to the group,the recommendations of the said Peace Panel and its implementation could better be described as apartheid in the words of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).

The group alleged that contents of the State government’s white paper/peace pact are
“calculated, organized decimation and diminution of Ezza-Effium personality in particular, and Ezza people in general.”

The group also held that the people who signed the peace pact on behalf of Ezza people did that out of compulsion and so did not represent tkhe interest of Ezza-Effium people.

The statement reads:
“You are highly welcome to this important press briefing to drive home Ezza-Effium stand on the purported Peace Pact which, according to the Government White Paper Implementation Committee on Effium/Ezza-Effium Crisis, is in consonance with the Report of the Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel, in which some of our stakeholders were COMPELLED to sign against their free will.

“It is no longer news that there has been a communal war in Effium Community which started in January 2021, as a result of power tussle between two members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers who were also political aids to the former Chairman of Ohaukwu LGA of Ebonyi State, Barr. Clement Odah, which has claimed many lives, destroyed properties worth billions of naira, while millions of people have been rendered homeless.
The war lingered without any practical possible solution in sight, due to the inability of the past State Government, led by Engr. Dave Umahi, to provide genuine road map to peace.

“A Judicial Panel of Inquiry, chaired by a Customary Court of Appeal Judge in the State, Hon. Justice Omaka Elekwa, was constituted, with clergymen, royal fathers and other members. Another Peace Panel, made up of members of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), led by the Anglican Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese, Rt. Rev. Monday Nkwegu, was also constituted.

“The reports and recommendations of these two panels never saw the light of the day and the State Government never gave reasons for not implementing them. The question is, what happened to the reports of these Panels?

“On assumption of office, the incumbent Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Bldr Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru, vowed to bring the war to an end and was already on course to actualize this dream as promised in order to avert further blood bath and save many more innocent men, women and children from going to their early graves. His Excellency immediately swung into action by constituting another Peace Panel with the Emeritus Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, Most Rev. Dr. Michael Okoro as Chairman, Rev. Father Charles Otu as Secretary, Rev. Father Donatus Oluwa Chukwu, who is the Vicar General of Abakaliki Catholic Diocese, and other stakeholders as members.

“When the Retired Bishop Okoro’s Peace Panel submitted her report, an implementation committee, chaired by the Attorney General and Commissioner For Justice, Ebonyi State, Dr Ben Uruchi Odoh, was set up by Governor Francis Nwifuru to implement the purported Government White Paper emanating therefrom. Other members of the committee include Rev. Father Godwin Uguru, Rev. Scamb Nwokolo (Chairman, CAN; Ebonyi State), Barr. Roy Umahi, Barr. Albert Aloh (Solicitor General, Ebonyi State), Chief Mathias Adum (Principal Secretary to the Governor), and Justice Ogbunefi of the Ebonyi State High Court.

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“The composition of these Committees which were made up of clergymen, their reports and recommendations seem to be a total departure and contradiction of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which gave every Nigerian full rights of citizenship in any part of the country where he or she has lived for years and has contributed to the economic, infrastructural and social development of the area.
The implementation committee of Dr Ben Uruchi Odoh said it would implement, to the letter, every recommendation in the White Paper emanating from Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel report.

“For the purpose of clarity, the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), by virtue of Sections 25-32, defines who a citizen of Nigeria is, inclusive of mode of acquisition of citizenship. More so, the preceding section, which is Section 24, defines the duties of a Nigerian Citizen. Additionally, Chapter IV of the Constitution (as amended) provides for the Fundamental Human Rights of a Nigerian Citizen and human beings living in Nigeria.

“Particular reference is made to Sections 34, 35, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44 of the Constitution (Supra) which provided for the right to dignity, right to freedom of liberty, right to peaceful assembly and association, right to freedom of movement, right to freedom from discrimination and compulsory acquisition of property, right to acquire and own moveable and immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. All these rights, by virtue of the purported report of the Peace Panel, have been trampled upon against the interest of the Ezza-Effium people, who have lived in Effium community since time immemorial.

“The recommendations of Retired Bishop Okoro’s Peace Panel and its implementation could better be described as apartheid in the words of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), in an event in Abuja on Thursday, August 26, 2023. According to him:
…. the country’s Constitution gives all Nigerians the right to live and work in any part of Nigeria without molestation and infringement on his or her fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria in which Ebonyi is not exception and will never be. In many quarters, there are feelings of alienation and exclusion. To this point, we must recognize the ways in which we perpetuate institutional discrimination and cause people to see their identities as weapons for procuring opportunity often at the expense of others. We see this whenever Nigerians are denied opportunity on the basis of their state of origin or because they are ‘non-indigenes’.

“We see it when a Nigerian that has been resident in a state all his life is suddenly excluded from admission into an educational institution or an employment because he is not considered ‘indigene’. All Nigerians have a constitutional right to live, work and enjoy their lives in peace and safety under the law. The classification of Nigerians as ‘indigenes’ and ‘non-indigenes’ is a form of apartheid and contradicts our declared aspirations towards equality and unity…

“The report which erroneously posited Ezza-Effium people, who have lived in their God given community since time immemorial, as tenants, is a malicious and misleading report orchestrated by supposed Men of God. What an unprofessional and disreputable contradiction? Perhaps, the purported Peace Panel did not advert her mind to the provisions of our laws and Constitution. This is dangerous and should be discouraged by all well-meaning individuals and Ebonyians in particular.

“From the purported Peace Pact which was described to be in consonance with the Okoro Panel report, it is evidently clear that the Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel, never wanted to end the crisis in Effium community but to set a dangerous precedent for other parts of Ebonyi State, and even beyond where Ebonyi people of different cultural backgrounds and dialects have been living together as their place of origin. This path, if toed, might lead to more communal crises in Ebonyi State. It is Ezza-Effium today, it could be any other people tomorrow.

“Gentlemen, it is pertinent to note that there are Izzis, Ezzas, Uffioms, and,even Ezzamgbos, in Ado and Oju LGAs as well as other parts of Benue State where they enjoy every right of citizenship.Then in Ebonyi State here, Amuda people, who are the same non-Igbo speaking Orrin people as Uffiom, were given autonomous community, with a traditional ruler of their own, in Ezza-North LGA; and no Ezza man ever questioned it. Why must everything about Ezza be different in Ebonyi State, where Ezza made superior and supreme sacrifices to be created?

“It is rather ridiculous that we are now regarded as tenants by the purported Peace Pact document, whereas the Uffioms, who are non-Igbo speaking, let alone of Ebonyi State origin, are now described as “landlord” by the same Peace Pact document. This is wrong, in fact and law, and a calculated, organized decimation and diminution of Ezza-Effium personality in particular, and Ezza people in general. We are simply accommodative and in keeping with the provisions of 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) which gave all of us equal rights to citizenship.

“The pertinent question is: Does Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel want to redefine Nigeria Constitution at this point in time? Is the Panel suggesting that it was an error to have given Amuda people autonomy with rights to traditional stool and royalties from any mineral deposit in Ezza North LGA?

“We Ezza-Effium people, therefore, REJECT, in its totality, any Peace Pact or White Paper that tends to deprive us of any of our constitutional rights and privileges in Effium Community, inclusive of the rights over our entitlements, freedoms, lives and properties.

“For emphasis, ‘the right to the traditional stool of Effium Community was first enjoyed by Ezza-Effium people even in the colonial era. The British Colonial Government appointed an Ezza-Effium man, Chief Ekuma Omaka (now late), as the first traditional ruler of Effium Community with his Certificate of Recognition, dated 1st September, 1960, and signed by Okon Udo Affia, Minister of State (Chieftaincies and Esterblishments). The said Chief Ekuma Omaka was later succeeded by Chief Leonard Agena (now late), an Uffiom man, as the second traditional ruler, on ground of our common understanding of rotational basis between the two tribes of Ezza-Effium and Uffiom. Or does the Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel claim ignorance of this fact?

“In the light of the above, we hereby make it categorically clear that the so called Ezza-Effium stakeholders who signed the purported Peace Pact document on 14th March, 2024, purportedly on behalf of Ezza-Effium did not represent the interest of the good people of Ezza-Effium, because they neither consulted other stakeholders and elders, nor had our consent to sign. THEY ARE ON THEIR OWN. As we sincerely appreciate the efforts of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Bldr. Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru to restore peace to Effium community. We wish to restate that we, the Ezza Effium people, want permanent peace, not graveyard peace. We are eager to have enduring peace in Effium community and shall always support any genuine peace initiatives.

“We recommend that the State Government should order ceasefire and direct all residents of Effium Community to return to their homes while issues relating to revenue in the motor park, market places and other things incidental thereto, should be rightly addressed using extant laws. Again, we humbly appeal to His Excellency, the peace-loving Governor, Francis Nwifuru, to revisit the report of Retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel and the Peace Pact document, and any other document relevant thereto, for a more informed and constitutional measures to guarantee restoration of enduring peace to Effium Community.

“We also, most humbly, request His Excellency, the Executive Governor, to use his good offices and kindly activate the long created three autonomous communities for Ezza-Effium to deepen security and development in Effium Community, pursuant to his ‘People’s Charter of Needs’ mantra.

“Finally, we must not forget to express our displeasure with the conduct of all the clergymen involved in this conspiracy to annihilate Ezza-Effium. As we end this briefing, Gentlemen, we also want to most humbly redirect the attention of His Excellency to the former Vice President’s speech cited above, which he earlier adumbrated during his visit to Effium Community on 4th April, 2021, that “classifying Nigerians as indigenes, and non-indigenes is apartheid.”

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